Police chiefs have re-classified an incident when a woman allegedly hit a boy in the head with a paddle in Bristol as racially-motivated, and said they have ‘complete empathy’ with him and his family.
Senior officers have revealed they have met with Ty Forrest, the father of 12-year-old Antwon, who needed his forehead gluing back together after the incident last March. The family were initially told there would be no further action taken against a woman who had been arrested and de-arrested at the scene of an incident at the Conham River Park – which last week prompted fury from the family of the youngster.
Bristol Live first reported on the case last week and challenged police over the incident, which had been posted online by Antwon’s aunt Antonia. A woman confronted a group of children on the river bank and accused them of throwing stones at her family who had been in boats on the water.
Antwon, who has autism, was struck with a paddle and was pictured and filmed with blood streaming down his face from a wound on his forehead. But the family told Bristol Live they were left furious after Avon and Somerset police initially told them they would be taking no further action against the woman.
When Bristol Live challenged that decision last week, police said new evidence had been found following a social media campaign by the family, and this had resulted in them reviewing the case. Now, police issued a fresh appeal for witnesses to the incident as part of its ‘ongoing review’ into the alleged assault.
And police chiefs said they had met with Antwon’s father, to explain what happened to the police investigation and the review. Part of that review, police said, involved them now classifying the incident as ‘racially-motivated’.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said Bristol commander Supt Mark Runacres, along with Chief Insp Mike Buck and a community leader, met with the injured boy’s father yesterday to ‘explain what actions had been taken so far and to give him further details about what the review will look like’.
Ch Insp Mike Buck said: “We’re extremely grateful to the boy’s father for agreeing to meet with us and we had a constructive conversation in which we answered his questions and give him assurances about this review and what it means. We have complete empathy with his family and listened carefully to what he had to say. We gave him a full commitment to carrying out a comprehensive and thorough review and to keep him updated about its progress.
“We’ve re-classified this incident as being racially motivated and we have a Detective Sergeant leading the review, with oversight from a senior officer. The review will include identifying and taking statements from as many people who witnessed this incident as possible, locating and viewing all available footage, re-examining 999 calls made to the emergency services, compiling medical evidence and liaising with relevant partner agencies.
“There will be learnings coming out of this incident, for example we’ve already identified the family should have been offered a right to review following the initial decision not to take any further action, and we have said sorry for that.
“It’s only right and proper we are scrutinised on the decisions we take and I want to reassure our communities that we are listening and we are taking action to re-examine all aspects of this incident, as well as how the initial investigation was carried out. We will learn from this and the decisions we take will be subject to even further scrutiny so our communities can have full confidence in the outcome,” he added.
Police said they were still keen to speak to any witnesses to the incident, as part of the ‘ongoing review’ of the alleged assault on 12-year-old Antwon.
“Officers were called to a report that a woman had struck a child near Conham River Park at about 3pm on Saturday 26 March. An initial investigation was carried out, which included statements being taken from the child and an adult family friend and a woman being arrested, and later de-arrested, before being interviewed at a police station. The initial outcome was that no further action would be taken, based on evidence gathered at the time. A review was immediately launched after senior officers became aware of the decision to close this case with no further action being taken, following public concern,” a police spokesperson said.
“We’re re-appealing for further witnesses to come forward as we know a number of people were in that area of the riverside that afternoon. We’re keen to hear from anyone who witnessed the original incident, or who may have phone or other footage which could help. Please call 101 and give the reference 5222071897,” he added.
Earlier today, Tuesday, May 10, the Mayor of Bristol and deputy mayor Asher Craig issued a joint statement saying they thought it ‘appeared’ the police had made a ‘bad decision’ not to continue to investigate the incident.
Marvin Rees and Cllr Craig said they had met with Avon and Somerset police’s chief constable Sarah Crew to discuss the incident, and said they were concerned about what happened and the police action. They said the review needed to undercover if there had been ‘ systemic failures’ by police.