Special cop attack jail term is cut

Peter Lightfoot

Peter Lightfoot

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A DISGRACED former Wigan special constable who assaulted an off-duty soldier while arresting him and then lied in court about the attack has had his jail term cut by a third.

Peter Lightfoot was caught on CCTV repeatedly punching Lance Cpl Mark Aspinall outside a Wigan pub, before pushing his head into the ground and striking him with a police helmet, an appeal court heard.

Lightfoot, 41, of Shirewell Road, Orrell, was jailed for three years at Manchester Minshull Crown Court last September, after being convicted of actual bodily harm and perjury.

But his sentence was slashed after three of the country’s most senior judges decided it was “excessive” for his crimes.

Mr Justice Simon, sitting with the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and Mr Justice Eady, told the court the incident happened outside King Street’s Walkabout bar in the early hours of July 27 2008.

Lightfoot and two full-time serving police officers - who were later cleared of any wrongdoing - were called to deal with the soldier, who had been thrown out of the pub for being drunk and abusive, the court heard.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the incident in which Mr Aspinall was thrown to the ground and subjected to a violent assault. The court heard Lightfoot, who resigned from the Specials after his convictions, “lost his temper” and attacked Mr Aspinall.

Two days later, the soldier was taken to hospital for treatment and it was found he had a number of cuts and grazes to his head, face, shoulders and body.

Mr Aspinall was convicted of two counts of assaulting a police officer, but these were later quashed on appeal. During evidence given under oath, Lightfoot said the soldier had “stumbled or tripped” and denied rubbing his face into the ground or deliberately striking him with his helmet.

The court heard Lightfoot was of previous good character and more than 30 character references were given to the court by colleagues and senior-ranking officers in the force, which praised his “commitment, bravery and dedication.”

The Crown Prosecution Service decided it would not be in the public interest to pursue the matter, but he was sent on a course and given an action plan to “improve his understanding” about the use of force.

Mr Justice Simon said it was “profundly regrettable” the special officer had abused his position of trust and used “excessive force” when arresting Mr Aspinall.

He added: “Mr Aspinall may have been drunk and refused to do what was required of him, but police officers are expected and trained to exercise self-control in response to the provocation, abuse and criminality of those they encounter.”

Lawyers for Lightfoot argued his three-year jail term was too long, saying the judge did not take enough account of the fact the attack was “out of character”. They also said that, although he abused his position of responsibility, the assault was “impulsive” and no weapon was used.

Allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Simon reduced Lightfoot’s sentence to two years.