Francis Beckett

One of the least comforting things I've seen recently is a police officers' internet forum where they talk among themselves about my article detailing how student Tommy Meyers was thrown to the ground in handcuffs and a police dog deployed on his face, causing injuries requiring 30 stitches and two operations; and how they then refused him access to painkillers or antibiotics prescribed by the doctor for 14 hours.


It's at

A couple of officers seem to take a dislike to Tommy's face in the Guardian photograph. One claims he is "pouting". A few more speculate unfavourably about his character.  Others maintain that I'm a dreadful writer.

Now, all that might be true.  Tommy might be both ugly and of poor character - I don't think so, and I've met him, but I suppose it's a matter of taste.  I might be a dreadful writer. None of that changes the obstinate facts in my first paragraph above, none of which are a matter of doubt - the police don't deny them. 

Others ask why no police comment.  That's a good question, but it's not one I can answer.  I asked both police forces involved, British Transport and Thames Valley, for comment; they both refused.  If the officers could have been defended, maybe the police ought to be asking why their employers declined to defend them. 

Still more officers speculate.  Tommy must have been drunk, they say, and that's why the police withheld antibiotics from him. If so, you'd have thought it might have been mentioned when Tommy was brought to court accused of assaulting an officer (he was acquitted.) And you'd have thought Thames Valley Police might have mentioned it when I asked them why they'd withheld medicine from him.

Tommy can't have been hurt, says another, because he can't see any scars in the photograph.  Another says it's Tommy's fault: police dogs won't attack if you know how to handle them.  I guess if you're a scared young many lying on the ground, being held there by several burly police officers, with your hands handcuffed in front of you and unable to raise them to protect yourself, you might not remember the best way to handle a big, sharp-toothed dog whose jaws are about to close on your face, even if you knew it in the first place

NOTE: This article has been edited to remove the suggestion that I was excluded from the police officers' internet forum.  I'm now happily contributing to it.  The problem was my own technological incompetence.