Sussex police officer who pepper sprayed man should have been sacked

A FORMER police sergeant who kicked a girl in the head like a soccer ball and pepper sprayed a vulnerable prisoner in the face through a hatch in his cell door should have been fired, a tribunal ruled.

Former Sussex Police Sergeant Ian Cheesman would have been dismissed from the force had he not retired before a disciplinary hearing found him guilty of gross misconduct.

The man, who can only be identified as Witness A, described the 53-year-old as a thug who seemed to take pleasure in his discomfort.

He told the Disciplinary Committee: “They seemed pleased with my frustration and anxiety. It just seemed personal.”

Father-of-three Cheesman was spared jail earlier this year after a court heard he “toed-poked” the young girl while she was a child custody officer in Chichester in April 2021.

Four months earlier, in December 2020, Cheesman twice sprayed a vulnerable man with his Captor pepper spray while working at Worthing Detention Centre.

A disciplinary hearing at Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes was monitored by a camera in the cell.

In the footage, Witness A was seen barefoot and wearing just his shorts with a T-shirt tied around his neck as a makeshift Covid face mask.

After removing the mattress and pillow from the cell, Cheesman returned and sprayed Witness A as he pulled away from him.

The Argus: Witness A was sprayed through the cell door of his police cell. Image by Graham BedingfieldWitness A was sprayed through the cell door of his police cell. Image by Graham Bedingfield

The former sergeant accepted he had given no warnings before dousing the prisoner, who was clearly distraught.

After Witness A again banged his head and bare feet on the cell door, Cheesman spoke to him.

Then he sprayed him directly in the face through the open hatch at point-blank range.

Witness A said the second pepper spray made him feel like he could not breathe.

He said: “I thought he would say something nice or apologize at the cell door.

“I was choking the first time.

“He called me to the hatch and sprayed me through the hole in the door.

“I felt hurt.

“I couldn’t believe anyone could jump on that.

“I felt like I couldn’t get air into my lungs.

“It burned my eyes.

“It was a nightmare.”

Argus: Sussex Police headquarters in Lewes, where the hearing took placeSussex Police HQ in Lewes where the hearing took place

Witness A told the hearing he suffered from PTSD, OCD and was extremely concerned about the pandemic.

He was seen by a nurse at the police station.

He said: “My mental health was terrible at the time.

“For someone with OCD, Covid has been very confusing.

“I couldn’t get used to it.

“It scared me to death.”

He told the hearing he was concerned about germs in the cell and officers not wearing masks.

“I knew my hygiene bubble had been breached,” he said. “He used terms like ‘this is not a mental hospital’ and ‘this is not a day clinic.'”

Witness A told the hearing his medical condition was so poor that he should have received treatment under the Mental Health Act.

He was released without charge after nine hours.

Witness A said, “I just asked her to let me go home. I had been there for hours.

“It was an exercise in bullying and control, that’s what it felt like.”

Cheesman retired in January after 30 years of service with Sussex Police.

He described the situation as challenging and admitted he was wrong.

The panel concluded that Cheesman had given no warnings and offered no advice or aftercare prior to spraying Witness A.

Disciplinary Committee chairman Harry Ireland told Cheesman his actions were unjustified.

“You have violated professional standards, which amounts to gross misconduct,” he said.

“These were premeditated and premeditated acts.

“He was in a position of trust involving a vulnerable prisoner.

“We believe that had Mr. Cheesman been a serving officer, he would have been fired.”

CCTV of Cheesman kicking a 13-year-old girl shocked other officers, a court heard.

The court was previously told how he “toed” the girl like a football and said, “How do you like being kicked?” at Chichester Detention Center in West Sussex, during a 12-hour night shift on April 5-6 last year.

A judge ruled he had retaliated after being provoked by the teenager and was granted a 12-month community decree with the condition of 50 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £625 in costs and a £95 victim’s surcharge. Sussex police officer who pepper sprayed man should have been sacked

Fry Electronics Team

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