Offside: To protect and to serve

Summary

After nine long years and a court case that dragged on and on, two officers who subdued a man who was trying to kill himself have been cleared of assault charges

"A lot of sleepless nights"

On 12 September, 2005, a man on the Noord bridge in Kortrijk (pictured) appeared to be about to throw himself into the river Leie. Police officers Mikaël V and Aline V rushed to the scene and found the man, Paul M, standing on the railing.

The officers were finally able to overpower him and bring him to safety. Both officers had to be hospitalised for injuries sustained in the struggle; Mikael V suffered a fracture to the eye socket. Paul M also suffered injuries.

Paul M proceeded to file a complaint alleging assault by the two officers and alleging that their superior, chief inspector S, falsified the incident report. The tribunal of first instance in Kortrijk found the three officers guilty, sentencing them to six months suspended and a fine of €275 each. That conviction has just been overturned by a court of appeal in Ghent.

“The acquittal is a relief, but were disappointed that the case dragged on for so long,” said chief inspector S. “The file is more than 1,000 pages thick. Witnesses were interviewed time after time. I've had to suffer the uncertainty for nine years and have had a lot of sleepless nights. All while we were only doing our jobs and trying to save someone.”

The good news in all of this? It hasn't deterred anyone from doing their duty. Last spring, 31-year-old inspector Ward Cuvelier of the same police zone was called to a report of a man drowning.

“We didn't hesitate for a second. I took off my shoes, laid my belt to the side and jumped in in the hope of saving him,” Cuvelier told the Krant van West-Vlaanderen. “I managed to keep his head above water until the fire service arrived and took over.”

Photo courtesy Speha702/Wikimedia

After nine long years, two police officers who prevented a man from throwing himself into a river have been cleared of assault charges by the man they tried to save.

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