Solicitor says he was pinned down by court guards in ‘George Floyd manner’: ‘I was just trying to do my job’

Stephen Nartey May 06, 2024
Dele Johnson/Photo credit: Lewis Nedas Law

Lawyers say they are considering a boycott of a court following an incident where up to five security guards reportedly pinned down a black solicitor, disregarding his pleas about his inability to breathe.

Defense solicitor Dele Johnson said he was forced to the ground after resisting a request to remove his shoe for a security check. Johnson, 37, likened the experience to George Floyd’s tragic death, as he cried out that “I can’t breathe”, which later catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement, as reported by Daily Mail.

“I never thought I’d also be saying ‘I can’t breathe’,” said Mr. Johnson. “I was just trying to do my job.”

This comes on the heels of female lawyers at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in east London protesting against intrusive “pat-down” searches. A criminal defense solicitor reported that a guard touched her legs under her dress. The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has warned of a potential court boycott if the guards accused of assaulting Johnson are not suspended by the private security company OCS.

LCCSA President Edward Jones expressed shock at the reported conduct of the guards. Johnson, serving as a duty youth court solicitor, had his ID checked upon arrival at the court last Wednesday. Following a cigarette break outside, he consented to a pat-down search upon reentry but declined to remove his shoes, leading to an altercation where he claims four guards forcibly removed him.

Johnson was able to re-enter the building through a side door to attend to a waiting defendant. However, he was obstructed from entering a courtroom and said he was grabbed by “four or five” guards.

“I started swinging, I felt I was fighting for my life against five men to stop them grabbing me,” he said. “Eventually, they got me on the ground. Their knees were on my arms, legs, and my back. I have asthma, my chest was being pushed to the floor so now I am struggling to breathe.”

Other court personnel allegedly pleaded with the guards regarding Johnson’s breathing difficulties and said they called the police to intervene. Johnson, emotionally affected, likened his alleged experience to George Floyd: “The only thing I could think of is the George Floyd video and him saying ‘I cannot breathe’, with everyone on camera phones, not assisting.”

A barrister, who preferred to remain anonymous, likened the behavior of court security guards to that of “night club bouncers.” Another barrister added: “Some are thinking of a boycott here.”

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: “These are serious complaints we are urgently investigating as a priority. Our security measures are designed to protect all court users and are under constant review. They are in place in consultation with the judiciary and the police.”

OCS said it was “aware of allegations concerning an incident at Stratford Magistrates’ Court.”

It added: “We take such matters seriously and we are working with HMC&TS to conduct a thorough review of the events in question.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 6, 2024


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