A man has been handed a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act after a police officer was seriously injured in the line of duty.
A jury found Matthew Tearle, aged 35, did cause grievous bodily harm to former police sergeant Jon King and was in possession of a prohibited weapon (a paintball gun) following a trial of facts at Stafford Crown Court.
Tearle had been declared unfit for trial after an assessment of his mental health.
The jury heard the incident occurred at an address on Wat Tyler Close, Rugeley, on Sunday 19 October, 2014, where Tearle discharged a paintball gun.
As a result of this Jon King, a Sergeant at Cannock Chase District Local Policing Team (LPT), received an eye injury which resulted in the loss of his right eye. He has since retired from the force on medical grounds.
ACC Nick Adderley, from Staffordshire Police, said: “We acknowledge today’s outcome.
“Every day our officers face danger as part of their role to protect the people of Staffordshire.
“Sadly on this occasion the actions of Matthew Tearle had devastating consequences for Jon, which not only affected him, but his whole family.
“As a result of the serious injury sustained Jon was forced to retire on medical grounds from his role as a hardworking and dedicated Police Sergeant. He was an excellent officer and is already much missed by all his colleagues.
“Although this was an isolated incident it is a prudent reminder that policing carries an element of risk, and officers regularly face dangerous situations. But their priority remains the same – protecting the people of Staffordshire.
“This was a distressing incident but Jon did what the public would expect without hesitation. His actions at the time are to be commended.”
Following the trial of facts Tearle was handed the hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, with a section 41 restriction order.
At today’s hearing Judge Eades announced that High Sheriff of Staffordshire awards will be awarded to Jon King; Inspector Kevin Mulligan; PC Steven Davenport and Special Constable Sydney Cooper in recognition of their efforts to help Mr Tearle.
Mr Tearle’s mother and brother will also be awarded the same honour.
Jason Corden-Bowen, Senior Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said:
“Paint-ball competitions are a popular and widely pursued recreational activity and paint-ball products are legitimately available for purchase. Ordinarily paint-ball guns are classified as air weapons and are exempt from legislative restrictions. However, where an air weapon is sufficiently powerful it ceases to be free from that exemption and is categorised as specially dangerous. If an air weapon is specially dangerous it is considered to be a firearm in law.
“In this case, although the air weapon that Matthew Tearle used was purchased lawfully, after it was discharged at very close range into a police officer’s face, it was tested by experts and found to be powerful enough to be classified as a ‘specially dangerous air weapon.’ As a direct result of that power it was not exempt and fell into the ordinary firearms legislation.
“The dimensions of the air weapon concerned were also such that it constituted a prohibited weapon and attracts a minimum sentence under the Firearms Act.”