Five Sussex Police officers have been cleared of attacking a family at their home.

The officers, a sergeant and four constables, were accused of attacking members of the High family at their home near Horsham after they had rowed with a taxi driver over £2.50.

Eighteen months later, and after a three-day trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, the officers were told the force they had used was reasonable.

Sergeant Chris O’Leary and PCs Lucy Fenney, Natalie Jennings, Jacqueline Peel and Oliver Pullen were all based at Horsham Police Station at the time of the incident on Saturday, June 25, last year.

They arrived at the High family home in Mile Ash Road, Barns Green, Horsham, at 1.40am.

‘Stamped on’ A taxi driver had complained that Jamie and Joshua High, aged 26 and 24, had refused to pay his £27.50 charge, offering only £25 instead.

Police at the time believed he was reporting an assault.

Wrists marked

Jamie High claimed when he answered his front door to officers minutes later, they said: “£27.50 now, or you’re nicked.”

He claimed that during the struggle that followed he was hit with punches and a baton, sprayed with Captor spray and stamped on while handcuffed. He said the cuffs were so tight it took two officers to unlock them, and his wrists were marked afterwards.

Police said they had heard Jamie High tell Joshua High to “get the shooter”, which Jamie High denied.

When police dropped their inquiry in December last year, the Highs launched their own private prosecution, which was taken over by the Crown Prosecution Service in July this year.

James, Joshua, the men’s father, Andrew, and their mother, Jane, all claimed they were assaulted.

Denied charge

PC Fenney, 30, PC Jennings, 28, PC Peel, 42, PC Pullen, 30, and Sgt O’Leary, 34, all denied counts of assault.

Giving evidence, PC Pullen said Jamie High had taunted the officers when they threatened to use their Captor spray, by swearing and saying: “Go on, spray us.”

PC Fenney described how she sprayed Jamie High, saying: “I thought he was going to injure Sergeant O’Leary. I did it in defence of him.”

She described Jamie High as “revved up, sparring for a fight”.

PC Peel said she was “devastated” by facing the charge.

Reasonable force

She confirmed she had been disciplined in the past with a final written warning for giving conflicting evidence at a coroner’s court.

Lee Harris, prosecuting, said: “I’m not saying you are a bad officer, or any of you are bad officers, I’m saying you and your colleagues got the wrong end of the stick to start with and went over the top.”

PC Peel said: “No.”

Deputy District Judge Andrew Lewis considered the evidence yesterday afternoon (December 20). He acquitted all the officers of assault, saying the force they used was reasonable.

See the latest news headlines from The Argus:

More news from The Argus

Follow @brightonargus

The Argus: Daily Echo on Facebook - Like us on Facebook

The Argus: Google+ Add us to your circles on Google+