A woman who assaulted a 12-year-old boy with a paddle on a riverbank in south Bristol has been handed a four-month jail term suspended for six months and ordered to pay £500 compensation.
Fay Johnson, 32, from South Gloucestershire, admitted a charge of causing actual bodily harm to Antwon Forrest at an earlier hearing, and was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court today (Thursday 12 January).
Antwon was assaulted and suffered an injury to his head during the incident on the banks of the River Avon in Brislington, on Saturday 26 March.
Officers attended and a woman was arrested, but later de-arrested and interviewed at a police station. Statements were gathered and the outcome of this investigation was that, based on the evidence gathered at the time, no further action would be taken.
A review was immediately launched after senior officers became aware of this decision, following significant public concern.
The review resulted in a re-investigation led by a Detective Sergeant, with oversight from a senior officer, who also met with Antwon’s family to listen to their concerns and explain what actions were now being taken.
The re-investigation included a review of all available video footage, including new footage provided to the police, as well as identifying and taking statements from as many people who witnessed the incident as possible, re-examining 999 calls, compiling medical evidence and liaising with relevant partner agencies.
A file of evidence was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which later authorised a charge of causing actual bodily harm to be brought against Fay Johnson.
Chief Inspector Mike Buck said: “We’re extremely grateful to Antwon and his family for meeting with us in person, so we could listen to their views and concerns, explain what action we were taking, and so we could offer our apologies for the outcome of the initial investigation and for the things we didn’t get right.
“This is an upsetting case of an assault on a young boy, which caused him actual bodily harm, and the weight of evidence gathered during the re-investigation has led to the defendant admitting the offence and being sentenced today.
“We’ve identified a number of learnings as a result of this case, including the fact the family should have been offered a right to review following the initial decision. We want to assure the family and the wider community that we welcome the scrutiny this case has brought and we’ll use the learnings to improve the way investigations are carried out.
“We recognise the strength of community concern following the initial outcome of this case and the perception that Antwon was treated differently because of his race.
“While we’ve found no evidence to suggest race played any part in the police decision to take no further action, we’ve listened deeply to the concerns and issues raised by the victim’s family and the wider community, and we’ll use the lessons from this investigation in the ongoing work we are doing under the National Race Action Plan – which is central to our mission to become an anti-racist organisation.
“A significant part of this plan will focus on improving our service to Black victims of crime, and we’re exploring whether we can establish a clear set of standards to improve our performance and positive outcomes, because research shows Black victims of crime often do not feel they receive the same level of service as others, which can lead to under-reporting and a lack of trust and confidence in the police. Improving the service we offer to Black victims of crime is crucial if we are to increase community confidence and ensure we’re delivering outstanding policing to all our communities, and this case will form a central thread to our work under the Race Action Plan.
“In addition, between November and February, all neighbourhood and response officers are undergoing bespoke training to help us improve investigative standards – from securing evidence, to preparing case files and undertaking disclosure. While this training isn’t as a direct result of this case, it will help us improve the service to all victims of crime and achieve the justice they deserve.”