Off-duty Met Police officer punched in chin so hard bone left exposed after trying to diffuse row in Portsmouth pub

AN OFF-duty policeman who tried to diffuse a row in a pub was struck with such force his chin split open leaving bone and muscle exposed from the brutal punch that ‘felt like a crowbar’.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:38 pm

Benjamin Simpson was enjoying beers with family members in the Thatchers pub in London Road, North End, on December 23, 2016, when his life was suddenly changed after trying to keep the peace.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how ‘one man pushed another into a barrel’ with a headbutt also thrown in the melee as Mr Simpson, then an officer for the Met Police, attempted to calm tempers around 9.20pm.

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Exterior of Portsmouth Crown Court. (220421-7042)

‘Mr Simpson went over to one man and put his arm around him and was trying to get him to leave. He was not being forceful,’ prosecutor Andrew Judge told the court.

The officer told the man: ‘I’m not trying to fight you. I’m just trying to stop you fighting.’

With the ‘agitated’ male ‘trying to get back at the other man’, Mr Simpson then informed him he was a police officer and showed him his identification.

But his attempts were in vain as all of a sudden Mr Simpson was smashed in the face by another man.

‘He remembers being struck right on the chin with some force which felt like he had been hit with a crowbar,’ Mr Judge said.

‘Blood started to run down his nose. Mr Simpson was not aware who had hit him.’

That man was John Harris, 43, of Victoria Road South, Southsea.

The blow he inflicted left ‘deep lacerations’ and scarring on his victim’s chin - serving as a daily reminder of the incident.

With Harris avoiding detection after the fight, police put out a public appeal with CCTV of the incident.

In 2018 police closed the case due to lack of evidence. The case reopened, closed and then reopened again in October 2020 after new information came to light.

Recorder James Bromige told Harris he had ‘certainly obfuscated’ the police investigation by not coming forward or admitting the offence when previously questioned over it.

Harris eventually admitted a single charge of unlawful wounding - leaving him facing up to the prospect of jail.

‘Cosmetically, every day the victim is left with a reminder of the violence you inflicted on him,’ recorder Bromige said.

‘He was an off-duty police officer who was seeking to diffuse the situation using his sense of duty.’

But despite the ‘very serious offence’ - branded as ‘historical’ - and with Harris not committing any further offences since the incident, the recorder concluded he could suspend the sentence.

The ‘harmful impact’ prison would have on the ‘financial stability’ of his children was also taken into account along with Harris’ risk of harm to society being ‘low’.

Harris escaped immediate jail and was handed a 58-week prison term suspended for 24 months, told to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £2,000 compensation and £350 costs.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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