A JUDGE has criticised Oxford police officers for restraining a burglar in an “excruciating way” that led to him biting a constable.

Craig Ralphs, who has more than 140 previous convictions, clamped his teeth on the inner thigh of an officer in a lift at St Aldate’s police station.

Pc Kern Langley put the serial offender, who was handcuffed, in an arm lock, because he believed Ralphs was about to butt him.

But Oxford Crown Court judge Mary Jane Mowat, who watched a CCTV video of the incident, criticised the conduct of Pc Langley and an unnamed colleague.

She said: “I fail to understand why it was necessary, from what I saw, to restrain him in the excruciating way these two officers did. I really don’t see what justified it.

“He’s screaming, screaming in pain. I didn’t hear the police officer scream, I saw his (Ralphs’s) arms being pushed right up behind his back.

“I simply cannot see what provoked it, though I tried hard to look. He’s maybe a bit lippy, certainly nothing more is perceptible in that film.”

Ralphs, of North Way, Barton, had been arrested yards from the police station after being found stealing post from a communal area at student flats in Speedwell Street on December 8 last year.

In a statement read in court, Pc Langley said Ralphs was “resistant” and was “trying to dig his feet into the ground”.

Referring to the incident in the lift, he said: “Given his previous behaviour, I believed Ralphs was trying to turn and face us”.

The officer said he restrained Ralphs with his head down, but the defendant “lunged towards” his groin before clamping his teeth on the officer’s inner thigh.

He added that he then aimed an “open-palmed” blow at Ralphs’s head and “aimed a strike at his shoulder” with his knee. He said he was “going to hit him as hard as I possibly could, because I feared he would bite me in the groin”, but as Ralphs moved, he noticed the blow would strike his head and he reduced the power before striking.

Jeannie Mackie, defending, said her client, who admitted charges of burglary and causing actual bodily harm, could not remember the incident and “has been more or less out of his mind on various substances since the age of 13”.

She added: “To put it bluntly, he’s completely fed up with his life and how he lives it, and he’s motivated to change.”

Judge Mowat gave Ralphs, who had spent 69 days in prison on remand, a 41-week jail sentence, suspended for a year, with 12 months’ supervision and a six-month drug-rehabilitation requirement.

Ralphs, 35, said: “I’m very sorry for what happened to the police officer.”

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said no official complaint was made about the incident.

Supt Chris Sharp, area commander for Oxford, added: “Officers often find themselves in difficult and challenging situations where proportionate force is needed to control a person who is under arrest.

"At all times, officers have to be mindful of both their own safety and the safety of others.

"In situations such as this, we review the circumstances. If there are any lessons to be learned we will do so.”

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