Gross misconduct proven against a South Wales Police officer who repeatedly punched a man

Published: 12 Apr 2023

A South Wales Police officer has been dismissed without notice after a disciplinary panel found he used excessive force during an unlawful arrest and had later given a dishonest account of the incident.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) began an investigation into the actions of PC Rowan Knight in February 2021 after a complaint referral was received from South Wales Police, following the arrest of a man on Northern Avenue in Cardiff in January that year.

We examined allegations including whether there were legitimate grounds for arrest, and whether the force used in punching the man several times to the face while holding him in a headlock and kneeing him in the ribs was proportionate in the circumstances. It was also alleged that PC Knight escalated the situation unnecessarily by his use of force, and that he later provided a statement that described a different version of events to those captured on police footage.

During our four-month investigation, we gathered evidence including body worn video footage of the incident and we took accounts from the man who was arrested and officers present, as well as interviewing PC Knight. When our investigation ended in June 2021, we concluded that the officer had a disciplinary case to answer for gross misconduct.

At the hearing carried out by South Wales Police and overseen by an independent and legally qualified Chair, the panel heard how PC Knight took an angry and confrontational tone of voice before grabbing the barefoot and semi-naked man by the throat. PC Knight, who was accompanied at the incident by two other officers, had claimed to be acting in self-defence.

At the end of the hearing on 6 April, the disciplinary panel determined that PC Knight’s initial four punches were reasonable and in self-defence, but that further punches when the man was no longer a threat were disproportionate. The panel gave weight to the officer saying to the man ‘do you want some more?’. The panel also considered a number of aspects of the officer’s later statement concerning the events, specifically aspects of his justification for his uses of force, to be dishonest

IOPC Director David Ford said “Police officers should only use the minimum amount of force required in any given situation they face. In our view the physical force applied by PC Knight was not necessary, reasonable or proportionate in the circumstances. The body worn video of the other officers present did not support the officer’s account that all his actions were in self-defence, and therefore the explanation he gave was dishonest. The evidence indicated that PC Knight continued to use force at a time when the man posed no genuine risk to him or his colleagues.

“A gross misconduct hearing has now determined that PC Knight should be dismissed.”

PC Knight will also be added to the police barred list.

At a criminal trial at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court in October 2021, PC Knight was found not guilty of assault in relation to the same incident. The thresholds for standards of proof in police disciplinary proceedings are different to those at a criminal trial.

  • South Wales Police
  • Use of force and armed policing