French riot police officer found guilty of assaulting man helping migrants

Incident occurred during a police operation aimed at removing migrants in and around Calais

The camp in Calais is the last stop for migrants trying to reach the UK. AFP
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A French riot police officer has been given a suspended jail sentence for assaulting a British migrant-support worker in Calais.

The officer, identified only as Laurent M, knocked Tom Ciotkowski to the ground during a scuffle between British activists and the CRS riot force.

A series of allegations of police brutality towards activists and minorities has recently come to light and rights group Amnesty International said the verdict sent a “clear signal” that abuses would not be tolerated,

The officer said he acted in self-defence after Mr Ciotkowski, a council worker from Stratford, central England, shoved him in the chest and swore at him.

But the court in Boulogne-sur-Mer dismissed his story and convicted him of assault and giving false evidence.

He was handed an 18-month suspended jail term and was barred from serving for two years.

Two junior officers who had backed up his account were cleared of wrongdoing.

Mr Ciotkowski was volunteering with the group Help Refugees when the incident happened in July 2018 during a police operation aimed at removing migrants from in and around Calais.

Volunteers work with migrants at the Calais camp. Photo: Care4Calais

“This is an important decision in a case that has become emblematic of the attacks by police on asylum seekers and the human rights defenders who support them,” said Katia Roux, Amnesty International France's advocacy director.

Several British groups work at informal camps that spring up around the northern port of Calais, a key crossing point for migrants trying to reach Britain.

The Calais camp is the last stop for thousands of migrants en route to England.

Thousands each year try to make the short, but often deadly, sail across the English Channel - one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world - often using unseaworthy vessels.

Mr Ciotkowski had been put on trial in 2019 but was cleared after video footage of the attack showed he was not at fault.

The Amnesty International statement quoted Mr Ciotkowski as saying he was pleased to see justice done “after a long and stressful” three years.

“I dread to think what might have happened if myself and others were not able to film the incident. I could very well be the one being convicted today,” he said.

Prosecutor Dorothee Perrier told the court she had the “disagreeable feeling” that the officers had lied to “cover up acts of violence and justify an inconvenient arrest".

Updated: September 03, 2021, 7:06 AM