Police officer left pensioner with broken jaw after punching him in road rage incident

June 01 2020
Police officer left pensioner with broken jaw after punching him in road rage incident

A POLICE officer left a pensioner with a broken jaw after punching him during a road rage incident in Frampton Cotterell.

Stuart Box was off-duty and riding his bike in Church Road when he attacked 70-year-old driver Peter Burgum.

Mr Burgum died of unrelated causes soon afterwards and spent the last weeks of his life in pain, a police misconduct panel heard today. His wife, who was also hurt in the incident, has suffered “insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks” ever since.

PC Box, who was 44 at the time of the incident in April last year, would have been sacked for gross misconduct had he not already resigned from Avon and Somerset police, the hearing was told.

Mr Burgum’s wife Caroline thought he had been killed when he was knocked to the ground.

She was also injured as she tried to stop PC Box leaving the scene but he fled so he could not be held responsible, the panel heard.

Avon and Somerset police even issued an appeal for witnesses and information to track down the cyclist before PC Box was eventually identified.

The former officer, who was serving in South Gloucestershire at the time, has admitted gross misconduct.

No criminal charges were brought against him as a result of the incident, which unfolded after Mr Burgum overtook the officer in his Mitsubishi estate.

PC Box banged on the side of the car and hit the wing mirror when Mr Burgum braked, before shouting abuse and telling the driver he had nearly killed him and should have left more space, the panel heard.

He slapped Mr Burgum, who then took out his phone to film the incident as he backed away.

PC Box claimed he had been hit first as he grabbed the phone and threw it over a fence, before punching Mr Burgum. 

The panel heard that as Mr Burgum fell to the ground, potentially losing consciousness, his wife shouted: “You’ve killed him!”

Despite her attempts to stop him, PC Box got on his bike and rode off without calling 999 or leaving his details.

Representing Avon and Somerset Police, barrister Elliot Gold said the officer was trying to escape responsibility but he was later identified from dashcam footage.

Mr Burgum suffered two fractures to his jaw, requiring surgery that left him unable to eat solid foods, as well as cuts and bruises. 

Mr Gold said: “For reasons that were unrelated, Mr Burgum tragically died from other matters.

The consequences were that Mr and Mrs Burgums’ last weeks together were affected in the most adverse way.

Mrs Burgum has had insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks. Her memories of the last weeks with her husband have been indelibly marked by what happened.”

Mr Gold said PC Box lost his temper and used an unreasonable level of force when he should have tried to de-escalate the situation.

He said public confidence in the police would have been damaged if PC Box had been allowed to remain as a police officer.

Police Federation representative Andy Roebuck said the former officer had expressed remorse and “could only apologise” for what happened. 

Panel chair Stephanie Beazley said the former officer may have acted on adrenaline initially but his culpability for the incident increased the longer it went on.

She said the panel was deeply concerned about the continuing impact on Mrs Burgum, who had suffered “indefinite psychological harm”.

Ms Beazley added: “PC Box had 23 years of police experience; he should have known better.

We take a dim view of his leaving the scene.

There was a disappointing lack of genuine remorse. His focus was on damage to his bike.

Public confidence has likely already been lost. The only outcome must seek to restore it.

Had he still been serving his position would have been untenable. He would have been dismissed without notice.”

The force’s head of professional standards, Superintendent Simon Wilstead, said: “Firstly, on behalf of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to Mrs Burgum and her family for the incident which involved an off-duty officer.

Mr Box was not on duty at the time of the incident, but nevertheless we expect a high standard of behaviour by officers, whether they are in or out of uniform, and he failed to meet those ethical standards.

As a police force we believe in absolute transparency and Mr Box’s failure to report what happened at the earliest opportunity is at odds with what we stand for.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct was informed of the incident at the outset and it decided it was happy with Avon and Somerset Police investigating what happened.

A thorough and proportionate criminal investigation was carried out before the Crown Prosecution Service was presented with the evidence.

The misconduct investigation has subsequently followed leading to today’s outcome.

Despite the officer resigning, it was important to hold a hearing into the very serious allegations against Mr Box to ensure that, if proven, he would be placed on the barred list.”

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service