Headlocked youth worker Zak Hussain arrested in Stepney cleared of obstruction
PUBLISHED: 15:49 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:27 22 February 2017
A youth worker arrested in a headlock for "obstruction" in east London's Asian community while he says he was cleaning his car has been cleared in court.
Magistrates took just minutes to throw out the case against 27-year-old Zakaria Hussain whose arrest outside Stepney’s Arbour Youth centre was caught by passers-by on mobile phones showing him being headlocked by one of the six officers surrounding him.
But he was not resisting arrest, Stratford magistrates were told today.
The confrontation last October led to a protest really in Whitechapel where the Mayor of Tower Hamlets condemned “police heavy tactics” over Zak’s arrest and that of an 11-year-old schoolgirl a few days earlier involved in a playground squabble.
“It’s been stressful four months which should never have got to court,” Zak told the East London Advertiser after today’s hearing.
“I was outside the youth club when policed asked for my identity, treating me as a suspect. They had no legal basis and no authority. I was doing nothing.”
Zak, 27, from Shadwell, had also been charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and using foul language—but these were dropped.
There was “inconsistency and contradictions” in the officers’ evidence, Zak’s solicitor Lawrence Barker said after the case.
Mr Barker explained: “It was clear it wasn’t going to be possible to make a case on such ‘gossamer thin’ evidence.
“The default charge of obstruction gave police ‘justification’ to use force—with a headlock. But the footage shows him in distress.”
The footage also showed Zak did not spit at the officers—but was shouting at them when one officer called out, “stop spitting”.
His solicitor added: “This case should never have reached court. It took only minutes to acquit Zakaria.”
Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs told a rally at Whitechapel a week after Zak’s arrest that the video showed police acted in an overly-energetic fashion”.
Just days earlier, a 13-year-old girl was videoed by passers-by being handcuffed and put into a police car over a row she had with another girl outside Wapping High School in Commercial Road.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission was examining both videos, showing arrests using headlock even on the schoolgirl, which went viral on YouTube.
The case should “never have gone to court”, Mayor John Biggs told the Advertiser today. He added: “This is clearly a victory for common sense and I am glad that Zak has been able to clear his name.
“The overly physical nature of Zak’s arrest caused genuine concern in the community. The police now need to reflect carefully on lessons they can learn from their handling of the Arbour Youth Centre incident and how they maintain community confidence.”
Zak’s solicitors, Bindmans, are now taking steps “to ensure that those responsible in the police and Crown Prosecution Service are held properly to account”.
He may be pursuing a civil case against the Met Police for “wrongful arrest” following today’s acquittal.