Two police officers have been praised by a judge and awarded £1,000 each for going ‘well beyond the call of duty’ in bravely pursuing a man carrying what they thought was a gun across a busy Leamington park.
Neither the officers, Dc Paul Luke and Dc Steve Mobbs, nor terrified people in the park had any way of knowing the gun brandished by Marvin Parnell was a blank-firing starting pistol, the judge observed.
Parnell was wanted for recall to prison at the time for breaching the conditions of his licence from a life sentenced for his second offence of wounding with intent.
Following his recapture, he pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to using an imitation firearm with intent to resist arrest and possessing cocaine.
Parnell,41, who is of no fixed address, but formerly of Windmill Road, Leamington, was jailed for three years.
But Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him that when he is finally released may depend on how much more of his life sentence he is also ordered to serve.
Prosecutor Peter Cooper said that in 1997 Parnell was jailed for four years for wounding with intent after a ‘vicious and prolonged attack’ on a female prison officer with a chair leg while serving a sentence for robbery.
Then in October 2001, under the law at the time, he was given a mandatory life sentence for a second offence of wounding with intent.
On that occasion he had become involved in a scuffle in a Warwick pub, and slashed another man’s face with a Stanley knife, causing horrific wounds that needed more than 100 stitches.
He was ordered to serve a minimum of three-and-a-half years before the Parole Board could consider his release on licence – but in fact did not leave prison until January 2015.
“By October last year things were not going well,” said Mr Cooper. “He had disengaged with his supervising officer, and it was believed he had relapsed into using heroin and cocaine.”
So a decision was made to revoke his licence and for him to be recalled to prison, and his details as being wanted were circulated to police officers in the Leamington area.
On November 1, Dc Luke and Dc Mobbs were on plain-clothed duty in Leamington town centre when they spotted Parnell in Dormer Place, so got out of their car and identified themselves to him.
They told him he was wanted on recall, and that he was being arrested, at which he became agitated and was taken hold of.
He asked to be allowed to have a cigarette, which he already had in his hand, so he was allowed to light it and was put into the police car with the door open while they checked that he was still wanted.
“But the defendant reached into a bag he was holding and took out a pistol and said ‘Here we go lads,’ and pointed the gun at Pc Luke, who stepped back.
“He got out of the car and ran off towards the Pump Room Gardens. It was a sunny day, and there were quite a few people there, including schoolchildren.
“As he was pursued, the defendant turned and faced Dc Luke and pointed the gun at him again, and said ‘You’d better f*** off.’ The officer paused, and Parnell turned and ran.
“Dc Luke gave consideration to abandoning the pursuit but, with members of the public at risk, decided to continue – and twice more the defendant stopped and pointed the gun at him.
“The last time, the officer was at close quarters, and punched him as he lowered the gun slightly, and grappled him to the floor where both officers restrained him on the ground.”
During the struggle Parnell appeared to still be trying to point the gun at Dc Luke until it was prised from his hand and he was handcuffed.
“Up until that point, neither officer could have known whether or not it was a real firearm. Both of these officers, in particular Dc Luke, behaved with conspicuous courage.”
Mr Cooper added that in fact it was found to be an unloaded Webley and Scott blank-firing starter pistol which was not capable of discharging a missile.
William Douglas-Jones, defending, conceded: “The only possible outcome is one of immediate custody. Mr Parnell is under no illusions about that.”
He said Parnell, who apologised to the officers, was ashamed of his actions and of having succumbed to drugs again, and feels he has let himself and others down.
Jailing Parnell, Judge de Bertodano told him: “I am sure you are now standing in the place you least wanted to be standing again when you were released from your life sentence.
“You were released in 2015, but things did not go as well as you had hoped, and drugs reared their head again, and you were recalled to prison.
“When the police spotted you, you made the very bad mistake of threatening them with an imitation firearm.
“I accept it could not have done them any harm, but they didn’t know that - and as far as the members of the public and children who were around were concerned, it was a real gun.
“It is to the credit of the officers that they continued to chase and restrain you.”
After Parnell had been taken from the dock, the judge added: “I should mention the two officers.
They did behave with conspicuous courage, and clearly deserve a commendation.
“They were not to know it was an imitation firearm, and they went well beyond the call of duty in order to protect the public.
“I would like them each to be awarded £1,000 out of public funds to acknowledge the bravery they showed.”
Speaking after the court case Chief Superintendent Alex Franklin-Smith said: “While incidents this serious are very rare, it does demonstrate the dangers our officers face in their efforts to protect people from harm.
“The two officers showed immense bravery in tackling a dangerous man with what they had to assume at the time was a real firearm.
“Their quick actions meant the situation was promptly contained and Parnell was apprehended before he could pose a risk to wider public.
“While police officers accept that there are risks associated with their job, like everyone else they have a right to go about their job without the threat of violence or intimidation.”