Police have reclassified an incident when a woman reportedly injured a 12-year-old boy by hitting him in the head with a paddle in Bristol as racially motivated.
Avon and Somerset Police on Tuesday said they have “complete empathy” with the boy’s family as the force reviews the initial decision not to prosecute.
Officers have met with the boy’s father to give him “a full commitment to carrying out a comprehensive and thorough review” and to keep him updated on its progress.
We’re re-appealing for witnesses following an alleged assault on a 12-year-old boy on a riverside in Bristol.
Senior officers have met with the boy's father to listen to his concerns & give him more detail about the ongoing review into this incident ⬇️ https://t.co/zqXYcpUyHe
— Avon and Somerset Police (@ASPolice) May 10, 2022
The force said officers were called to a report that a woman had struck a child near Conham River Park at around 3pm on March 26 this year.
According to an online petition which appeared to have been set up by the boy’s aunt calling for police to take action, it was claimed the child, who is autistic, had been playing when he was “accused and attacked” by a woman with the paddle of a boat “for throwing stones which he didn’t even throw”.
The petition featured a picture of the boy’s bloodied face and his aunt said she had been “devastated” to see it.
Police said they had taken statements and looked at phone footage from after the incident.
A woman was arrested and then de-arrested before being formally interviewed at a police station, the force said.
But police decided there would be no further action “based on evidence gathered at the time”.
The force said a review was “immediately launched after senior officers became aware of the decision”, following concerns raised by the injured boy’s family via social media.
The review is also being monitored by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), it added.
Chief Inspector Mike Buck said: “We’re extremely grateful to the boy’s father for agreeing to meet with us and we had a constructive conversation in which we answered his questions and give him assurances about this review and what it means.
“We have complete empathy with his family and listened carefully to what he had to say. We gave him a full commitment to carrying out a comprehensive and thorough review and to keep him updated about its progress.
“We’ve re-classified this incident as being racially motivated and we have a Detective Sergeant leading the review, with oversight from a senior officer”.
The force has again appealed for witnesses as officers take further statements, seek footage, re-examine calls made to emergency services and compile medical evidence.
The chief inspector added: “There will be learnings coming out of this incident, for example we’ve already identified the family should have been offered a right to review following the initial decision not to take any further action, and we have said sorry for that.
“It’s only right and proper we are scrutinised on the decisions we take and I want to reassure our communities that we are listening and we are taking action to re-examine all aspects of this incident, as well as how the initial investigation was carried out”.
According to Bristol Live, the boy’s father described the initial decision of police to take no further action as “a kick in the teeth”.
He was quoted as saying: “I don’t want my son to live the rest of his life believing that there are no consequences to things like this.”