Police officer from Sheffield at risk of losing job over ‘water assault’ on child

A decorated counter terrorism police officer who lives in Sheffield is at risk of losing his job over a drunken assault on a child in which he poured water over the youngster’s head

Det Sgt Mark Horwell
Det Sgt Mark Horwell

Detective Sergeant Mark Horwell, whose address was given in court as Manor Oaks Tree, Sheffield, left a youngster ‘crying hysterically’ by pouring bottles of water over their head, a court heard.

CRIME: Man lied to police after being found with knife in Sheffield street The highly respected police officer and former member of the army, who works for West Yorkshire Police, claimed it was an ‘approved method of subduing a child’ but admitted assaulting the child.

Det Sgt Mark Horwell

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Newcastle Crown Court heard he poured a bottle of water over the youngster's head at least twice after losing his temper while drunk.

The 49-year-old had been accused of child cruelty but that allegation was dropped after he pleaded guilty to common assault as his trial was due to start.

He was fined £300, although the consequences of his guilty plea will have a ‘catastrophic’ impact, including him losing his job, the court heard.

The assault happened in January 2017 at a house in Newcastle.

Lee Fish, prosecuting, said: "Mr Horwell emerged from the kitchen and was holding a bottle of Highland Spring water.

"He proceeded to empty the entire contents of that over the head of (the victim).

"What then happened was the defendant picked up (the victim) and carried them upstairs. They ended up in the bathroom.

"Mr Horwell had obviously taken the empty bottle with him and he proceeded to fill that bottle again and empty the contents onto the head of (the victim) again. On more than one occasion, it's not clear how many times he did it. The prosecution say upstairs it was more than one occasion.

"There is a recording of what happened and the position is what that recording demonstrates is (the victim) was incredibly distressed. It would perhaps be fair to describe (the victim) as hysterical. "You can hear various words being mentioned and said. You can hear them say 'help me'.

"It's quite clear this was very distressing for (the victim)."

The child ran from the house and bumped into an off-duty police officer who walking his dog at the time.

Mr Fish said: "He saw (the victim) was crying hysterically and struggling to catch their breath.

"He described them as hyperventilating and he noticed they were soaking wet."

Horwell was arrested and interviewed about the allegations he had mistreated the child.

Mr Fish said: "He admitted he had poured water over (the victim's) head but he disputed the extent to which they described the water being poured over their head.

"He went on to bizarrely describe it as a distraction technique and sought to justify it as an approved method of subduing a child that may be misbehaving. He said he had read about it in a magazine.

"At one stage he said his behaviour was intended to protect (the victim).

"Clearly, by his guilty plea, he acknowledges there was no lawful justification for his behaviour that evening."

Mr Fish said it was a case of ‘loss of temper rather than deliberate targeting’.

The victim was distressed but did not suffer any physical injuries, he said.

David Mason, representing Horwell, said there was evidence that the victim was a ‘difficult child’, adding: "This was not just him pouring water on a child for no particular reason when the child is immaculately behaved all of the time."

He added that it is ‘inevitable’ Horwell will be dismissed from his role for gross misconduct.

Mr Mason, who said there would be ‘catastrophic effects’ on Horwell as a result of his conviction, told the court: "Until this he was a highly decorated and very well-regarded police officer.

"He served in the army before that for four years and has been a police officer for 20 years. He is a detective sergeant in the counter terrorism unit and is highly regarded."

After the case, a CPS spokesman said: “In this case a plea to common assault was offered by the defendant, Mark Horwell, in the early stages of the trial.

"The prosecution took into account earlier social services reports, which had suggested that a suitable outcome in the case would be an admission of guilt from Horwell.

"This would prove to the court that the victim had been telling the truth about the attack while sparing a vulnerable child from having to give direct evidence against him. Horwell’s plea to charge of common assault was then accepted by the Crown on that basis.”

West Yorkshire Police said: “We are aware of the result at court and will now consider whether to pursue any disciplinary action with regard to the officer employed by West Yorkshire Police."