Man choked police officer unconscious after he tried to arrest him

Colleagues feared PC Gavan had been killed after John Dow strangled him for more than a minute.

Man choked police officer unconscious after he tried to arrest him Getty Images

A man who choked a police officer unconscious leaving colleagues fearing he had been killed has been jailed for six years.

John Dow pounced on PC Paul Gavan who had turned up at a large-scale early hours disturbance in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire on July 26 2020.

The 36-year-old strangled the constable for more than a minute after he tried to arrest him.

CCTV footage captured other officers struggling to drag Dow off a stricken PC Gavan.

Prosecutor Angela Gray told the High Court in Glasgow: “PC Gavan was placed in the recovery position by colleagues.

“An ambulance was summoned. Some officers, on seeing him unconscious, thought he was dead.”

The 33-year-old PC luckily came to after being knocked out cold for 20 seconds.

However a judge was told the officer has suffered “significant trauma” as a result of his ordeal.

Dow had been due to go to trial accused of attempting to murder PC Gavan.

He instead pled guilty to the reduced charge of assaulting the constable to his severe injury and danger of his life.

Judge Lord Fairley told Dow at Thursday’s sentencing: “There is a suggestion from the social worker that you accept responsibility and regret in regard to your actions.

“You seek to reflect blame on the victim and that there is blame on both sides.

“The assault involved choking the police officer for over a minute and rendered him unconscious and could have ended his life.

“Other officers thought that he had died and it’s clear from his victim impact statement the effects on him by you on him that night have been severe.

“He has been diagnosed with PTSD, has flashbacks, anxiety and he suffered a broken nose.

“There is reference about the possibility of the officer retiring on health grounds.”

PC Gavan and a colleague had stopped in Mitchell Street, Coatbridge as a group were arguing with each other and damaging property.

Ms Gray told how Dow was part of the mob.

As the officers called for back-up, Dow became annoyed after a man was detained.

Ms Gray said the thug started filming officers on his mobile phone while being “aggressive and challenging” to PC Gavan.

PC Gavan eventually told Dow he was under arrest.

Dow then lashed out, grabbing the 33 year-old constable, punching him and squeezing his throat tightly.

The advocate depute said: “He kept his grip of PC Gavan…they both fell into a hedge with Dow on top of him.

“PC Gavan felt that his life was in danger. He tried to free himself from Dow by punching him on the head, but this had no effect.

“PC Gavan lost consciousness – he was motionless.”

CCTV showed Dow still kept a hold of the victim and it took two other officers to finally get him off.

Ms Gray said: “In total, Dow had his hand around the neck of PC Gavan for approximately one minute and 10 seconds.”

Dow then went on briefly grab PC George Hay, but was quickly overpowered.

The court heard PC Gavan – who had 11 years service – ended up with a broken nose, damaged teeth, bruising, scratches and swelling.

Ms Gray said: “He has suffered significant psychological trauma in the wake of the attack upon him.”

Dow also admitted assaulting PC Hay to his injury.

Tony Graham QC, defending, told the sentencing that Dow had been suffering from an injury.

He said: “Mr Dow was the victim of an assault previously, this gave rise to a chain of events.

“During being assaulted, he was forced into an electric substation and he was electrocuted.

“He had surgeries for that and was required to be ventilated.

“This is not an excuse for his behaviour but maybe you can see how a situation can descend into the situation on the video.”

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