Man claims he was ‘strip-searched’ by police after going for lockdown ice-cream
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A businessman who went to a beauty spot for a family lockdown ice-cream claims he was “strip-searched” in custody, after he was arrested and handcuffed by police.
Radek Kotlarek, 39, from Rhos-on-Sea, his wife Marta and teenage son went to Talacre on Sunday for a “mental break”.
The couple were worried that the teenager was suffering during the current lockdown.
Kotlarek, a reputation management firm boss, said they had also endured the “trauma” of missing loved ones in Poland, where his wife’s brother is seriously ill and who they can’t visit.
Shortly after buying the ice-cream the family were approached by two officers. Kotlarek, a dad-of-two, refused to give his name to the officers, he claims because he was trying to “reason” with them.
But shortly after, and in footage shared on Twitter by Senedd Member Neil McEvoy, the Rhos on Sea man is handcuffed and taken to North Wales Police’s custody suite at St Asaph for questioning.
Kotlarek claimed that while there he was told he would be “strip-searched” unless he gave his name.
He went on to allege that officers threatened to cut his clothes off – before he voluntarily undressed.
McEvoy MS, the leader of the Propel party, called for the arresting officers to be suspended and for a full investigation to be launched. North Wales Police said Kotlarek was arrested as officers suspected a breach of coronavirus regulations.
The force insisted the officers acted in a “calm and reasonable way”. Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Kotlarek said: “I felt like it was abuse of power, so I did not give my name. “I was telling them this journey was for our well-being. I was trying to reason with them. I told the officers ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’.
“My family was struggling with many issues that are sourced in the constant lockdowns and homeschooling.
“On top of that came personal family problems which we faced in the last months. They include the very serious illness of my wife’s brother and death of close relatives.
“We were not even able to say goodbye or go and attend the funeral in Poland. “Is it not our most basic human right to decide for ourselves what is good and essential for our well being?”
After he was handcuffed Kotlarek claims he was told he would be released if he gave his name but he refused to do as he believed he hadn’t committed a crime.
He claimed: “When I was taken to the station they said I could be detained for up to 24 hours and treated me like a criminal.
“They took me to an interrogation room and said if I didn’t give my name they would strip search me.”
It was only when an officer went for scissors to cut his clothes off Kotlarek said he voluntarily undressed and put on a paper suit he’d been supplied with.
He spent around three hours in custody and was released at 6pm on Sunday.
He was not charged with any offence and he has not yet received a fixed penalty notice (FPN).
Kotlarek said he is considering bringing a formal complaint against North Wales Police about his treatment.
Chief superintendent Nigel Harrison said: “The person was spoken to at Talacre beach as officers reasonably suspected he had committed an offence, which in this case was a breach in Coronavirus regulations.
“The man, who is from the seaside town of Rhos on Sea some 22 miles away , was arrested because his details could not be ascertained at the time in order to be reported for the suspected breach.
“The officers behaved in a calm and reasonable way as I would have expected.
“As is always the case, if the individual wishes to query or complain about the way they were treated then of course we will review the full circumstances.”
Allegations that Koltarek was strip-searched while in custody were put to the force.
Propel party leader, Neil McEvoy MS claimed the force had breached the Rhos on Sea man’s “human rights”.
He said: “We are on the slippery slope now and we have to all collectively shout ‘stop’. Propel demands proportionality in policing. How on earth can a regular couple be treated in such a way?
“The Kotlareks have been dealing with family tragedy in Poland, yet are unable to travel to be with family. They went to a quiet beach to maintain a sense of sanity. ”
McEvoy went on to claim that the police had acted “unlawfully and breached the human rights of an everyday couple out with their son”.
He added: “Refusing to give one’s details under coronavirus legislation is not an offence.”
“The latest legal rulings have been clear on that. To threaten Radek with scissors to cut off his clothes if he did not strip naked at the station is a huge indignity, constitutes abuse and is a breach of his human rights.
“This kind of thing only used to happen under totalitarian regimes. The officers involved should be suspended pending investigation. This has to stop.”