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A veteran mounted police officer has failed in his bid to win £150,000 in damages from the Metropolitan Police after a High Court judge ruled he hid the truth over a riding accident that sparked a phobia and wrecked his career.

Clive Burrow, an officer with 20 years’ experience, suffered severe facial cuts, a wrenched shoulder and a damaged wrist when his mount “surged forward”, careering through woods on Wimbledon Common in December 1998.

He afterwards tried unsuccessfully to resume his career, but the ordeal sparked an acute “phobic anxiety disorder”, causing panic attacks and fears of flying and crowds.
Epsom-based Burrow, 49, alleged that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had been negligent in providing an unsafe horse.

But Judge Alistair MacDuff QC said there was compelling evidence that Burrow may have been smoking a cigarette at the time of the accident. He rejected the suggestion that, at Wandsworth Stables, where the mounted branch is based, the horse was considered notoriously dangerous. He also rejected Burrow’s claims that he had regularly complained to his superiors about taking it on.

The judge conceded that the ex-officer was genuinely stricken by the effects of the accident, and that his mount had a record for “spooking”. But, he said, Burrow was a highly experienced horseman who was in reality “perfectly relaxed” about riding the horse.

He said: “I am firmly of the view that the accident was the result of his own negligence and self-confidence….in the belief that he could control one-handed, while smoking, a horse he regarded as not difficult and certainly within his powers as an experienced horseman.”

The judge’s ruling means that the former policeman will go without a penny in compensation. The police do not have insurance against this type of claim and payments for a successful claim come out of public funds.