19. Memorandum from Mr Tony Ashley
I write with regard to the "call for evidence"
in respect of an Inquiry into Human Rights and Deaths in custody.
I am the brother of James Ashley who was killed by armed Sussex
police on 15 January 1998.
I believe that the United Kingdom should be
doing more to meet its obligations under Article 2 of the European
convention on human rights especially when the law fails to provide
adequate safeguards against wrongdoing by the Police or other
public servants by its reliance on outdated and archaic statutes
such as "misfeasance".
In our case five officers were originally charged
with criminal chargesone was charged with Murder/Manslaughter
and four others with "misfeasance in public office".
The trial took over three years to get to court, all the while
we were warned not to comment as it could prejudice proceedings,
yet Sussex police were allowed to blacken my brothers' character
despite not having found a shred of evidence which pointed to
James having committed any offence to justify the armed raid on
his flat in the first place.
A coroner's inquest was put into abeyance whilst
criminal charges were pending. Prior to the trial we attended
a committal at Bow Street before a magistrate during which we
endured two weeks of legal argument put forward by numerous Barristers
for the defenceextensively funded by the Police Federation.
When the case finally reached the Old Bailey we had to endure
further seemingly endless legal arguments by the defence before
we had even heard any evidence.
My primary objection is that the trial Judgethe
inappropriately named Justice Raffertysplit the trial in
two between a Murder trialand a second trial centering
on the misfeasance aspect. Somewhat conveniently once the trials
were split the Judge placed a ban on the press from reporting
the trial evidence under the argument that publicity could adversely
affect the second trial. I believe this legal manoeuvre obstructed
real justice and did not allow for any genuine public scrutiny
of the serious misbehaviour undertaken by the officers involved.
The next thing we knew, the judge threw out
the case before the defendant in the Murder casePC Sherwood
had even provided testimony, thus robbing us of any chance to
hear an explanation of the events from those principally involved
and therefore any sense of emotional closure. The fact that a
jury were prevented from deliberating on the evidence by the cynical
actions of the judge exacerbated the growing sense of injustice.
The second trial also collapsed because the Judge decided to rule
that there had been "Corporate Failure" on behalf of
Sussex Police rather than wilful misconduct by individuals. As
far as we were concerned this was a completely unsatisfactory
outcome and a mockery of justice.
I believe that the failure of both the criminal
cases to actually determine responsibility, other than by vague
notions of "corporate failure", led to the eventual
watering down of disciplinary action taken by Sussex Police against
those involved. What also then materialised was the farcical situation
whereby the former Chief Constable Paul Whitehouse actually promoted
two of the officers involved. Similarly the Deputy Assistant Chief
Constable, Mark Jordan, was somehow allowed to retire on the grounds
of ill health. Jordanwho apparently now lectures on human
rightsthus avoided disciplinary action. This is despite
promises by the present government to end this disgraceful practice
of serving officers being allowed to retire prematurely without
All avenues of legal redress having dwindled,
the family made concerted representations to the Home Secretary
on the basis that a full public inquiry was called for in this
case. After deliberation by the Minister John Denham, we were
informed that an inquiry would not be the best way forward for
the following reasons:
(1) Pending disciplinary action would be
halted if a public inquiry was granted.
(2) The Coroners Inquest was due to resume.
(3) The Sussex Police Authority would be
formally requested to prepare a report on the events of the killing
and how it had responded to its obligations in the aftermath.
We were also promised access to the (Wilding report) written by
Kent Police and the (Hoddinott) report into the state of the Sussex
Police force which had been prepared by Hampshire Police.
In reality, disciplinary procedures against
the remaining officers were gradually downgraded and sidelined
once the initial bad publicity against Sussex had subsided. The
Sussex coroner refused to re-open the inquest stating that it
would amount to a re-trial and finally, Sussex Police Authority,
who "owned" the Kent and Hampshire reports refused to
release them publicly. Instead, they produced a report supposedly
specifically for the family which was little more than a rehash
of what the Judge had said at the aborted trials.
In summary then, our attempts to gain justice
have been thwarted at every turn by the authorities, British Law
fails to provide any modern or contemporary statute to counter
wrongdoing by the police. Misfeasance cannot be deemed appropriate
in the circumstances of this case and there certainly needs to
be a new and serious appraisal of the law in this regard. Not
only are police officers overly protected by judges but civil
proceedings initiated by the victims families are completely out
of the question due to the costvictims families simply
do not have the required funds to challenge legal decisions, the
financial strains placed on victims relatives fighting for justice
simply make matters worse, especially when faced with the "money
no object" emphasis of the Police Federation or unsympathetic
elements of the criminal justice system.
10 September 2003