Socialist Worker

Police ‘victory’ sends a chilling message

Issue No. 1928

EIGHT POLICE officers who were suspended after an inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of a black man were reinstated last week.

Police officers “restrained” Roger Sylvester from Tottenham, north London, after arresting him. They held him down for 20 minutes.

He was in a coma for seven days before being pronounced dead on 18 January 1999.

His family have fought for justice ever since. Eight officers were suspended following a verdict of unlawful killing a year ago.

But a High Court judge has indicated he will overturn the unlawful killing verdict. The judge said he believed the jury had been misdirected by the coroner.

Sir Ian Blair, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, then decided the officers should return to duty with immediate effect.

Deborah Coles, co-director of the campaign group Inquest, says, “This outrageous decision once again sends the message that police officers involved in fatal restraint are above the law.

“Families whose loved ones have died as a result of excessive and unlawful force can get no justice and accountability.

“The inquest jury unanimously decided on the evidence that Roger died as a result of the use of unlawful and excessive force. On the basis of that evidence the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is still considering whether the officers should be prosecuted.

“It is appalling that the deputy commissioner should pre-empt the findings of the judge and the decision of the CPS.”

Bernard Renwick, the brother of Roger Sylvester, says, “This decision has yet again caused deep anguish and distress to the whole family. Roger would not be dead if those police officers had not laid hands on him.”

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Sat 20 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1928
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