Five police officers who changed their accounts of a stop and search on a man who later died have been cleared of misconduct.
Habib “Paps” Ullah died in hospital in July 2008, 90 minutes after Thames Valley police officers stopped the car he was travelling in.
At a disciplinary hearing DS Jason Liles, DC Richard Bazeley and PCs Kate Granger, Chris Pomery and Howard Wynne admitted deleting aspects of their initial statements.
Their accounts were being compiled for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation, and included references to use of force.
Zia Ullah of the Justice4Paps campaign told Socialist Worker, “The fact that the police accept this is their behaviour is disgusting.”
Habib was hit on the back by Liles during the incident in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Liles claimed Habib was trying to swallow drugs. Liles was cleared of another charge of misconduct in relation to the slap.
The panel found that Liles’ use of force was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate”, to “prevent serious injury or death”.
The alterations to the statements were described as “breathtaking” during the hearing.
Bazeley deleted his description of the back slap on Habib being delivered “with some force”. Pomery replacing the word “grabbed” in relation to Habib’s neck with “held”.
Wynne removed his description of another person in the car shouting, “You’re strangling him.”
An initial IPCC investigation based on written statements from the officers involved cleared the officers of any wrongdoing in March 2010.
But in December that year the officers admitted under oath at an inquest that they had removed potentially key evidence from their written statements to the IPCC.
They said they had been told to do so by a Police Federation lawyer.
The disciplinary panel found all of the officers to be truthful witnesses.
It also said that as the lawyer had advised them they could be suspects, they did not have a duty to inform the IPCC of the existence or details of their initial statements because they were subject to legal privilege.
Habib’s family are still pursuing a civil prosecution they filed after a second inquest.
Zia said they are continuing to provide support and advice to other families who have lost loved ones after coming into contact with police.
Zia said, “It’s heartbreaking. But we are advising families on what the IPCC really mean when they say they are investigating.
“Our confidence in the IPCC has been shattered. But we are building on that, and building the changes that can happen.”