Saturday, March 21, 2009

Police officers in abuse case accused of 60 other assaults.

Police officers involved in a "serious, gratuitous and prolonged" attack on a British Muslim man - so serious that the Met have had to pay the man £60,000 in damages - have been accused of dozens of other attacks.

Babar Ahmad, 34, a terrorist suspect, was punched, kicked, stamped on and strangled during his arrest by officers from one of the Met's territorial support groups at his London home in December 2003.

After six years of denials from Scotland Yard, lawyers acting for the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, were forced to admit in the high court that Ahmad had been the victim of sustained and gratuitous violence during his arrest and agreed to pay £60,000 in damages.

But the Guardian can reveal that the Met was aware for years that the six officers involved were the subject of repeated complaints. According to documents submitted to the court, four of the officers who carried out the raid on Ahmad's home had 60 allegations of assault against them - of which at least 37 were made by black or Asian men. One of the officers had 26 separate allegations of assault against him - 17 against black or Asian men.

The Met has confirmed that since 1992 all six officers involved in the Ahmad assault had been subject to at least 77 complaints. When lawyers for Ahmad asked for details of these allegations it emerged that the police had "lost" several large mail sacks detailing at least 30 of the complaints.

I thought the days when the police could behave as if they were a law unto themselves were over.

But there's certainly enough suspicion surrounding some of these officers that, were they members of the criminal fraternity, one would say that they "had form".

Now, obviously, we don't know if there is any truth at all behind any of the accusations and every person is innocent until proven guilty, but the sheer scale of the complaints against the officers concerned is certainly enough to make one pause. Especially when one considers that each complaint is from a different person.

• March 2007: one officer is accused of bundling a man into the back of a police van where he was told to "get on his knees". When he replied this was not Guantánamo Bay he claims the officer grabbed him round the neck and "discharged his CS gas while continuing to hold his throat". He says he was then thrown from the van, leaving him with eye, neck and head injuries. According to the document no action was taken because the complaint was either "incapable of proof" or there was "no case to answer".

• November 2005: two of the officers were accused by a "black male" of attacking him in the back of a police van. The document states that he was subjected to "constant kicking to his head and stomach (approx 12 kicks). Head lifted off the floor by grabbing his right ear and lifting head." The attack left the man with bruising and swelling to his face but the case was not pursued, the Met said, because of "non-cooperation" by the complainant.

• October 2005: the document stated that two of the officers were involved in another assault on a "black male". It read: "In van repeatedly assaulted - kicks to the face, stamps on his head whilst handcuffed." The victim said afterwards he "felt like he might die". Vomiting and blood coming out of his ears, black swollen eye, lip busted, hands very swollen.

• June 2003: two officers accused of beating a "black male" in the back of the TSG van. "The beating continued in the van and in a search room at the station."

These complaints against the officers only came to light because the High Court insisted that the police reveal all "similar fact allegations" against the officers involved in the Ahmad case.

The police told Ahmad's lawyers that they could only provide a schedule of the claims rather than the actual files due to "the sheer volume of unsubstantiated complaints."

Maybe there are unsubstantiated complaints made against every single police officer in the country, and maybe the amount of complaints against these particular officers is nothing out of the ordinary. But I somehow doubt that.

The schedule outlining 77 separate complaints against the officers was subsequently submitted to the court, along with a sample of complaints taken from 27 files containing some of the allegations. The police said they had lost several large mail sacks detailing at least 30 other files.

During the hearing it emerged that other crucial documents, including the officers' contemporaneous notebooks and a taped recording of an interview with the senior officer in the case, had also been mislaid.

Ahmad's lawyers say they are now calling for a judicial inquiry into the case and seeking a criminal prosecution against the officers involved. Murphy said: "The failure of the Metropolitan police and the IPCC to take effective action long ago against this group of officers can only be addressed by a full judicial inquiry and we will invite the director of public prosecutions to support the family's call for an independent judicial inquiry."

It certainly sounds as if a judicial inquiry into the behaviour of these men is long overdue, if only to clear their names from the sheer volume of complaints against them.

In any other field where one works with the general public, for example teachers, complaints of this kind would result in almost instant suspension on full pay until the matter could be resolved.

It's astonishing that these officers continue to work in the exact same line of duty with this simply astonishing amount of allegations against them.

They certainly wouldn't be allowed that amount of leeway if they were, say, social workers.

Click title for full article.

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