No discipline for officers in Mikey Powell case
Family’s comments to follow…
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has confirmed that none of the West Midlands police officers acquitted of criminal offences following the death of Michael Powell, 38, in police custody on 7 September 2003 are to face disciplinary charges. The IPCC has criticised important aspects of the police handling of the incident leading to Powell’s death, which started when Mrs Clarissa Powell, his mother, called for police assistance at her home, and urged the force to ensure that key lessons are fully implemented.
Ten officers faced a range of charges covering dangerous driving, assault and misconduct in a public office at Leicester Crown Court last July and in August all ten were acquitted. The majority of charges were dismissed as ‘no case to answer’ on the direction of the judge when he disallowed crucial prosecution evidence of the transcript from the custody CCTV audio as being unsafe to rely upon because of its extremely poor quality.
Commenting on his decision IPCC Commissioner for the West Midlands region John Crawley said; “This has been a very lengthy and deeply painful experience for all involved. Having had responsibility for this case for some three years now, with extensive contact with the family of Michael Powell, I am only too well aware of the gravity of the matters at stake, the suffering of Michael’s family and the dignified endurance and unfailing courtesy of the family as a too lengthy process has unfolded. Their sense of loss is as acute today as the day Michael died.
“I am also conscious that for the officers involved, all of them suspended for a very long time, followed by a lengthy criminal trial, this has been a deeply traumatic time. “The evidence for any misconduct (discipline) hearing would be essentially the same as that considered at the trial, and I have examined the findings and outcome of the trial very carefully indeed. I am satisfied that in this particular case – and given the weaknesses in the evidence against the officers that the rigour of the criminal process exposed – their acquittals should suffice in terms of the formal accountability properly expected from these police officers.
“I am confident that the leadership of the force is committed to learning and change from the important lessons that this case has identified. Central to this is the challenge of demonstrating real progress in better management of serious incidents where mental ill health is likely to be a key factor. The force has done much over the last two years to improve its formal policies and procedures; now it needs to be able to highlight the better results on the ground, including improved training of officers.
“This case also demonstrates – and it is by no means an isolated example in this regard – that there is also much scope for improved supervision of front line officers by their supervisors when they are involved in an escalating incident to ensure that all sources of available information – including crucially from family members – are identified and the right questions asked before critical decisions are taken.
“Finally, I cannot stress too highly the importance the IPCC attaches to proper investment in high quality CCTV systems in all police custody suites – an essential protection for officers as well as detainees, as this case has so unhappily revealed.
We live in a time when CCTV is very widely deployed – and assumed to be – as a crucial source of evidence and protection in public open spaces. We still have too many custody suites, where people are detained, where there is no – or seriously inadequate – CCTV; the public will not understand why this continues to be the case. The IPCC is committed to pursuing this issue to achieve national standards of coverage and quality.”
It’s unimaginable after the time, pain and anguish, that we get no closer to how Mikey met his death. The police car hitting him? Batons, CS gas? Sitting on top of him? Two versions here:one witness says he was face down, the other he was on his back. Nevertheless he was dead by the time he was taken to Thornhill Police station. Another question. Why didn’t they go straight to the hospital. Another person dead in police custody, another death of a black person unanswered.