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“NO NEW CHARGES” – SO HAS MIKEY HAD JUSTICE?

21-12-2009

The Stirrer understands that a six-year campaign to discover the truth about the death of a Birmingham man in police custody is unlikely to lead to any new charges. An inquest concluded on Friday that Mikey Powell died from “positional asphyxia” after being restrained by officers.

Mikey, who had three children, died in 2003 in Handsworth police station after police were called to a row at his mother’s house in Lozells.

10 officers were subsequently charged and acquitted of misconduct – a decision backed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

According to Mikey’s supporters, the narrative verdict delivered by the inquest jury in Sutton Coldfield firmly puts the blame on the police.

His sister Sieta Lambras said: “At long last the truth has come out – we have worked for six years to reach this point – the jury have found that the position the police put Mikey in killed him. Hopefully this will give some encouragement to other families who have lost someone in custody.

“A chilling feature of this Inquest is that Mikey died in police hands. Officer after officer told the Court that they would do the same thing again. Most expressed no regret for Mikey’s death.

“We are alarmed about this, and think the community should be too. We will continue to fight to secure police accountability and stop future custody deaths.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of pressure group Inquest said: “Mikey Powell was a vulnerable man in need of help and protection.

“Instead the police failed to treat him as a human being and subjected him to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment using methods of restraint known to be dangerous.

“The Chief Constable of West Midlands police force needs to explain why six years after this most disturbing death his officers can give evidence that they would do nothing differently if presented with a similar situation today.

“Have the police learned nothing from previous high profile deaths and the recommendations arising from inquests and inquiries?”

West Midlands Police insisted: “Crucial lessons have been learned from this tragic case which will go a long way to ensuring safeguards are in place to prevent a repeat.

“Michael’s death has led to a rigorous and far-reaching re-examination of the way we carry out our duties.

”A total of 18 recommendations surrounding training and management in and around custody suites and the handling of prisoners with mental and physical health needs were made by the IPCC.

”Significant work has been undertaken in respect of these recommendations and West Midlands Police will continue to work with our partner agencies with the intention of improving the care of detained persons.”

The police spokesperson added: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Michael Powell and we must never lose sight of the fact that he died whilst in our care.

Tim Coolican, the solicitor from Russel Jones and Walker – the lawyer who represented the officers at the inquest said: “The verdict of the jury must not be mis-interpreted. Properly understood it implies no wrongdoing on behalf of any police officer and is consistent with their evidence. It is not a verdict either of unlawful killing or neglect.

“The central allegations made against the officers were that Mr Powell was placed in the van on his front, and restrained in that dangerous position throughout the journey, contrary to their training.

“The jury has expressly rejected these serious allegations. He was found to have died of positional asphyxia when essentially in the recovery position and without demonstrating any symptoms of the condition. Such a death does not require any physical restraint.

"The admitted background should not be forgotten. Police were called to the address by terrified members of Mr Powell's family because he was psychotic and smashing up his mother's house with a hammer. He then smashed his own car and attacked the police car that arrived to assist.

“Whilst demonstrating 'extreme exertion' he was then necessarily restrained until removed from the scene. Anything else would have been dangerous both to him and to members of the public. No sensible or safe alternative was ever suggested.

”Whilst there are clear grounds to consider a review of the verdict as to cause of death this will be a decision for the officers concerned given the six year history of this matter.”

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