Charged police officers remain on duty

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THREE policemen accused of killing a man as they tried to arrest him for being drunk and disorderly are still working, despite having been charged with manslaughter, it was disclosed yesterday.

Constables Richard Ilett, James Barber and Gary Lockwood, due to stand trial at the Old Bailey this month, have pleaded not guilty to killingRichard O'Brien, 37, in 1994.

The disclosure that the three men are still on "non-operational duties" at Walworth police station in south London prompted calls by campaigners for changes to police disciplinary regulations. Scotland Yard confirmed that the officers are still employed at Walworth in duties where they have no contact with the public.

The decision to charge the three with manslaughter was made in February this year after a four-year fight by Mr O'Brien's wife, Alison, who was present when her husband was arrested outside a church hall in Walworth for being drunk and disorderly. Mr O'Brien, who was injured during his arrest, was taken to King's College Hospital after he lost consciousness at the police station. He was pronounced dead on arrival.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided in 1995 that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, but the decision was reversed last year after it was challenged under judicial review.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "It is under the regulations that police officers can only be suspended if a senior officer believes they have committed a serious crime or disciplinary offence. These officers have not been found guilty. It is not possible within the regulations to suspend them."

More than 30 officers are suspended as part of corruption inquiries in the Metropolitan Police; very few have been charged.