Harman obsessive wins pounds 3,000 from the police

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The Independent Online
A FORMER PRISONER who threatened to kill the Labour MP Harriet Harman was provisionally awarded pounds 3,000 damages against the police yesterday by a Central London County Court jury.

John Masterson, 56, who has a history of violence and a long criminal record, had sued the Metropolitan Police for wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution after an investigation into claims by the former cabinet minister that he had waged a campaign of harassment against her for 10 years.

Earlier the trial heard how Mr Masterson had told his psychiatrist: "I go to sleep at night and think about killing her." When a concerned doctor alerted Ms Harman to Mr Masterson's comments, the court was told, Ms Harman contacted police.

It was the culmination of a decade of apparent torment for Ms Harman. She had told the court how Mr Masterson had carried out an "obsessed campaign" against her after she represented him when he was in jail at Wakefield Prison.

Yesterday, Mr Masterson won a provisional compensation award but failed to convince a jury he had been falsely imprisoned. The jury at Central London County Court also cleared the Metropolitan Police of fabricating evidence against him.

Judge Crawford Lindsay QC will decide at a further hearing if the case for malicious prosecution has been proved.

Ms Harman, a former Social Security Secretary, told the hearing she first met Mr Masterson, who lives in her south London constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, 20 years ago. She was a solicitor with the National Council for Civil Liberties and was acting for him in a case against the Home Office over jail conditions.

Ms Harman told the court that in 1989 she received a call from Dr Jane Marshall, a psychiatrist treating Mr Masterson for alcohol addiction at the Maudsley Hospital in south London. "She said there was a patient of hers who was threatening to kill me and she was taking the threat seriously."

The MP recalled the doctor explaining to her that she had decided to break patient confidentiality because she and her colleagues felt there was a "genuine risk and danger". The MP contacted police and Mr Masterson was arrested. He had never bothered her since, she said.

Mr Masterson denied pursuing a vendetta against Ms Harman and said he had never wanted to kill her. The jury rejected his claim that police had lied in saying he had admitted making the death threat. Neither had an officer fabricated a confession while interviewing him.

However, the jury decided the case officer "did not honestly believe the charge" against Mr Masterson.