Law: High Court challenge by family over baton death

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The Independent Online
The family of a music and boxing promoter who died after a confrontation with policemen armed with US-style long batons, yesterday launched a High Court challenge against an inquest jury's misadventure verdict. Adrian Fulford QC said the 1996 inquest was flawed by the decision by the Southwark coroner, Sir Montague Levine, to allow the jury to hear evidence of 33-year-old Brian Douglas's previous convictions.

The QC was acting on behalf of Rochelle Fields, partner of Mr Douglas, who died from a fractured skull after being hit with a baton. He was arrested in May 1995, allegedly in possession of a CS canister, knife and cannabis and held in custody before being taken to hospital. His convictions included possession of cannabis with intent to supply, theft, assault and dishonest handling.

Mr Fulford said they were irrelevant, "too remote in time" and had been incapable of helping the jury decide whether Mr Douglas might have been about to assault the officers, justifying their claim that he had been struck in self-defence. He asked Lord Justice Simon Brown, sitting with Mr Justice Mance, to rule that Sir Montague should have declared the convictions inadmissible. He wants the misadventure verdict, brought in by the jury at Southwark Coroner's Court, quashed and a rehearing ordered. The family is seeking a verdict of unlawful killing.

Mr Douglas was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs and drink and taken to Vauxhall police station after being hit on the head. He was taken to hospital and died five days later. Yesterday the judges said they would give their judgment later.