Police chief is hounded over mystery of 'injured' officers

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The Independent Online

* Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, stands accused of issuing "sexed-up" evidence by no less dogged a group than the Countryside Alliance.

* Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, stands accused of issuing "sexed-up" evidence by no less dogged a group than the Countryside Alliance.

On 30 September, a fortnight after last month's pro-hunting demonstration in Parliament Square, Sir John spoke out in support of his officers, who had been filmed knocking seven bells out of Alliance protesters.

Justifying the level of force - which is to be the subject of an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry - he reported that almost 50 police officers had also been injured in the disturbances.

Twenty-five were "assaulted by protesters", and 23 hurt by missiles, he claimed, resulting in injuries that included broken bones and knocked-out teeth.

The Countryside Alliance now says that Sir John's statement was "total baloney". It has contacted every hospital in London and only Guy's and St Thomas', admitted any policemen on 15 September, and it treated only one officer.

"As far as we are concerned, the Met pulled the figure of 50 straight out of thin air," says the Alliance.

Yesterday, the Met stood by its claims: "We're aware that one officer was treated at Guy's and St Thomas', but others may have gone to local GPs or hospitals outside London. A lot of police officers live in the Home Counties."

* YOU CAN but admire the true breadth of Christian Slater's talents.

Having agreed - as this column first revealed - to take to the West End stage, the Hollywood renaissance man is having a go at stand-up comedy.

Later this month, the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest will perform a series of late-night comedy shows at the Gielgud Theatre, where their play is being staged. Slater has agreed to compere.

"We all get on well together, and it seemed like a fun thing to do," explains co-star Phil Nichol.

"Even Mackenzie Crook was a stand-up before The Office , so other than Frances Barber and Christian, we've all done it.

"It will be improvisation as well as stand-up, and Christian is also going to sing songs."

* STORM CLOUDS on the horizon for Prince Edward. Channel 4 is making a documentary about his showbusiness career, and it's unlikely to be very flattering.

An advert in this week's Stage asks people who worked with the Prince at The Really Useful Company from 1988-90 to contact Diverse TV.

The filmmakers also hope to interview colleagues from Ardent, Edward's TV venture which lost around £2m before his resignation a couple of years back.

"This is a non-access documentary: the Prince is not co-operating," says a source at Diverse. "It's just been commissioned. We haven't decided on the exact format yet, because it all depends on who comes forward."

* LAST CHANCE to enter Pandora's competition to find a "killer question" for Diane Abbott and Oliver Letwin to ask Edward Stourton and Sir Trevor MacDonald at Monday's "turn the tables" lunch at the Savoy.

We've had hundreds of entries, some unprintably rude, others frankly surreal. One David Newman, for example, would ask Stourton: "What was it like acting alongside Brad Pitt in Fight Club ?"

A winner - to be chosen at lunchtime on Friday - will receive a bottle of Dom Perignon 1996. The event's in aid of Cancer Research UK, a cause so worthy that its chairman, Michael Portillo, has even agreed to waive his usual fee.

* Health and Safety nonsense of the sort that - to coin a stock phrase - you "couldn't make up" has forced schoolchildren to wear protective goggles, to play conkers.

Now, two (supposedly) indestructible England rugby stars, Will Greenwood and Jason Leonard, have fallen victim to the clipboard merchants.

Tonight, at the Barbican centre, they will attempt to enter the Guinness World Records by taking part in the biggest conker tournament of all time. They'll be wearing goggles, as will the umpires.

"We will also have some protective clothing on hand, in case anyone insists," says a spokesman for the sponsor, Croft Port.