Police face riot inquiry

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JAMES CUSICK

The Police Complaints Authority is to appoint an outside force to conduct an inquiry into West Yorkshire Constabulary's handling of last weekend's street rioting and looting in Bradford.

Edward Bignall, a senior civilian member of the PCA's investigations division, has been appointed to head the independent inquiry.

Mr Bignall travelled from London to Bradford yesterday to begin immediate discussions that will set out the inquiry team's terms of reference. These will include a remit to investigate all complaints made against West Yorkshire officers and a detailed examination of the force's policing policy.

Investigations will also deal with both the alleged cause of the riots and the subsequent attempts by police to regain control of the streets around Manningham, where most of the trouble took place. Damage caused by the riots has been estimated at pounds 1m.

John Cartwright, deputy chairman of the authority, said on BBC Radio yesterday that the first job of the inquiry will be to set out its aims. He indicated that West Yorkshire Police would have no control over the inquiry. He added: "We will look at the conduct of the police: was there improper conduct? - and if so, what lessons can be learnt."

Mr Bignall will effectively control the officers of the outside force, direct their investigations and handle the wording of the final report.

Ibrar Ahmed, an Asian youth worker in Bradford who was a member of the negotiating team that met senior police officers on Monday to discuss demands for an inquiry, an apology, the dropping of charges against Asian youths and the suspension of two police officers, welcomed Mr Bignall's appointment.

Mr Ahmed said he had not been happy with the way police had handled the meeting at Toller Lane police station - where rioters focused their anger. Two officers alleged to have assaulted a young Asian mother and her baby in an incident said to have sparked off the trouble have since been redeployed to other duties within the station.

Police in Bradford have denied any assault on a young mother took place and said no evidence has been found to substantiate claims of police heavy- handedness.

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