pounds 220,000 awarded to police assault victim

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The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent

A jury yesterday sent a strong warning that police misconduct will not be tolerated, when it awarded record damages of pounds 220,000 to a hairdresser who was assaulted and wrongly arrested by officers in London.

Calls for a public inquiry followed news that on the same day another jury awarded pounds 64,000 against different officers in a separate incident in the same area of south London, for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution of another man.

In both cases the juries had awarded large sums in "punitive" damages, that is both to deter other officers and to punish those involved.

But yesterday Scotland Yard was defiant, saying that none of the officers would be disciplined - and that in both cases there would be an appeal against the amount of damages. In both cases they had denied the allegations.

In the first case an unprecedented pounds 200,000 was awarded in "exemplary" damages against the Metropolitan Police after the jury was told Kenneth Shu, 32, a hairdresser, was thrown in the back of a police van, punched, kicked and insulted by three constables, Kenneth Watkins, Christopher Smith and Andrew Davies. Pc Watkins was said to have told Hong Kong born Mr Shu: "You're the first Chinky I've ever arrested." Pc Smith was said to have prodded him in the head with keys, saying: "Thank you for the overtime".

The officers had gone to Mr Shu's flat in Tulse Hill, south London, in July 1992 over a dispute involving a tenant. They arrested him, placing him in neckhold - a hold not taught to police as it is regarded as too dangerous - after he refused to allow them in without a warrant.

He was released later that night from Streatham police station without charge and had to walk two miles home, wearing only flip-flops, vest and trousers.

Ben Emerson, counsel for Mr Shu, accused the officers of "a cynical ... malicious fabrication". They claimed Mr Shu was causing a breach of the peace and said they had no explanation for his injuries. He urged the jury to award "unprecedented damages" to "send a clear message to the Commissioner that the public will no longer tolerate lying, bullying, racism and perjury from the police".

In the second case at the Inner London County Court, the jury was told by Terence Winyard, 23, that he was attacked in 1991 by six officers from the South East Tactical Support Unit after he had walked out of his flat to check a noise outside. Charges of assault and possessing an offensive weapon brought against him by the officers were thrown out by magistrates and he brought his claim for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The payouts are the latest in a string of court awards and settlements by the Metropolitan Police, which in 1994 totalled nearly pounds 1.4m, plus costs. Out of 304 civil actions, that year, the police won outright only 24.

But yesterday Sadiq Khan, Mr Shu's solicitor, said the case was an indictment of the officers, and of the Police Complaints Authority, which had dismissed the allegations against the officers. He said: "These two awards by juries ... speak for themselves. The answer is not an appeal, but a public inquiry into the conduct of his officers at Streatham."

Yesterday, the PCA said a civil action was decided on the "balance of probabilities" while a case before the authority had to pass the criminal test -that is allegations had to be "proved beyond reasonable doubt". It was now re-examining its files.