Appeal court allows race claim over custody death

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The Independent Online

The sister of a black former soldier who died in police custody has been given the go-ahead to sue the Crown Prosecution Service for racial discrimination.

Janet Alder has been battling in the courts since her brother, Christopher, 37, choked to death while handcuffed and lying on the floor of a Hull police station in the early hours of April 1, 1998.

A coroner's jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing but the prosecution brought by the CPS against a number of police officers for misconduct and manslaughter ended in acquittal after it was decided by a judge there was no case to answer.

Ms Alder, of Burnley, Lancashire, who wants a public inquiry into the circumstances of her brother's death, brought civil proceedings against various authorities including the CPS.

She alleged that the CPS was racially discriminatory towards her because its officials repeatedly ignored her concerns and treated her with a combination of rudeness and indifference.

Judge Collins, sitting at the Central London County Court, ordered that the allegations of failure to consult or listen to her about the conduct of the criminal proceedings over her brother should be struck out.

The judge also refused to allow her to amend a claim for loss caused by the alleged CPS behaviour.

The Court of Appeal today quashed the judge's rulings, allowing Ms Alder to go ahead with her claim for damages.

Lord Justice Sedley, giving the ruling of the three appeal judges, said today Ms Alder's brother died in "distressing and still contentious circumstances".

He said the essence of her claim was that if she and her brother had been white, she would not have been treated in the way she said happened and that she had suffered both in her dignity and in her earnings.

The allegations struck out by the county court judge included failure to pay regard to her concerns that police officers may have used CS gas on her brother and that he may have been assaulted by officers who arrested him at a Hull hospital.

Mr Alder, of Dagger Lane, Hull, had been arrested for an alleged breach of the peace after being taken to the hospital for treatment of a head injury.

Lord Justice Sedley said the CPS may be able to prove that all Ms Alder's queries were addressed, conscientiously and civilly.

The appeal judge also said that Ms Alder lost her job in "unhappy circumstances" after the death of her brother.

He said her claim for damages allegedly caused by the CPS treatment, which delayed her recovery and return to full-time employment, should also go ahead.