Four years in jail for top officer branded 'criminal in uniform'

Ali Dizaei convicted for inventing claim of assault against man
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The Independent Online

Britain's highest-ranking Asian police officer was jailed for four years yesterday after being convicted of falsely arresting a man and then inventing a claim of assault against him.

After a month-long trial, it took a jury just two hours to convict Ali Dizaei, a commander in charge of 5,000 officers across west London, of misconduct in a public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Dizaei is the most senior policeman to be given a prison sentence for more than 30 years, and will now be sacked from his £100,000-a-year job at Scotland Yard.

It is the second time that Dizaei has faced a criminal trial. He was cleared in 2003 of similar charges following an unprecedented corruption investigation which cost £2m and involved more than 100 officers, MI5, the Inland Revenue and police in the United States and Canada.

Sentencing him yesterday afternoon, Mr Justice Simon told Dizaei: "This sentence needs to send a clear message that police officers of whatever rank are not above the law."

He added: "You knew how the system worked and you thought you would never be discovered. You should have drawn a very clear line between your personal position with regard to Mr al-Baghdadi and your duty as a police officer. You crossed that line and now stand convicted of these offences."

Dizaei, who showed no emotion as he was jailed, will now have a Metropolitan Police misconduct hearing which will almost certainly recommend his dismissal, bringing to an end his 24-year police career.

The conviction was secured after an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Speaking after the verdict, the IPCC commissioner Nick Hardwick said Dizaei was a liar, a bully and a "criminal in uniform". He added: "This verdict should send a message to any other corrupt officer that nobody is untouchable."

Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "The public expect the police to treat them fairly and honestly and we are resolved to tackle corruption at every opportunity. He has breached that trust and damaged not only his own reputation but that of the entire police service. Bearing in mind his rank and disgraceful behaviour he should not be surprised at the severity of his sentence."

Dizaei's victim was Waad al-Baghdadi, a young Iraqi businessman who had designed a website for the police officer. During the trial the court heard that after several unsuccessful attempts to procure the agreed £600 payment for his work, Mr al-Baghdadi took the website "offline".

On 18 July 2008 the pair met coincidentally outside the Yas restaurant in Kensington, west London. During a heated argument Dizaei repeatedly challenged Mr al-Baghdadi to a fight and told him: "I will fuck your life. You think I do not know what you do in London? I will find every single detail about your life. I will show you what I can do."

The 23-year-old left the restaurant and called 999, saying he had been threatened by Dizaei. During the call Dizaei took the phone from Mr al-Baghdadi and told the operator he needed back-up because he was making an arrest.

When officers arrived Dizaei told them that Mr al-Baghdadi had attacked him with a shisha pipe and had tried to head-butt him. But the police doctor Maureen Heath said that Dizaei's injuries were not consistent with being attacked by the shisha pipe, and were more likely to have been self-inflicted. In an attempt to discredit her evidence, Dizaei, at one point during the trial, stripped to his waist.

But it was in vain. Yesterday's verdict and sentence will almost certainly bring an end to Dizaei's police career, although it remains for the Metropolitan Police Authority to decide.

It will be instructed by the IPCC that a misconduct hearing is the only suitable outcome, and the hearing is likely to dismiss Dizaei. It is inconceivable that the country's biggest police force will continue to employ Dizaei during his years in prison.

Dizaei will be sacked for gross misconduct and could face losing all or part of his pension under further measures aimed at punishing corrupt officers. Even his own barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, conceded: "It's clear that, at least as far as this defendant is concerned, his career is at an end."