Met officers suspended after inquest

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The Independent Online

The Metropolitan Police have announced that they have suspended eight officers as part of an ongoing investigation into the controversial death of a man in custody.

This decision comes a day after an inquest jury returned a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing into the death of Roger Sylvester, who died after he was restrained by six police officers in January 1999. The announcement will be welcomed by campaigners who have used the case to highlight the disproportionate number of deaths in police custody involving black men.

The 30-year-old, who had a history of manic depression and drug abuse, stopped breathing and fell into a coma after being held down on the floor for 20 minutes. He died seven days later.

On Friday, the inquest jurors concluded that the officers had used more force than reasonably necessary, had not sought to alter Mr Sylvester's restraint position and held him in it for too long.

The officers involved have all denied using excessive force and issued a statement expressing their sympathy to Mr Sylvester's family after the inquest verdict.

The Metropolitan Police Federation condemned the decision to suspend the officers. Glen Smyth, its chairman, said the suspensions were pending the further review by the CPS.

"The decision to suspend does not, of course, imply any basis of criticism of any police officer," he said.

He said the eight officers involved had provided "dedicated service" to the people of London throughout their careers and they co-operated fully with the inquest.

"There was no suggestion of bad faith in their treatment of Mr Sylvester," he said.

Mr Smyth said the decision could lead to wider implication on how officers restrain such people in the future.