Police tried to hide use of force, black man's inquest told

Eight police officers involved in restraining a mentally ill man when he suffered a fatal collapse in hospital were accused yesterday of conspiring to cover up an inappropriate use of force.

Jurors at an inquest into the death of Roger Sylvester, 30, from Tottenham, north London, heard claims that police agreed to deny falsely that a banned method of restraint was used to subdue him.

Mr Sylvester, who was black, stopped breathing and fell into a coma at the emergency psychiatric unit at St Ann's Hospital in Haringey, after he had been held on the floor for 20 minutes by police, the inquest was told. He died seven days later.

Police took Mr Sylvester to the hospital after an incident outside his house. He was an administration worker who battled against manic depression and drug problems.

Lawyers for Mr Sylvester said there was evidence from a doctor at the unit that he was held for at least part of the time on his stomach while handcuffed, a position known to increase the risk of suffocation.

The hearing at St Pancras coroner's court was told that the eight constables held a four-hour meeting attended by a union representative after the incident on 11 January 1999.

Ian Macdonald QC, for the Sylvester family, suggested that the group was "panicking" and worried about possible disciplinary and legal action.

He said: "You had been dealing with a black man who you knew was quite likely to die.

"You police officers had been restraining [Mr Sylvester] on the ground for something like 20 minutes and he had collapsed ... You decided to put your heads together to make sure that you got your story right."

The officers deny using inappropriate force. The inquest continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory