Police face manslaughter charges for custody death

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The Independent Online

The Crown Prosecution Service is to pursue manslaughter charges against five police officers who detained Christopher Alder, a black ex-paratrooper who died in their custody.

The decision, which comes after new evidence in the case was revealed, has delighted the former serviceman's family who have been campaigning since his death.

The CPS has always told Mr Alder's family there was insufficient evidence against the officers, who were charged with the lesser offence of misconduct in public office.

But the CPS told The Independent yesterday that it will now seek a voluntary bill of indictment for manslaughter, a legal process through which a High Court judge will be asked to add the new charge to the existing indictment. This process prevents the lengthy delays associated with re-charging defendants.

A CPS spokeswoman said yesterday: "Cases are kept under constant review and our application ... follows fresh evidence being forwarded." She declined to discuss the evidence but the decision is believed to stem from two medical reports submitted in September.

Mr Alder's sister, Janet, said yesterday: "We hoped the CPS would be convinced of the fresh evidence. This is an important development for us."

Mr Alder, 37, died in the charge room at Hull's Queens Gardens police HQ, in April 1998. The fitness fanatic and father-of-two left the Parachute Regiment in 1983 after serving in Northern Ireland and Germany. At the time of his death he had embarked on a computer studies course.

An initial decision not to pursue manslaughter charges in relation to his death, based on the evidence available, was made in April.

Mrs Alder's solicitor, Ruth Bundy, of the Leeds firm Harrison Bundy, said: "We will now prepare for the voluntary bill of indictment for manslaughter to be sought. We are pleased with the decision."

Mrs Alder said: "We are looking forward to the next stage in the judicial process."

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