Racial case 'merited stronger punishment'

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The Independent Online
TWO POLICE officers who were docked a day's pay for allegedly racially abusing an Asian man should have received a stronger punishment, Sir Peter Imbert, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, suggested yesterday.

Four weeks ago, it was disclosed by the BBC that the two east London officers had been secretly taped by the man, Malkanjitt Natt, while they were taking him to a police station after he had been arrested in a domestic dispute. The tape appears to show the officers insulting Mr Natt and telling him to go home to India; it also suggests they assaulted him.

Mr Natt's complaint was dealt with by the local complaints unit at Newham and the officers were each fined a day's pay; the force said the case was not sent to the Crown Prosecution Service because there was no evidence of criminal behaviour. The tape was played during Mr Natt's successful appeal against his conviction for threatening behaviour and the judge ordered the CPS to consider the case.

Speaking at yesterday's press conference, Sir Peter disclosed that the force's lawyers had prevented him from writing to newspapers after the incident had come to light, accepting that the officers appeared to have been lightly treated.

He said yesterday: 'This case . . . could have been dealt with in other ways; it would have been better dealt with centrally. I make no bones about it, I think a harsher punishment could well have been appropriate. Those officers . . . know that they were extremely fortunate to be fined only one day's pay.'

He added: 'Whatever the provocation, whatever the circumstances at that particular time, I say now that sort of behaviour is not acceptable within the Metropolitan Police service.'

Sir Peter, who is keen to eradicate racist behaviour, said that he had ordered that similar complaints should be dealt with at headquarters level. He said the force was making 'continuing efforts' to improve relationships with the black and Asian communities in London.