A POLICE officer has been charged with murder after a naked man was shot in his bedroom during a raid by armed officers.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced last night that Constable Chris Sherwood, of Sussex police, had been charged with the murder and manslaughter of James Ashley, who died in January last year.
Mr Ashley was in bed with his girlfriend at his flat in St Leonards, East Sussex, when officers from Sussex Police's Special Operations Unit carried out an early-morning raid. Mr Ashley was shot in the chest.
PC Sherwood was charged following an investigation into Mr Ashley's death, led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Barbara Wilding, of Kent police. Four other Sussex officers were charged with the serious offence of misfeasance in public office, a common law offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
They were named as Superintendent Christopher Burton, acting Detective Chief Inspector Kevin French, Detective Inspector Christopher Paul Siggs and Constable Robert Shoesmith.
The five officers were charged after being called yesterday to Tonbridge police station in Kent. They will appear before magistrates at Bow Street in London on 21 May.
But four chief officers, whose conduct in the case had been criticised, are not to face charges of perverting the course of justice.
A separate investigation into the role of the senior command of Sussex Police, led by Sir John Hoddinott, the Chief Constable of Hampshire, found there was "insufficient evidence" to bring charges against the Chief Constable of Sussex, Paul Whitehouse, his deputy Mark Jordan, and Assistant Chief Constables, Maria Wallis and Nigel Yeo.
Mr Whitehouse, 55, was suspended three weeks ago, following criticism of his role in the case.
The morning after the incident, which happened at about 4am, Mr Whitehouse backed the operation and said that the officers had been investigating drugs-trafficking and the attempted murder of a man stabbed outside a pub. He said the suspect that they were after was considered "armed and dangerous".
It later emerged that Mr Ashley was unarmed and, far from being a suspect, had pulled the assailant off the victim and may have saved a life.
Last night Sussex Police Authority issued a statement to say that the suspension of Mr Whitehouse had been lifted and that the authority had dealt with the matter by giving the Chief Constable "strong written advice" which would "remain confidential".
The chairman of the authority, Ken Bodfish, said: "The Authority decided that it is in the interests of the people of Sussex and of the force that Paul Whitehouse should resume his office of Chief Constable. Mr Whitehouse will be expected to continue to provide the leadership of the force which will be necessary in the challenging times ahead."
Mr Jordan remains suspended and may face disciplinary proceedings.
Mr Yeo, who is not suspended, may also face disciplinary action. Both officers will be asked to present their case to the authority on 22 April.
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