Police officers win 'unlawful killing' appeal

By John Aston,Pa
Friday 26 November 2004 01:00

Eight police officers today won their High Court battle to overturn an inquest jury's "unlawful killing" verdict following the death of a mentally ill black man while in custody.

Lawyers for the officers argued that the inquest on 30-year-old Roger Sylvester, from Tottenham, north London, was wrongly allowed to be turned into a surrogate criminal trial in which the Metropolitan Police officers stood convicted of manslaughter.

They contended there was no evidence to support the decision that Mr Sylvester was killed unlawfully.

Today Mr Justice Collins formally quashed the inquest jury's verdict.

Recently, at the end of a three-day hearing, the judge had indicated that he was going to overturn the verdict because the summing up by the coroner was defective, there had been misdirection and some of the reasons given by the 11-strong jury for their verdict were inconsistent with others.

Mr Sylvester collapsed after being held down for 20 minutes in a padded room at a psychiatric hospital in 1999 as officers restrained him.

He had suffered from mental health and drug problems, and was arrested while naked and banging on his own front door in Tottenham.

Following his detention, he was in a coma for seven days, before being pronounced dead on January 18 1999.

Seven of the officers who were suspended because of the unlawful killing verdict were reinstated after Mr Justice Collins indicated that he was quashing the inquest verdict.

Another officer - who is now with West Midlands Police - was also due to have his suspension lifted.