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Rashan Charles: Family brand inquest a 'farce' after jury finds death was accidental

Jury says officer who restrained 20-year-old failed to follow protocol and should have called ambulance sooner, but his life could not have been saved

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 20 June 2018 19:41 BST
Rashan Charles died in July last year after being chased into a shop in Hackney where CCTV showed an Met Police officer struggling with him on the floor
Rashan Charles died in July last year after being chased into a shop in Hackney where CCTV showed an Met Police officer struggling with him on the floor

The family of a young man who died while being restrained by police have branded the inquest a “farce”.

Rashan Charles, 20, died in July last year after being chased into a shop in Hackney, east London, where CCTV showed an officer from the Metropolitan Police struggling with him on the floor.

The jury found his death was an accident following justified use of force.

A post-mortem examination found Mr Charles, who was father to a young daughter, died of a sudden cardiac arrest brought on by a blocked upper airway.

A “golf ball-sized” package, later found to contain a mixture of caffeine and paracetamol, was removed from his throat by paramedics who attended the scene.

The jury found the officer who restrained him, known only as BX47, failed to follow protocol in responding to problems with Mr Charles’ breathing and should have called the ambulance service sooner.

But the inquiry concluded this would not have changed the course of events and his life could not have been saved.

Mr Charles’ family said the investigation had been “flawed from the outset”, and added that they felt they had been left out of key decisions and that evidence had been excluded.

They also said the expert witnesses in the inquiry, both of whom had 75 years of combined service in the Metropolitan Police, were “neither objective, independent or impartial”, and accused the police of projecting a “criminal caricature” of Mr Charles both before and after his death.

BX47 gave evidence to the inquiry explaining how he pursued Mr Charles but said he had no knowledge of or intelligence on the 20-year-old or the other men in the vehicle.

CCTV footage shows the officer following Mr Charles into the shop and immediately attempting to restrain him, before swiftly tackling him to the floor.

Mr Charles’ family said in a statement following the inquiry: “Rashan Charles was a young father and an integral part of his family. He is greatly missed by all of us.

“We believe the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation was flawed from the outset. We were left out of key decisions, evidence was excluded, police-worn video missing and time frames manipulated.

“The submissions by the family barrister were overturned in court and evidence dismissed. However, it is important we afford due respect to the jury who had to make a decision based on the limited evidence and confines put upon them.

“We are not adversaries of the police. This is about the conduct of individual police officers. However, the absence of admission of any responsibility does not stall community relations by weeks or years, but sets it back generations.

“This part of the flawed system is over, our work to receive answers continues.”

Kim Vernal, the solicitor representing the family, said the inquest had revealed deficiencies in the training of police officers with regard to choking risks – and urged for the issue to be addressed to avoid another tragedy.

“Officers should be taught, if in doubt, to err on the side of caution and do not presume a person is resisting. It is also hoped that the Metropolitan Police will think twice about reinstating its dangerous policy on mouth searches,” she said.

The Met Police’s deputy assistant commissioner, Richard Martin, said: “The death of anyone after involvement with police is a matter of deep regret, and our thoughts and sympathies remain with all those affected.

”Having listened to all the evidence, the jury found that the officer that day lawfully and justifiably apprehended and restrained Mr Charles. When it became apparent Mr Charles was in difficulty, first aid and CPR was carried out but nothing the officers could have done would have saved his life.”

Mr Martin said the Met must now take time to consider the detail of the case and any recommendations the coroner makes in her subsequent report. “If there is learning to take forward for the Met as a whole, we will take action where we need to,” he added.

“Mr Charles’ death has of course had an impact on the community and local police ward; officers have been working hard to address any concerns and ensure they are visible and available to offer reassurance. That work continues.”

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