Damages paid to man cleared in custody death case
February 7, 2006
Written by Bianca Brigitte Bonomi
A two-week civil hearing has cleared Jason Paul of any involvement in the death of fellow Afro-Caribbean Christopher Alder, who died in police custody in 1998, and has awarded him £30,500 in damages against the police.
The civil hearing marked Mr Paul’s second attempt at claiming false imprisonment and malicious prosecution against Humberside Police. Mr Paul had accused the police of using him as a ‘scapegoat’ to cover up the mistakes made by the police officers on duty on the night of Christopher’s death. His initial attempt was thwarted in 2003, when a judge withdrew the case from the jury on the grounds that ‘there was no factual evidence of police deceit’, but the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling in March 2004. The jury at the civil hearing agreed unanimously that is ‘more likely than not that the police charged [Mr Paul] with causing GBH with intent to deflect potential criticism of the [actual] circumstances of Christopher Alder’s death’.
On the night of his death, Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old former paratrooper with a medal for services in Northern Ireland, had been involved in a fight outside the Waterfront nightclub in Hull. Whilst the coroner acknowledged that eye-witness accounts were inconsistent, he stated: ‘it is suggested Mr Alder connected with blows to Jason Paul, who had been acting as a peacekeeper, before Mr Paul hit him once in the face.’ Christopher was subsequently taken to Hull Royal Infirmary, where the doctor on duty did not consider the head injury that he had sustained to be serious, but was unable to take an X-ray as Christopher was described as ‘extremely troublesome’. Two police officers then escorted him out of the hospital and suggested that he return home, but arrested him when he failed to co-operate, taking him to Queen’s Gardens police station.
He was there remanded in custody, where he was later found dead on the floor with his hands handcuffed behind his back and his trousers around his knees. He had choked to death. The following day, Mr Paul was arrested on suspicion of murder, despite walking voluntarily into a police station to assist officers with their inquiries. He was then charged with ‘GBH with intent’, but it was later proved that the punch he had given Christopher had not been a factor in his death. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally told Jason Paul that the case against him was to be discarded in July 1998. The five police officers on duty on the night of the death claimed that they had believed the victim to be asleep or play-acting. These officers were suspended from duty a month after the death and two years later, an inquest reached a verdict of unlawful killing due to neglect. A prosecution for manslaughter followed, but the judge at Teeside Crown Court ruled in June 2002 that there was no case to answer.
Jason Paul is now urging the Independent Police Complaints Commission to review the transcript of the trial in the light of the jury findings and to consider what disciplinary action should be taken by Humberside Police. In celebration of the public recognition of his innocence, he said: ‘I am relieved that after 8 years my name had been cleared.’ ‘I wish the Alder family success with their continuing fight for justice against Humberside police’.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.
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