Inquiry call goes to the High Court
by Mikey Powell Campaign
Originally published 14th Oct 2004
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Christopher Alder, 37, of Hull, died at Queen’s Gardens police station in Hull in April 1998. The father-of-two had been arrested in hospital, where he was being treated for a banged head following a scuffle outside a hotel. CCTV footage of his last moments was screened in a BBC documentary in 2004.
The BBC obtained the video from a source other than the police for the Death on Camera programme, part of the Rough Justice series. The documentary also featured a reconstruction of events leading to Christopher’s death.
The decision to release the video was made by Mr Alder’s sister Janet, in an attempt to win a public inquiry into her brother’s death.
An 2000 inquest concluded he was unlawfully killed. Subsequently however, Sgt John Dunn and PC’s Neil Blakey, Mark Ellerington, Nigel Dawson, and Matthew Barr, of Humberside Police, were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct after a judge directed a jury to find them not guilty.
An independent hearing cleared all of them of neglect of duty allegations. Humberside Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Steve Love has been quoted as saying, “All of the officers deeply regret the death of Christopher Alder. “All have faced a criminal trial and a discipline hearing and all have been acquitted of any wrong doing.”
He also said that since the death of Christopher Alder, Humberside Police has introduced “changes which better safeguard the needs of those in custody.” These changes include further training for officers and support staff and “significant improvements” in the provision of custody arrangements.”
Leon Wilson, The son of Christopher Alder, has taken the fight for a public inquiry into his fathers’ death to the High Court. An inquest into his death returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but Leon Wilson says a public inquiry is needed. In April 2004 David Blunkett decided not to launch an inquiry into Christopher’s death despite pressure from the public and campaign groups.
In defence of his decision Blunkett argued that, “Public inquiries in such circumstances cannot be triggered by TV footage of material which was already known during the judicial and inquiry investigations.
“However, I am asking the new Independent Police Complaints Commission to have another look at this and to report back.”
Barrister Hugh Southey, for Mr Wilson, of Andover, Hampshire, told the court: “The circumstances of his death require the widest possible exposure of the issues thrown up by the case that has not happened so far.”
It has been strongly argued that investigations into the death, including the inquest and involvement from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), have been “inadequate”.
Barrister Hugh Southey claims the PCA failed to study whether there was any racial element to his death. Describing Mr Alder as a “vulnerable individual.” He added that under the Human Rights Act there had to be “adequate investigation” into deaths in custody.
Although the Act had not come into force when Mr Alder died, which meant Mr Blunkett was not obliged to consider it when coming to a decision on whether a public inquiry was needed; Mr Southey said the Home Secretary had referred to it when giving his reasons. Realising the importance of the case, Mr Justice Munby reserved judgment in the case and did not say when his findings would be revealed.