In the Media

Police 'neglect' in custody death

PUBLISHED March 27, 2006

Police officers were guilty of "the most serious neglect of duty" in the death of former paratrooper Christopher Alder in 1998, a watchdog has ruled.

The four Humberside police officers were also influenced by "unwitting racism", the Independent Police Complaints Commission said.

Mr Alder choked to death at a police station in Hull. CCTV footage showed officers chatting as he gasped for air.

Humberside chief constable Tim Hollis apologised for Mr Alder's treatment.

His two predecessors had only expressed regret at the death, but Mr Hollis said he was willing to publicly apologise.

Five officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct in 2002 regarding his death, but his family campaigned for a further inquiry.

Long shadow of a custody death 

Mr Alder, a father-of-two and a Falklands veteran, was injured during a scuffle outside a Hull city centre hotel and taken to Hull Royal Infirmary for treatment.

He was arrested for an alleged breach of the peace and taken to Queens Gardens police station.

Half an hour later he choked to death on his own blood and vomit as he lay on the floor of the police station, without moving, for 11 minutes with his trousers round his ankles.

In a 400-page report published on Monday, Independent Police Complaints Commission chairman Nick Hardwick described the officers' behaviour as "disgraceful".

Racial stereotypes

Mr Hardwick said: "I believe the failure of the police officers concerned to assist Mr Alder effectively on the night he died were largely due to assumptions they made about him based on negative racial stereotypes.

"I cannot say for certain that Mr Alder would have been treated more appropriately had he been white - but I do believe the fact he was black stacked the odds more heavily against him."

Hr Hardwick said that although there were "serious failings" by the four police officers, they did not assault him.

"Nor can it be said with certainty, such are the contradictions in the medical evidence, that their neglect of Mr Alder, as he lay dying on the custody suite floor, caused his death.

"However, all the experts agreed that, at the very least, the officers' neglect undoubtedly did deny him the chance of life."

He said their behaviour "disgraced police officers and the police service as a whole."