‘Have you guys been a bit rough?’
Today we continued to hear from DC Bazeley and listened to audio transcripts of the communications between call handlers and the police. It was confirmed that the duration of stop and search was 20 minutes from their first communication entering into the car park to one that requested the ambulance. Concerns were expressed by the family’s lawyer Tony Metzer QC about quality of information that was relayed to call handler and police colleagues.
There was debate about length of time that they spent conducting the search and the restraint itself and through cross examination of Bazeley we began to understand the chronology of events and further reveal the lack of a coordinated approach to the stop and search and his role in this. The way he gave evidence it showed there was little awareness of his colleague’s actions.
Family’s lawyer went through current guidance on approved restraints and different controls that are used but it was clear that Habib did not present any threat at any time and was compliant. The issue of communication was again raised between the officers and with Habib and their conflict resolution skills in this situation. Did they give him an opportunity to spit it out and de-escalate the situation? He also went through professional guidance/standards and the risks of positional asphyxia when using certain restraints and what tactical options were considered. No discussion took place between ANY of the officers about securing the evidence in the safest way
After lunch a warning was given to the officer about referring to any non-relevant history and any perceptions of Habib and past interactions. Cross examination continued about positional asphyxia and what he and other Officers did during the restraint. An obvious question was why did they did not arrest him and/or handcuff him earlier in the interaction?
Referred to ACPO training documents and questioned why they did not re-search and handcuff in a kneeling position or a standing position and also referred to current mouth search guidance currently in place. It was made clear to him that the use of pressure point techniques can lead to unconsciousness. Bazeley had received training in this and had used this on Habib and he confirmed that he was aware of the risks but not of the risk of losing consciousness.
A number of different uncoordinated techniques were involved in the restraint of Habib but it does not appear to have been any pre-planning or discussion prior to the stop and search in this context. The perception that came across is that they were not working as a team and independently and poor control techniques were deployed A number of blows on his back were administered, pressure point techniques were used, knee strikes/kneeling on his back, and he was poked in the eye and all these took place after he had turned his back on the officers but had been completely compliant.
The issue of determining whether Habib was breathing or not and why CPR was not given was questioned and there seemed to be poor assessment of his condition. Tony challenged about the officer’s perception that he was ‘faking an illness’ and how this then informed their approach to how they treated him.Finally the issue of statements and how these were drafted/redacted was tackled with Bazeley. The family lawyer’s reading of this was that this was all about lessening or downplaying the role of the officers and minimise the level of force used. Big question is whether he and the other officers gave a full and truthful account of what happened on that day.
This was a long day in the Coroner’s Court and it was noticeable that there were less people in the public gallery. Please try and attend and give your support if only for one day or a morning or afternoon – the inquest will be sitting the entire month of February.