‘It was a shocking display by a serving police officer’
This was an explosive day at the inquest. DS Liles was cross examined by the family lawyer Tony Metzer QC about his role initially in the search in the context of the PACE Act and its codes. What was in his mind when he asked the question about what is in his pants? Liles states that this was ‘banter’.
Nothing was found in the initial search of Habib (controlled drugs) so on what basis was he asking the question to Habib? Was he going to carry out a search that may have been unlawful and which was contrary to the code?
Why was there no intention to arrest him even though there evidence of drug use, possible weapons and cash found on him? Why did Lilies not refuse his request for a private search? He was questioned about his perception of Habib when he got out of the car and described him as being ‘fucked’. Lilies said that he looked ill in the court but then confirmed after further cross examination that he felt that he was on drugs.
Why was Habib allowed to speak to Emma subsequently? He then subsequently PC Pomery identified that he had something in his mouth. Liles confirmed that Habib did not pose a threat or was abusive but the only thing he did was to turn his back. His reaction to this was to hit him hard on the back. Nothing was said to him prior to this action and he gave no warning to Habib. Liles confirmed after further probing and much prevarication that he had used maximum force.
Tony referred to the previous inquest statement that he gave and Lilies again agreed that he was NOT choking. His justification was that he wanted to take him by surprise and used a basic first aid technique. It did not cross his mind that his action could have caused choking or lodged the item in his throat. Agreed that it did not follow the guidelines. Role of the first back slap in the sequence of events was not accepted by Liles. He stated that there was no indication afterwards that he was choking but agreed that Habib did not say anything after this.
Liles did not agree that his action was excessive and felt that he was trying to save Habib’s life. He also felt that this was an approved officer safety tactic or basic first aid technique – he wanted to get him ‘to lose momentary loss of control and his senses’. Liles felt that striking him in the back would cause him minimal damage and cause Habib to spit the item out. He felt that he was doing this as part of a Control Management techniques. Liles stated that he used the pressure point technique 3 times as well as other officers using these techniques. Three officers were restraining him and Liles said that he considered handcuffing him but that he did not have control over him completely and it is not clear why did they not handcuff him at this point. Liles stated that he was on his knees when the other two back slaps were administered again with maximum force. This again was contrary to his police training.
No opportunity was given to Habib to give himself up and spit it out voluntarily. Liles confirmed that he did not see Bazeley apply pressure point techniques. Family lawyer referred to his call to ‘break his arm’ and asked Liles for an explanation to why he used this expression. He stated that he regretted his choice of words. Liles refused to answer the question about how Habib would have felt hearing this command.
Liles did nothing to reassure Emma Forbes (a witness who had been in the car with Habib) about why he used those words. He has not apologised to her or others since then. He did not agree that his command would have caused panic in Habib and confirmed that he had not used this expression before.
Liles used a knee strike before his colleagues broke the arm lock but stated that this was a glancing blow rather than direct. He then knelt on him with his full body weight (12 stone) to turn his head and could not recall how long he did this for. During this Pomery and Bazeley had an arm each. Liles wanted him to turn his head so he could apply a pressure point technique and maintained that they kept giving him commands to spit it out. Bazeley did not communicate to him that he had already used this technique. It was at this point that he poked him in the eye and Habib screeched but he does not recall his mouth being opened. Liles maintained that he had his mouth clamped shut during this restraint.
Liles then carried out pressure point technique (Mandibular Angle) three times and the question was put to him about his awareness of the risk of positional asphyxia. He justified the number of times as this was not working and was on his back/shoulders for the 30 seconds during this time. Commands have to be given when these techniques are used as according to his statement this would amount to torture.
He was questioned about Pomery gripping Habib’s windpipe and whether he challenged his colleague. He did not say anything as a senior officer at this time and he was asked whether Habib’s welfare was prioritised at this time over evidence retrieval. Also questioned about Habib’s nose being pinched and his thumb being put on his chin by Pomery. Liles believed that Habib was faking injury and it was put to him whether he would have called an ambulance if it hadn’t been called by PC Pomery.. He did not recall seeing his arm being dropped and seen it as being ‘limp’. According to his witness statement it did not trouble him about the noises that Habib was making and he felt that no first aid was required
Liles accepted that the action of himself and his colleagues caused Habib to go ‘limp’. He did not believe that the noises that he was making when he became unconsciousness were signs that he was dying. He continued to believe that he was feigning injury.
Liles stated that he and his colleagues placed him in the recovery position. He lifted an eyelid and saw that his eye was fixed. No CPR was given as they state they could not open his mouth but he checked his pulse which he couldn’t find but he thought this was because he was wearing latex gloves. The Paramedic arrived soon afterwards
Questioned about his previous statement to the IPCC that Habib was being ‘difficult’ being put into a recovery position and the ongoing statement about his mouth being searched. Also questioned about the length of time of the restraint and his estimation was much shorter. Did any of his training impact on his decision making and hitting him on the back? His grasp of what training he has had was poor
He was asked about threat assessments and the safety of officers and public and again for an experienced officer he showed little or no understanding. Training is ‘gobbledygook’ he said and asked for things to be said to him in layman’s terms!
Liles did not think that Habib was showing signs of Positional Asphyxia and did not look for signs of these. He was aware of the risks but did not apply them. He was also not aware why was an amber light signal given and not a red light priority signal given to the ambulance staff? Was this is a sign of how they assessed the level of danger that he was in. Didn’t give CPR or mouth to mouth as he felt that he was feigning illness and did not want to do this as he was cautious of Habib. He was questioned about the statementing process and the removal of relevant evidence from his initial statement.
A number of time Liles tried to raise his previous experience of Habib to try and smear him in front of a jury. He was persistently challenged by the Coroner and Tony Metzer for attempting to do this. It was a shocking display by a serving police officer senior in rank with more than 18 years experience, as he not only tried to besmirch Habib’s name but also showed no remorse or understanding of the seriousness of what he had done.