On Thursday we were taken through the test of unlawfulness and how it applies in an inquest setting and the test has been applied in the directions on law to the jury. Tony Metzer QC, on behalf of the family asked that there should be opportunity for the jury to add further information to the narrative and quoted a precedent for this from a recent inquest. Jury came back in and were welcomed in by the Coroner Richard Hulet.
A statement was read by a Kent Officer Adam Denny who is responsible for introducing a force policy for mouth searches for drugs for that force.
The list of additional pieces of evidence being presented to the jury was confirmed in court. Coroner started to take the jury through the Directions on Law and what were the rules of this process. He also confirmed that the jury would need to nominate a spokesperson. They would need to deliberate as a group and to reach a conclusion on the basis that they all agree on. The jury have to come to this point by using ONLY the information that they have heard in the court. The Coroner’s officer will be the ‘bailiff’ and communicate with them and the Coroner.
He clarified use of the term ‘conclusion’ and that this should be used rather than ‘verdict’. Coroner started his summing up by clarifying the different kinds of evidence that they have heard. Witnesses by fact are those who were present but also clarified the role of expert evidence and the nature of the evidence. He referred to the Witness A video and confirmed the status of this. He also referred jury to the record of witness and then directions and questions were issued to the jury and the Coroner took them through the legal directions he was giving. They are being given two conclusions (A) Unlawful Killing and (B) Misadventure & Narrative or just a Narrative conclusion. The completion of the boxes on the record of an inquest will then be determined by this process
Hulet took jury through the questionnaire and that this will be used if they don’t go for conclusion (A) He went through the tests for Unlawful Killing. Was the use of force reasonable? Was it disproportionate in the circumstances? Was it unlawful and was it the cause of death? The Coroner went through the sequence of events from the officer’s evidence and timings of when the paramedic and the ambulance was called. He raised issue of ‘Excited Delirium’ and directed jury not to use this in their deliberations.
He went through the events in the car park prior to the incident. Nedd and Forbes Habib’s companions had experience of these searches, all were compliant and nothing was found and it was in the process of being completed. Went through the car port search and the actions of Habib and the officers from their own statements from the sighting of a ‘lump’ in Habib’s mouth and the first backslap.
Coroner went through key parts of the officers evidence one by one in relation to the restraint and the aftermath of this. He also in places referred to previous evidence from the first inquest that these officers gave. This could have been more dynamic and less descriptive but it essentially it needs to summarise the events from the evidence of the witnesses.
In the afternoon he talked through the expert evidence that was given to remind the jury what it had been covered. This included Hunt and his views on Positional Asphyxia as well as the other medical experts, trainers and those on the use of force. Tony raised concerns about Article 2 death and narrative verdict and ensuring that the jury are able to make criticisms of the police and their actions. Determination of the force needs to be able to be made by the jury particularly in the context of Article 2. Direction to the jury does not include them to allow to level criticisms against the police and referred to the Chief Coroners guidance and the effectiveness of one of the questions.
It was very hard for family to go through this again and in particular hearing the actions of the officers. Habib’s Mum had to leave the court as she was upset and it was difficult for Musarrat, Habib’s wife to hear the summary of the details that he gave through the interpreter present. We found out later that she had a panic attack in the early hours of Friday and was admitted to hospital but is now a lot better.
On Friday 27th at 11.30 the Coroner concluded his summing up and sent the jury out giving them the standard warnings. At this stage he asked if there any Regulation 28 recommendations to look at measures to prevent future deaths. Tony Metzer QC, on behalf of the family raised the following:
- No training to safeguarding if someone is faking or feigning
- Use of inappropriate commands – training on types of command
- Better training on non-engagement and desisting from the use of force
- Mouth searches – techniques which do not work need to be stipulated and also about searches outside police stations
- Training around the editing of statements – officers need to include all relevant material and give guidance on this
- Added training about vagal stimulation
He noted positively the changes to the First Aid training and recognition on agonal breathing
Sarah Simcock on behalf of Thames Valley Police force referred to Preventing Future Deaths Reports (PFD report) and the purpose of Regulation 28. She objected on the basis of the duty that arises when tests are met around any risks to life and it was for each coroner to decide about the statutory duty to report. She made objections around lack of notice/time for her to speak to Thames Valley Police. Simcock raised her concerns about feigning/faking being tackled and the issue of commands. She stated that action had been taken against DS Liles about the inappropriate command that was given.
Simcock challenged about desisting/standing back – misrepresents evidence of officers and says that these actions are covered by ACPO training. She stated that mouth searches should not be considered by just TVP but nationally but again asked her for more time on responding.
Simcock felt that the statement training comments would be impermissible as there has been no evidence presented to the Coroner. Simcox also stated that the Officers are being subject to misconduct proceedings on this. She noted the changes in the First Aid training and again that it may not be not be permissible for the Coroner to question this (?)
While the jury have been out the family have been using this time to have meetings with the legal team to assess where we are so far and to look at our options going forward. Last two days have been hugely frustrating for the family, the summing up of the Coroner was very long and we and the legal team were not always happy about was included and excluded and the lengthy deliberation has had a serious impact on them all. The jury finally retired on Friday morning (27th Feb) and as we feared this was not enough time for a conclusion to be reached so the inquest will be resuming on Monday 2nd March.