Press Conference Statement on Behalf of Rupert and Sheila Sylvester, Parents of Roger Sylvester

It should be remembered that this decision by the Crown Prosecution Service was based on comment interviews from the police. We must also remember that the Steven Lawrence case collapsed due to the lack of evidence.

Over thirteen months ago the Police Complaints Authority passed seven volumes of investigation findings to the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision on whether any of the eight police officers who restrained our son should be prosecuted.  The investigation was conducted by Essex Police.  We believe the findings were based on selective information.

Roger died after he was illegally detained and restrained on his doorstep.  The circumstances surrounding his death remain suspicious.  We believe that excessive restraint was used and that the prolonged restraint of Roger was (at the very least) negligent.  We had hoped, post the Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, that justice would be done and that those involved in restraining our son would swiftly be held accountable for their actions.

So, it would seem, all roads lead to an inquest, with a very narrow remit, to find out ‘how’ our son came to his death, not ‘why’. At the inquest, once again, the officers concerned will be protected. The Coroner may prevent important questions being put to them or may not allow them to give answers which may incriminate them.

We logged two complaints following Roger’s death.  The first related to his death and the second related to the lax and unprofessional conduct of the officers from the Complaints Investigation Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Service, who were initially appointed to investigate this incident.  Our complaints resulted in two separate investigations—or so we were led to believe.  In fact, there was a third investigation.  This third investigation related to evidence which had gone missing from an Officer’s notebook.  It began on 25th October 1999, four days after the Police Complaints Authority had issued a certificate stating that the investigation into our first complaint had been conducted satisfactorily!

We have continually voiced our dissatisfaction with the investigation process.  The police have investigated themselves.  The Police Complaints Authority’s supervision was poor and they have not been impartial.  To date, the officers who restrained Roger have not given a proper account of what they did that night.  They have resorted to no comment interviews.  The Police Complaints Authority invited an American expert to suggest alternative causes of death, which would exonerate the police officers involved. How can all this be just?

Consequently, we cannot say we are surprised with the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute any officers.  They have almost never prosecuted police officers.  How could they, when :-

·     The police officers never give a proper account of their actions.  (How do we know whether or not the police officers abuse their considerable powers?)

·     The police force the complaint is made against finances the investigation.

·     Evidence goes missing.

·     The Crown Prosecution Service as an organisation and the individuals within it normally work in close collaboration with the police.

·     The police investigate the police.

There is something shameful about a system where, when people die in custody, their custodians never give a proper account of what they did and no-one is ever held accountable.

In giving judgment earlier this year on a case concerning the death in prison of Alton Manning, Lord Bingham the Lord Chief Justice said, “The death of a person in custody must always  arouse concern.....and if the death resulted from violence inflicted by agents of the State, that concern must be profound”.

Has justice been served in Roger’s case and in the case of other people who have died in police custody?  We have always called for, and will continue to call for, a public enquiry into all these deaths in custody.