No procedures in place for the safeguarding of personal belongings taken from detained suspect and put into sealed bag.
The bags are easily unsealed and and police have been known to tamper with the sealed bags and then reseal them.
Published: 17 June 2010
by TOM FOOT
THERE were emotional scenes at the Old Bailey yesterday (Wednesday) after two young men and a teenager accused of murdering Sharma’arke Hassan walked free.
Chen Shire, 23, from Kentish Town, Didi Parkes, 25, from Willesden, and a 17-year-old, who cannot be named because of his age, were found not guilty of shooting Sharma’arke, also 17, who lived in Agar Grove, Camden Town.
The jury’s verdict was greeted with loud cheers from the families and friends of the three defendants.
In stark contrast, the victim’s mother lay outside the courtroom in tears, her howls of anguish heard throughout the Old Bailey corridors.
Outside the court, Mr Shire’s uncle, George Shire, offered his sympathy to the Hassan family and accused the police of “bungling” the investigation.
Mr Shire, a prominent Zimbabwean political analyst and university academic, said: “Four black families, including that of the murdered boy, have been mistreated by the criminal justice system.
“His [Sharma’arke] parents needs closure. They too have been failed by police. They have led the family to believe that these boys were to blame. It is grossly horrible.
“One of the most worrying things is the way in which the police have failed to investigate seriously a murder in Camden and what has been going on in the borough.
“They have lost the confidence of the community. The police bungled this from beginning to end.”
Chen was alleged to have “kept watch” during the “revenge and retribution” shooting of Sharma’arke in Gilbey’s Yard, Camden Town, in May 2008 after the younger boy was beaten up and robbed for £10.
The prosecution said the alleged robbery was a gang-related attack.
In the words of prosecution counsel Crispin Aylett QC the shooting “had all the hallmarks of a carefully organised hit”.
Throughout the trial jurors have heard of gun, knife, and hammer attacks in Camden – “part of growing up” in the borough said one QC – and links to the lucrative drugs trade.
The trial had heard how Sharma’arke – known as “Sharkey” to his friends – was believed to be a member of The Money Squad (TMS) gang and had been stabbed at a Hampstead Heath fairground in the months before his death.
The court was told how another member of TMS gang was shot the night before Sharma’arke.
His mother Fatima, who lives in Camden Town, strenuously denied her son was involved in drugs or with any gang crime during her evidence.
Bernard Richmond, QC, for the youngest accused, insisted he had no idea of the identities of the three attackers who had mugged him and left him bloodied, bruised and unconscious.
Sharma’arke was punched and kicked before they “scarpered” in different directions after going through his pockets, the court heard.
The prosecution case rested on “cell site evidence” from mobile phone masts placing the accused in Camden Town that night.
The calls, it was claimed, were made to organise the murder and not, as the youngest accused insisted during his evidence, to mundanely arrange being taken to hospital as he felt unwell after his beating.
The jury were taken through hours of CCTV footage and were told how some of the images were lost after a disk became “corrupted” in a police laboratory. The evidence was not backed-up due to costs.
No murder weapon was found and no forensic evidence linked any of the accused to the scene.
In summing up last week, Harenda de Silva, QC, for Mr Parkes, told the jury the prosecution case was “supposition and conjecture” and that hints of Parkes “having a dark side” were false.
Mr de Silva added: “There is no direct evidence against Mr Parkes. There is no gun and no forensic evidence of any kind to link him to this crime.”
Defence barrister Brendan Kelly, QC, for Chen Shire, who did not give evidence, said he had no links with gangs and had no criminal record.
He said Mr Shire did not have the “capacity” for murder adding that the prosecution case did not “add up” and was based mostly on “speculation” and “guess work”.
In the end, the prosecution was forced to admit there was “no direct evidence” but suggested this was because of the cleverness of the accused.
Outside the court yesterday, his uncle George described a “harrowing” two years.
He said: “I am very angry – not just in terms of my own family. There was no forensic evidence. There was no ID. The CCTV was blurred. They had a hypothesis and that was it.
“The idea that a 15-year-old boy could mastermind an assassination like that is absurd. Why did they assume it was black-on-black crime – why was it a Trident investigation? If they are going to police young people, they have to understand sub-culture. Our example is just one example, but to me it is evidence of systemic failure.”
Mr Shire’s mother, who did not want to be named, said she had visited her son every week for 13 months while he was held at Belmarsh Prison on remand. She added: “I hope they can let us live now and get on with our lives.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said the not guilty verdict was “obviously not what we were looking for”, adding that last night it was too early to know how the investigation would now progress.
That is an increase of 2,296 on the 2007/08 total of 28,963 and it means more than 600 complaints are made every week.
One in every four was for "neglect of duty" - officers being slow or ineffective when responding to calls, the IPCC said, and one in five was for officers being rude.
Around one complaint in 10 is upheld, the IPCC said. The figures exclude complaints against the police over the G20 protests on April 1 this year, which fell just outside the reporting period.
They are likely to be worrying for both the Home Office and senior officers, coming despite efforts to make officers more accountable to the public.
Newly released data from the 2006/7 British Crime Survey revealed more than one in four of those asked said their contact with the police had left them "really annoyed".
A Home Office spokesman said: "We welcome the publication of the IPCC's statistical report on police complaints.
"We note the numbers of complaints and allegations have risen, which is likely to reflect in part greater public awareness about the role of the IPCC.
"We also note only 10% of allegations were found to be substantiated, a proportion that has remained steady since the IPCC was established."
Police Complaints Statistics for England and Wales
2005/6 26, 268 complaints were recorded. An increase of 15% on the previous year.
The Metropolitan Police Authority found 1,183 Met employees used the American Express cards for personal spending.
They were given "training and guidance" instead of punishment.
But Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) member Jenny Jones said training was "not enough" and called for disciplinary action to be taken.
The MPA audit found that one in three of the 3,533 Met officers and staff issued with corporate credit cards misused them.
At one point £3.7m of public money was unaccounted for.
The majority of this money was paid back but legal action is expected against two officers who owe £82,000 and £1,100.
People who made "potentially unacceptable" use of the credit cards, including cases of suspected fraud, were labelled "category A" by the MPA and passed to anti-corruption detectives.
The 1,183 people who misused a card but did not break the law were labelled "category B".
These included officers and staff who purchased personal items and later repaid the money or bought equipment that should have been purchased by other means.
The internal MPA document stated: "It was agreed between all interested parties that due to the volume of files involved, those officers that are deemed to have category B files would receive no formal discipline sanction for their card use, but would receive 'training and guidance' with regards their use."
But Ms Jones said: "I find it unacceptable that the police have just let these officers go with guidance.
"They must have known what they were doing was wrong."
She added: "Having police who do not obey the rules is damaging for public confidence in the Met because you ask: 'What other rules do they break?'"
A Met spokesman declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said: "The IPCC agreed with the Met that any cases where there were possible misconduct or criminal offences committed would be referred to the IPCC, all other cases would be dealt with locally by the Met."
Fifty cases of Met credit card misuse have been referred to the IPCC so far, she added.
"Of those, three officers have been convicted, two are awaiting trial, 14 have been given written warnings, one has received words of advice, one has received a formal reprimand and two are awaiting misconduct hearings."
The Met has introduced a new Barclaycard corporate credit card system with tighter spending controls.
Inquiries into corporate credit card use by Met officers and staff are expected to continue until March 2010.
A nondescript terrace house in North London and a police drugs raid is in full swing. On a bedroom floor, David Nwankwo is sitting, semi-naked, with his hands handcuffed behind his back as a plain- clothes officer yells: ‘Tell the truth.’ The 24-year-old Nigerian-born immigrant is repeatedly kicked and slapped, on one occasion even being struck around the head with a Bible.
On the landing, another suspect has a bucket placed over his head. While one policeman beats out a rhythm on the bucket with his hands, another breaks into a mocking dance.
For Mr Nwankwo, it is about to get even worse.
Hauled to his feet, he is dragged into the bathroom. The door is closed and the officer places the plug in the sink and turns on the taps. As the water rises, Mr Nwankwo is grabbed around the back of the neck and his head forced downwards.
‘I was screaming and screaming,’ he says. ‘I was trying to pull my head up. I was so near to the water that it touched my nose. He wanted to intimidate me.’
Though the incident was brought to an end when another officer entered the room, the ramifications of Mr Nwankwo’s claims have a long way to run.
His description of his alleged torture by the police — published here for the first time — is at the centre of the most significant investigation into police corruption for decades. Six police officers with the Enfield borough crime squad, based at Edmonton, North London, are suspended from duty while an investigation is carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
If there is sufficient evidence, criminal prosecutions and sackings could follow.
As a result, the Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing a string of cases in which the officers were involved. If it is found that their evidence is tainted, scores of suspects could walk free.
As well as investigating Mr Nwankwo’s allegation of water torture, the Daily Mail can reveal that anti-corruption investigators are probing claims that a number of others were subjected to ritualistic humiliation. Victims were almost always vulnerable people living on the edge of society, such as the homeless or illegal immigrants.
Sources say the officers took particular delight in humiliating women, but chose their victims carefully.
A source said: ‘It was gratuitous violence on people who were unlikely to make complaints or whose complaints were unlikely to be taken seriously.’
Investigators are also examining claims that suspects’ property was stolen and evidence fabricated. Another source added: ‘This is without doubt the most serious corruption scandal facing the Metropolitan Police since the Seventies.
‘The complete lack of supervision of this squad beggars belief and is a major indictment of how Scotland Yard has been managed over the past few years.’ Two senior officers have been transferred to non-operational posts by Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson.
Insiders believe the allegations of a lack of leadership could damage the reputations of some of Sir Paul’s most trusted lieutenants, not to mention causing public outrage.
Perhaps most shocking of all are the allegations of torture.
Until today, Mr Nwankwo has not spoken publicly about the circumstances surrounding his arrest. News of his ordeal leaked out three weeks ago, when it emerged that the IPCC was investigating an allegation of police torture.
At the time, it was widely described as waterboarding, a term used to describe an interrogation technique whereby a victim is tied down and water poured down their nose and throat to make them feel as if they are drowning.
It was used routinely on terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay.
Police sources have attempted to play down the incident, claiming it has been exaggerated.
A colleague of those suspended spoke out against the ‘false claims’ that threatened to destroy the careers of the officers, all of whom have denied wrongdoing. ‘The only thing this investigation has achieved is letting drug dealers go free,’ the source said. ‘It’s a joke.’
But there are two sides to every story. While Mr Nwankwo’s claims must be treated with caution, they are sufficiently credible that they are being taken seriously by the police authorities. He has given statements to the Directorate of Professional Standards, the Met’s anti-corruption squad, and to the IPCC.
He and his lawyers are also considering civil action against the police.
If even half of what he has to say is true, then it paints a deeply disturbing picture of brutality at the heart of one of London’s biggest crime squads.
Mr Nwankwo came to Britain four years ago and is legally allowed to live and work here.
While his lawyers have advised him not to discuss his background, it is worth noting that he has been in trouble only once, when he was cautioned after travelling as a passenger in a car that failed to stop for police.
Mr Nwankwo’s arrest took place shortly after 10pm on November 4 as police tracked a consignment of smuggled drugs. Intelligence had shown that a parcel containing 10kg of cannabis had been delivered from South Africa to a North London address.
An individual from that address had been followed to the home in which Mr Nwankwo and four other men were living. On the night of the raid, Mr Nwankwo was returning from an off-licence when four plain-clothes officers emerged from a vehicle parked outside the house and wrestled him to the ground.
‘I saw some men coming from a car and I thought they were robbers,’ he says. ‘They never told me they were police. They tackled me to the ground and handcuffed me.’
Because Mr Nwankwo did not have his house keys, the officers broke down the front door, dragging him up the stairs. He cut his hand badly on a broken bottle and his trousers were ripped off.
Once upstairs, Mr Nwankwo says he was not taken to his own room, but to that of another tenant, a man called Victor. It quickly became clear that he had fled out of the window as the police entered the property.
‘When they came into the room, they went immediately to the window,’ said Mr Nwankwo. ‘They were angry. They were saying they had lost the job.
‘They were asking me: “Where is the boss?” I was telling them I did not know who is the boss. They were telling me they wanted Victor, they wanted to see Victor.’
A subsequent search of the bedroom discovered a number of packages of cannabis resin hidden under the bed. ‘One officer opened up a package and brought it to me,’ said Mr Nwankwo.
‘They were telling me to tell the truth. I was telling them that I had never seen cannabis, that it was a shared house, that I didn’t know Victor very well and I had lived there for only eight months.’
In total, six officers were involved in the raid.
As they dispersed through the house arresting two other men, Mr Nwankwo says he was left in the custody of a single officer for about 45 minutes.
He claims the policeman repeatedly slapped him around the head and whenever he tried to straighten his legs, he was kicked. ‘I have never done anything wrong, so I was asking: “Why are you beating me up?” I was told that if I told them the truth I could go free.
‘The same officer took a Bible and he hit me with it. He said: “Do you go to church?” I said “Yes” and when I said I didn’t know anything, he hit me hard on the head with the Bible.’
Mr Nwankwo was able to see on to the landing, where two officers were dealing with another man they had arrested, 33-year-old Ajah Mpakaboari. ‘One of the officers went to the toilet and brought out a bucket. They put the bucket on Ajah’s head,’ said Mr Nwankwo.
‘There was a little water in it, and it spilled out. One (officer) was beating on the top of the bucket and one was dancing and laughing. 'Ajah was struggling to get the bucket off. It lasted a few minutes, two or three minutes.’
Meanwhile, he claims another officer joked that a plasma TV in the property would ‘look good’ in his house. Another is said to have tried on a jacket he found and then asked his colleagues what they thought of it.
‘They were making a mockery of us,’ said Mr Nwankwo. ‘I felt humiliated because I couldn’t believe they would do this.’
But it is the allegations of water torture that are causing most consternation at Scotland Yard and beyond. What did Mr Nwankwo think the officer was doing when his head was forced down towards the water in the sink?
His answer is unequivocal: ‘I felt that he was torturing me.’
He started to scream, which alerted another officer, who knocked on the door and asked what was happening. ‘I didn’t answer,’ said Mr Nwankwo. ‘So he asked his mate. He said I had wanted to use the toilet. I told him that he was lying.’
From the bathroom, he was taken into his own bedroom for the first time. There he was shown cannabis that police said they had found on top of his wardrobe.
Mr Nwankwo told them he had never seen the drugs before and could not understand how they had got there. He and two other men from the house, Mr Mpakaboari and Bernasko Adji, 37, were taken to the police station, where they were charged with drugs smuggling.
Victoria Seabrook, 24, and Nicholas Oforka, 25, who were arrested at a different address, were also charged. All entered not guilty pleas.
In his initial interview with police, Mr Nwankwo did not mention the alleged assaults. He says he did not see the point because all police ‘work together’.
But in subsequent interviews with his lawyers, he did outline the claimed abuse. As it turned out, Mr Nwankwo and his four co-accused would never stand trial.
The case was set for a six-day hearing in March at Wood Green Crown Court. But when lawyers for the defence requested information about the character of the police witnesses, it became clear there was a problem.
The prosecutor applied for a public interest immunity certificate, a legal device to allow a hearing to be held in secrecy.
After two days of discussions with the judge, the CPS announced it was dropping the cannabis charges.
The reason? The officers who had arrested Mr Nwankwo were the subject of an internal investigation into allegations of corruption.
‘If we had continued (with the trial), we would have compromised a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the activities of a number of officers,’ said a CPS spokesman.
The previous month, a number of officers at Edmonton had been suspended or placed on restricted duties following an internal investigation by the Met. This followed the conviction and imprisonment of a female civilian worker at the station, who was jailed for stealing from the stores, where items seized from suspects are held.
Following this, the Met’s anticorruption directorate is understood to have placed video probes and listening devices inside the police station to gather evidence.
Initially, the directorate’s inquiry is understood to have focused on claims of theft of property — including computers, flat-screen TVs and iPods — from people who had been arrested.
Why the investigation widened is unclear.
One legal source has told the Daily Mail that those involved in the arrest of Mr Nwankwo were caught by the covert cameras discussing what had happened on the night of the arrest.
Another suggestion is that a police officer on the raid blew the whistle on his colleagues. Whatever the reason, with the collapse of the drugs trial, Mr Nwankwo was immediately interviewed by police investigators.
When the matter was referred to the IPCC, he was interviewed for a second time.
The Mail understands that the bucket allegedly placed on Mr Mpakaboari’s head has been seized by the IPCC as evidence. In the meantime, Mr Nwankwo is trying to get on with his life.
He has moved house and continues to maintain that he had nothing to do with the drugs found in the raid. Indeed, a central plank of his defence was to have questioned exactly how those drugs came to be in his bedroom.
Mr Nwankwo says that on being taken into the house, he repeatedly asked to be allowed into his own room, but that he was not taken there for an hour. Only then was he shown the drugs that the police claim to have found there.
He also says fingerprint and DNA tests would have shown he’d never had any contact with the cannabis. While angered by his treatment, he admits to being concerned that if he does decide to sue the police, they might ‘come after him’.
‘I have never seen British police beat people up, so this was my first experience,’ he says. ‘And it was me they beat up.’
So does Mr Nwankwo trust the British police?
‘That question is very difficult to answer,’ is his cautious reply, before he adds: ‘No comment.’
But one thing is certain. What he alleges took place has caused shock and deep unease at the highest levels of the Met.
Only in time will the full story of the goings-on at Edmonton police station emerge.
The fear is that when it does, it may rank as one of the greatest police scandals of our age.
Anti-corruption detectives have been investigating claims that the electrical goods were taken from criminal suspects.
The Metropolitan police, which is Britain's largest force, has fought a decades-long battle against corruption in its ranks. Senior officers hoped reforms and efforts to stress the importance of integrity to officers would make such scandals a thing of the past.
Officially the Met said the allegations focused on the "mishandling of property". It said a further two officers had been placed on restricted duties.
All those concerned are detectives in Enfield's crime squad, part of that borough's CID unit. Police said they were not of senior rank.
The Met said there had been no arrests, and that its investigation, which is believed to have been running for more than a year, was continuing.
In a statement, the Met said: "The MPS [Metropolitan police service] demands the highest levels of honesty and integrity from its officers and staff. All allegations of malpractice are taken extremely seriously and are investigated swiftly and thoroughly."
Scotland Yard's anti-corruption squad is an elite unit of hand-picked detectives that has been nicknamed "the ghost squad". In the mid-1990s, Scotland Yard began a new drive against corruption, setting up the special squad, which included retired detectives and even accountants. Their investigation led to a host of trials and several convictions.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
That the police shot dead the wrong man was a mistake. That one officer has been force to admitt doctoring the records of exactly how and why they came to shoot him threatens to turn the mistake into something more enduring.
The notes of the officer – identified only as "Owen" at the inquest of Jean Charles de Menezes – were altered the day before being submitted as evidence to a Metropolitan Police solicitor earlier this month.
The officer told the court he did not see the deleted evidence as relevant, even though it appeared to contradict the testimony of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who led the ill-fated operation resulting in Mr de Menezes's death.
The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Imbert said last night that the doctoring row is a "wake-up call" for officers.
The Met faces intense scrutiny over the shooting of the Brazilian electrician in Stockwell in 2005 after he was mistaken for a failed suicide bomber. Public confidence has been sapped by the recent resignation of Sir Ian Blair and a spate of race rows involving senior officers.
Lord Imbert, who led the force between 1987 and 1993, said last week's revelation, that a Special Branch officer had altered notes submitted to the inquest as evidence, presented an opportunity to remind officers of correct procedure. "It is certainly not acceptable to alter your notes," he said, and condemned the doctoring of evidence as "not good practice".
"This is a wake-up call, and officers must be reminded of the correct way of doing things."
He added that the practice of officers collaborating to produce a single written statement, while not wrong, should also be kept within "proper limits".
Anthony Scrivener QC, former chairman of the Bar Council, went further and said "What is needed is a reminder of the rules regarding taking statements," he said. "You can alter it, but it has to be by way of an official statement. A police officer should not decide what is relevant or not. That's for the court to decide."
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the Metropolitan Police Authority will now investigate the officer's actions.
The controversy is likely to swell the growing numbers making formal complaints to the IPCC.
The IPCC's latest figures reveal public complaints over "irregularity in relation to evidence/perjury" have almost doubled in the past four years – rising from 493 in 2004 to 931 in 2008. And the number of complaints made each year accusing police of "corrupt practice" has almost tripled over the same period – up from 91 to 251.
A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "The Met continuously reviews policies and procedures to ensure we can deliver greater policing and operational effectiveness. We will of course consider any options for learning and best practice that may arise from the inquest.