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Father of James Herbert says justice processes have failed once again as Avon & Somerset Police dismiss allegations of misconduct

6 September 2017

Misconduct hearing into Insp Justin French
Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters
5 – 6 September

Inspector Justin French of Avon and Somerset Constabulary this week faced a gross misconduct hearing concerning the death of 25 year old James Herbert in 2010. French (acting Inspector at the time) faced allegations of gross misconduct concerning his actions and his account of events following James’s death, including in his evidence to the inquest. 

The proceedings followed a reinvestigation into James’s death, after new evidence was brought to light at the inquest.

Avon & Somerset police said ‘A panel, led by an independent Legally Qualified Chair, found allegations of gross misconduct were not proven against T/Insp Justin French’.

Tony Herbert, Father of James Herbert said:
“Over seven years after James' death, another process has exonerated a police officer. The processes of investigation and justice have once again failed to hold anybody or any institution accountable. This is utterly wrong but predictable. We believe that the decision taken today to exonerate Sergeant French was another stroke of the same whitewash we have been seeing for seven years. Nobody is ever going to be held to account for any aspect of James' death, and that is something in my heart of hearts I realised quite some time ago.

We look forward to the release later this month of Six Missed Chances, a ground-breaking report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is trying to ensure some learning takes place as a result of James’ wholly avoidable death. If that happens, future lives may be saved. Let us hope that this can happen.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“It is difficult to reconcile this outcome with the facts. There was very clear evidence that the account given by Justin French at the inquest was false, yet the panel inexplicably found the allegations of misconduct not proved. Time and again we see false narratives generated by police about the alleged violence of the deceased in order to justify their actions. This case has been 7 years of delay, denial, defensiveness, and poor investigations. We have to question a system that consistently fails to deliver accountability after preventable police related deaths.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information and interview requests, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or lucymckay@inquest.org.uk

INQUEST has been working with the family of James Herbert since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors and Alison Gerry of Doughty Street Chambers.

  • Now the misconduct hearing has concluded, later this month the IPCC will be releasing a report called ‘Six Missed Chances’ using James Herbert’s death as a case study to make national recommendations for the police service to achieve best practice in dealing with vulnerable people with mental health difficulties.
     
  • Coverage of the proceedings can be found in the Guardian article:‘ Police inspector lied about man with mental health issues who died in cell, hearing told’
     
  •  Other upcoming cases involving police related deaths include:
    - Three police officers will stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court, facing charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice in relation to the death of Kingsley Burrell on 11 September.
    - A misconduct hearing around the death of Olaseni Lewis will also begin on 11 September.
    - The inquest of Joseph Phuong, who suffered from mental ill health and died following police contact in June 2015 opened at the Royal Courts of Justice, London on 4 September.
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