24 July 1997

Today in the High Court the DPP was forced to concede that the decision not to prosecute police officers involved in the death of Irishman Richard O’Brien should be quashed. This comes a day after she made a similar concession over the death of Shiji Lapite in police custody.

The decision followed the disclosure of internal CPS documents which show that the decision not to prosecute was based on a wholly inadequate and misleading analysis of the evidence by a Principal Crown Prosecutor in the CPS.

Deborah Coles Co director of INQUEST said: “We are appalled by what this case has revealed about the attitude of the CPS in the way it deals with police violence. The decision confirms what INQUEST’s 17 years of monitoring deaths in custody has demonstrated about the unwillingness of the DPP and PCA to bring charges against police officers whose conduct has led to death or serious injury. “

“It is scandalous that it has been left to the bereaved family to pursue the Authorities through the courts to ensure that justice is done and police officers are called to account for their actions. The DPP gave no reasons for her decision until it was judicially reviewed and even then the explanation given by her subordinate proved to be highly misleading. How can ordinary citizens have confidence in the current system for investigating deaths in custody when it takes this kind of effort and determination to ensure that proper attention and scrutiny is given to such serious cases.”

“The DPP now has the opportunity to fully scrutinise the evidence before her and to send a clear message to bereaved families and the wider public that these deaths do matter and that police officers will be subject to the full force of the law.”

“We call upon the Home Secretary to initiate an inquiry into all aspects of the way in which deaths in police custody and alleged crimes by police officers are investigated.”

Alison O’Brien widow of Richard said: “I am disgusted that it has now been suggested by a Crown lawyer at this late stage that my son may have been responsible for some of my late husband's injuries. I feel that this has no foundation and to shift the blame onto a child who at the time was only 14 years old is appalling. He has already been through a lot in the last three years and to try and add to his anguish in this way goes to show that they not only have no regard for our feelings as a family but will do any thing and blame anybody for the unexplainable injuries (31 separate areas of injury) inflicted on my late husband to take the burden of responsibility from other parties. I will not stop fighting until those responsible for my husbands death are made accountable for their actions. I will fight and fight and fight not only for ourselves but for other people. If I don’t get justice I will take this to the European Court. “

Fiona Murphy solicitor for the family said: “The evidence relied upon by the DPP has been exposed as highly misleading. Lord Justice Rose said he was gravely concerned by apparent conflicts between the case notes and the DPP’s affidavit. These decisions have revealed a woeful incompetence at each and every stage of the decision making process. “