04 June 1998

The CPS today announced that criminal charges are not to be brought against police officers. This follows a Judicial review in June last year of the previous decision not to prosecute.

Deborah Coles, Co-director of INQUEST said, “Today’s decision once again brings the entire criminal justice system and the role of the Crown Prosecution Service into disrepute. At a time when the public is being told that there will be major improvements in the prosecution of serious Crime the CPS have failed to demonstrate that deaths in police custody are taken seriously and that police officers will be subject to the full force of the law. “

“In spite of the inquest jury decision that Shiji Lapite died as a direct result of the unlawful and excessive violence used against him by police officers nobody is to be held criminally responsible or indeed accountable for this appalling death.”

“The glaring lack of accountability at all stages in the investigative and disciplinary process which denies bereaved families justice, sends a clear message that these deaths do not matter and that police crime will never be subject to the full force of the law.”

Shiji Lapite died after being stopped by Stoke Newington police officers for ‘acting suspiciously.’ The cause of death was asphyxia from compression of the neck consistent with the application of a neck hold. At the inquest officers admitted kicking Mr Lapite in the head, biting him and placing him in a neckhold. Pathologists evidence and post mortem reports revealed bruising and abrasions to his body, that he had suffered 36 to 45 separate injuries and that his larynx and neck were bruised and a cartilage in his voice box fractured. Police officers could not explain the disparity in injuries received by Mr Lapite and themselves as apparent in the evidence available. Officers said there was a violent struggle during which Mr Lapite had attempted to strangle one of them. A Home Office pathologist said that serious doubt must be thrown on this allegation given the absence of any marks on the officer's neck.

The inquest jury returned a unanimous verdict that Mr Lapite had been unlawfully killed demonstrating that they did not believe the police version of events.