Media Media releases Family speak out about process, as inquest into death of Rashan Charles concludes his death was ‘accidental’ Before HM Coroner Mary HassellSt Pancras Coroner’s Court4 – 20 June 2018 The inquest into the death of Rashan Charles has today concluded with the jury finding his death was “accidental”, and that the officer used “justified use of force”, but did not take appropriate action for medical emergency. Rashan, a 20-year-old black man died following restraint by Metropolitan Police officers in Hackney, East London in the early hours of Saturday 22 July 2017. Rashan was a father to a young daughter and has been described as caring and generous by his family. The coroner did not leave the option for the jury to come to a more critical conclusion, such as neglect or unlawful killing, saying she did not believe a “reasonable jury could see this”. The jury gave a conclusion of accidental death with a narrative which found: Rashan demonstrated resistance during restraint, and police brought him to the ground to get better control of him through “justified use of force”; Officer BX47 did not follow prescribed police protocol for when someone is not breathing and suspected of swallowing drugs; The impact of the bystander who assisted in the restraint was not managed by the police officer; The officer failed to call an ambulance using the override button on his police radio; None of the actions taken by the police medic or paramedics contributed to Rashan’s death. The officer involved in the restraint of Rashan, who was given anonymity and referred to as BX47, was a Territorial Support Group officer. BX47 gave evidence explaining he went in pursuit of Rashan after he exited a vehicle which had been ‘acting strangely’. However, BX47 had no knowledge of or intelligence on Rashan, or the other men in the vehicle. CCTV footage shows the officer following Rashan into the shop and immediately attempting to restrain him. They struggle, then Rashan is swiftly taken to the floor by the officer. At this point a bystander, known as Witness 1, becomes involved in the restraint, assisting in handcuffing Rashan as he thrashes on the floor saying nothing. Body camera footage shows that at one point Rashan grasps toward his face, then his arm was taken back and handcuffed. The officer then turned Rashan on his side, and begins to tell him to “spit it out”. Another witness who had been in the shop gave evidence saying, “When the cuffs had gone on I saw Rashan’s face and I thought – he’s in trouble.” Independent medical expert, Dr Jasmeet Soar believed it was at this point that purposeful movement from Rashan stopped. He was unable to determine when Rashan stopped breathing or started choking, and noted it was difficult to recognise this, even for experts. However, Dr Soar believed it would have been some time before Rashan was turned over, as deterioration in breathing is “gradual not sudden”. Two witnesses, instructed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, gave evidence on police procedure. Both were former officers of the Metropolitan Police. One remains an employee, the other continues to work as an external trainer through his own company. They said officers are trained that if you suspect a person has swallowed drugs, treat it as a medical emergency; if you perceive drugs are still in the mouth you can attempt to remove; and if you suspect choking you should commence first aid such as abdominal thrusts. The second witness on police restraint training, Martin Graves, also gave evidence explaining it was “nigh on impossible” to conduct a mouth search single handily, and officers are trained to do so in groups which include a safety officer to monitor breathing. Despite explaining differences between the training and practices seen in the videos, neither of these witnesses saw any breach of procedure in the actions of the officer. Since Rashan’s death the Metropolitan Police have suspended the use of mouth searches, pending an ongoing review on the tactic. The Coroner will be making a Prevention of Future Deaths report, highlighting issues raised. The family of Rashan Charles said: “Rashan Charles was a young father and an integral part of his family. He is greatly missed by all of us. We believe the IOPC investigation was flawed from the outset. We were left out of key decisions, evidence was excluded, police worn video missing and time frames manipulated. This felt to be a predetermined process by the IOPC, the Metropolitan police and the CPS. The submissions by the family barrister were overturned in court and evidence dismissed. However, it is important we afford due respect to the jury who had to make a decision based on the limited evidence and confines put upon them. The two expert witnesses on restraint had 75 years combined service in the Metropolitan police, and one still serving. This appears to us neither objective, independent or impartial. The police projected a criminal caricature of Rashan even after his death. This successfully served to detract from the events of 22nd July 2017. We are not adversaries of the police. This is about the conduct of individual police officers. However, the absence of admission of any responsibility does not stall community relations by weeks or years, but sets it back generations. This part of the flawed system is over, our work to receive answers continues.” Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “It is difficult to reconcile the harrowing footage of Rashan’s death, and the outcome of this inquest. The Coroner and lawyers representing the police were keen to highlight the context of gangs, drugs and violence in Hackney, in order to deflect attention away from the conduct of the police. Yet Rashan was completely unknown to these officers. It is clear the officer lost sight of Rashan’s safety and humanity, and of the well-known dangers of restraint. This death occurred in the context of a systemic pattern of disproportionate use of force against young black men, along with over policing and criminalisation. This process has not delivered the accountability that this family and the public need.” Kim Vernal, the solicitor representing Rashan’s family said: “This inquest into Rashan’s tragic death has revealed deficiencies in the training of police officers with regard to choking risks. In particular, in circumstances where an individual is suspected of putting an item in their mouth. It was apparent from the evidence that it is not always clear to officers when a person is choking and when breathing is abnormal. This must be addressed if another tragedy is to be avoided. Officers should be taught, if in doubt, to err on the side of caution and do not presume a person is resisting. It is also hoped that the Metropolitan Police will think twice about reinstating it is dangerous policy on mouth searches.” ENDS NOTES TO EDITORS For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or here. INQUEST has been working with the family of Rashan Charles since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members, solicitor Kim Vernal of Imran Khan and Partners and by barrister Jude Bunting, Doughty Street Chambers. The interested parties represented at this inquest were Rashan’s family, the Metropolitan police represented by barrister John Beggs QC and Officers BX47 & BX48 represented by Neil Saunders QC. Family justice campaign pages can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Detailed coverage of the inquest and evidence heard is available on Open Democracy by the journalist Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi. In October 2017 the landmark Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini QC was published. Recommendations included tackling discrimination, through recognition of the disproportionate number of deaths of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups following restraint and the role of institutional racism, both within IPCC investigations and police training. Background: Rashan Charles died following restraint by police officers in a shop on Kingsland Road in Dalston, East London at 1:45am on Saturday, 22nd July 2017. CCTV footage of the restraint was widely circulated on social media, and his death has since received significant public attention and concern. The inquest heard that Rashan was known to children’s social services and was on the child protection register during childhood. As a teenager Rashan received convictions for possession of drugs including cannabis. He had told his GP that he smoked cannabis to help deal with stress. He had been referred to a psychologist and had problems with anxiety. In November 2017 the officers involved were granted anonymity for these proceedings. The officer who initially restrained Rashan was referred to as BX47, and another officer involved as BX48. Anonymity was also given to two witnesses, including witness 1 who was involved in the restraint. The following media releases provide further background on developments in this case: 22 January 2018, Crown Prosecution Service decide against assault charge for officer involved (INQUEST media release). 17 November 2017, Coroner grants anonymity for the police officers during the inquest (INQUEST media release). 20 September 2017, Metropolitan Police confirm decision not to suspend officer involved in restraint (family statement). 13 September 2017, IOPC announce the officer who initially restrained Rashan is being investigated for gross misconduct (IOPC media release). 4th August 2017, Family of Rashan Charles issue statement asking that contents of package don’t detract from their primary concerns (family statement). 3 Aug 2017, IPCC confirm package found in Rashan’s throat did not contain controlled substances (IOPC media release). In 2017 alone INQUEST are aware of the following restraint related deaths of black men: 21 June 2017 - Edson Da Costa, 25, died in Newham, East London following restraint by police six days earlier. 19 July 2017 - Darren Cumberbatch, 32, died in Nuneaton, Warwickshire following restraint by police. 15 July 2017 - Shane Bryant, 29, died in Leicestershire following restraint by members of public and police two days earlier. 22 July 2017 - Rashan Charles, 20, died in Hackney, East London following restraint by police. 24 November 2017 - Nuno Cardoso, 25, died in Oxford following restraint by police.