16 June 2005

The family of Roger Sylvester said: “We are disappointed but not surprised at the decision announced by the CPS today – throughout the period of over six years since Roger’s death in custody, we have faced a criminal justice system that has been persistently unable and unwilling to bring its own to account.

“So, we see that this decision has been shaped by a desire to avoid any prosecution of the officers responsible for Roger’s death, in the same way as the police investigation into the death at the outset was designed as an exercise in mitigation of the officers rather than a rigorous investigation into a potential homicide. Even then, we note that the CPS has been compelled to a position where they can no longer dispute the responsibility of the officers for Roger’s death, but they nevertheless insist that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute those officers in respect of their culpability.

“The only opportunity that we and the public at large have had to bring that evidence under proper scrutiny was at the inquest in 2003 when the jury returned its unanimous verdict of unlawful killing. In other words, on the evidence they heard, the jury were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Roger’s death was the result of an unlawful and dangerous restraint applied to him by the officers.

“For our part, we find greater force in that pronouncement on the evidence by members of the public who heard all the evidence rather than upon the subjective view of a decision maker within the CPS that has yet to prove its willingness or ability to allow justice to be seen to be done in cases of deaths in custody.”

Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST, who has worked with Roger’s family since his death, said: “Roger Sylvester was a young healthy black man who died because of the fatal restraint used against him by police officers. There is something shameful about a system where people die in custody and yet no one is to be held accountable. In this case a flawed investigation has shaped the deliberations of the Crown Prosecution Service and its resulting decision. This decision comes as no surprise as it follows a pattern of cases that have revealed an unwillingness and reluctance of the Crown Prosecution to approach these deaths as potential homicides. This sends out a clear message that police officers are above the law.”