WMPA to investigate the Chief Constable

Police watchThe IPCC have upheld the appeal of Mikey’s mother, Claris Powell, against the refusal of the West Midlands Police Authority to record her complaint against the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police.

On 16 June 2011 the IPCC directed the Police Authority to record the complaint. The Police Authority should now investigate. It is rare for a complaint about a Chief Constable to be recorded and a real victory for Claris Powell.

The complaint is that the Chief Constable’s report to the West Midlands Police Authority on 25 March 2010 entitled “The Organisational Response to the Death of Michael Powell and Linda Burt” was misleading. The issues include:

The Report was misleading about the findings of the Inquest jury in relation to when and where Mikey died.

  • The jury found that on the balance of probabilities Mikey died in the police van before he was removed from it (at Thornhill Road police station). The Report claimed to set out the “narrative verdict” that was given by the jury. But it omitted this key finding altogether.

The Report’s account of the sequence of events claimed that Mikey was “unconscious” when he arrived at Thornhill Road police station.

  • That ignored the jury’s finding that Mikey died in the van.
  • It was inconsistent the jury’s finding. The jury had heard all the evidence and gave their verdict on the 30th day of the Inquest.

The jury found that Mikey died of positional asphyxia. The Report detracted from this significant finding. It said that only one expert had the view that Mikey died of positional asphyxia and that expert had persuaded the jury that “positional asphyxia is potentially capable of being caused when the person is lying on their side. This view is not supported by the medical evidence provided at the inquest.” But the point the Report is making is a red herring.

The jury found that Mikey died of positional asphyxia in the police van before he was removed from it. The jury found that Mikey had been put in the police van on his side; that he had been transported to the police station “in-between” being on his side and on his front; and that he was “on his front” when he arrived at the police station. So the issue highlighted by the Chief Constable as to whether positional asphyxia can be caused when a”person is lying on their side” is really neither here nor there.

On the strength of the IPCC decision the West Midlands Police Authority will now have to investigate.

The family’s concerns are that the truth about Mikey’s death should not be obscured and that the Chief Constable’s report to the Police Authority should be as accurate and frank as possible. Further, the family are worried by the implications of the Report in relation to what the Chief Constable will do about the responsibility of West Midlands Police for the death of Mikey. While the report fudges the truth, no action is being taken.

Procedural Background:

The West Midlands Police Authority had refused to record Claris Powell’s complaint on 5 May 2011. It tried to argue that it was not a complaint about the conduct of the Chief Constable and therefore did not fall to be recorded. It is that refusal that Claris Powell has successfully appealed.

Family Statement:

Tippa Naphtali, Mikey Powell’s Cousin said; “On behalf of the whole family I can only say that this has been a long and arduous process for us to have gone through. We are pleased that this investigation will now go ahead and that the The West Midlands Police Authority will have to address Mikey’s mothers’ complaint.

“For us it felt like another injustice against Mikey, and we were unwilling to allow that to happen. As we approach the 8th anniversary of Mikey’s death this announcement gives us further hope that justice is never out of reach if we persist in attaining it.”