The sister of a former paratrooper who was unlawfully killed in a police station has described how she felt “terrorised by the state” after it was revealed that up to 14 police officers were deployed to spy on her. The police operation targeting Janet Alder, which included surveillance and allegedly at least one attempt to eavesdrop on a conversation with her barrister, was not properly authorised, prosecutors said.
Police spied on Alder after she began campaigning to uncover the details of her brother Christopher’s death in a Hull police station in April 1998. One of the most controversial deaths in police custody, it inspired a decade-long quest for the truth. “I am absolutely appalled,” Alder told the Guardian. “I feel terrorised by the state.”
In a letter sent to her on Thursday, the Crown Prosecution Service said it had decided not to charge four senior officers in charge of the surveillance after concluding that there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction of misconduct in public office. But it outlined evidence showing that surveillance officers followed Alder, her barrister and her supporters after a July 2000 hearing of the inquest into her brother’s death. The CPS said that there was evidence that part of the surveillance team followed them to her hotel, while other members tracked another group to a car park.
The second-in-command of the operation told an internal police inquiry that “somebody went for a drink with a solicitor. One remit was to try and overhear the conversation.” That comment “raises significant concern”, the CPS added, as eavesdropping on legally protected conversations between a lawyer and their client is “improper and unlawful”.
Alder said that ever since she started campaigning over her brother’s death, she had feared that the police were monitoring her. “It just confirmed everything I thought and that I was not being paranoid,” she said. “I never in my life knew anything like this – I always believed that the system did the right thing. For that to happen to me, it was so scary. I was just a normal working-class woman looking after my kids.”
With regard to the decision not to charge senior officers, a CPS spokeswoman said: “Any prosecution would rely heavily on the evidence of police officers involved in the surveillance. As the events happened 15 years ago, the majority of the witnesses spoken to had, at best, a limited recollection of events.”
The CPS added that there was no “clear or reliable evidence” that the police had eavesdropped on her and her barrister. “This decision was supported by advice from external counsel,” it added.
The inquest in 2000 decided that Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old father of two, had been unlawfully killed. The Falklands veteran died in April 1998 handcuffed and face down on the floor of a Hull police station surrounded by police officers, after choking on his own vomit.
CCTV footage recorded him gasping for breath as officers chatted and joked around him. They believed that Alder, whose trousers and pants had been pulled down to his ankles, was play-acting. Monkey-like noises could be heard as Alder lay dead.
Five police officers put on trial for manslaughter and misconduct in public office were cleared on the orders of a judge two years later. Humberside police apologised to the family for failing to “treat Christopher with sufficient compassion”.
See full article on Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/nov/26/janet-alder-surveillance-sister-of-former-paratrooper-cps