Inquests fail to restrain the police

Police Officers On Dutyfrom the Mikey Powell Campaign
published: 9th January 2010

The following is the full unedited version of an article written by Simon Hattenstone. Simon is a features writer for the Guardian, and this article has been reproduced with his consent.

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(originally published: 27th December 2009)

Last Friday an inquest reached a shocking conclusion, though you’d be hard pressed to have heard about it. In a damning narrative verdict, the jury concluded that Mikey Powell had died from positional asphyxia following police restraint.

An 8-2 majority at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall ruled that the sequence of events in the last few minutes of his life “made him more vulnerable to suffering death”. In short, he had been deliberately hit by a moving police car, sprayed with CS gas struck by a baton and restrained on the ground while suffering a psychotic episode.

It was September 7 2003 when Mikey Powell died. He was 38 years old, had three children and worked as a team leader in a local metal factory. Mikey, who was known as Mikey Dread because of the extravagant dreadlocks he had worn as a young man, was well loved in the Lozells area of Birmingham where he lived. Mikey also [occasionally] suffered from terrible depression, and on the night in question he [suffered a breakdown].

It was 11.30pm, Mikey was raging outside his mother’s house, and he broke a window. His mother Claris called the police. She had always believed British bobbies were the best in the world, and if there was a difficult situation you called them out for help. A couple of months earlier, Mikey had suffered another episode, she had called them out, and it had been all been sorted.

But this time the police didn’t calm Mikey down. When the officers screamed at him to get on the floor, he took off his belt and hit the car with it. The police drove straight at him as fast as they could and ran him over.

That wasn’t the end of it. He was then sprayed with four times the recommended dose of CS gas, hit with a baton, and held on the ground by up to eight officers for at least 16 minutes until a police van arrived to take him to the station. The inquest heard that he was put on to the floor of the van; face down, “like a dog” – leaving him vulnerable to asphyxiation.

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