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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Sergeant's tears at police safety trial
Sir John Stevens and Lord Condon
The officers deny the charges

A police sergeant broke down at the Old Bailey as she recalled the night her colleague fell through a roof to his death.

Helena Ashwell said she had told one of two suspects to give himself up after watching them emerge on to the roof of a recording studio.

"I was looking at the roof when I heard a crash. It sounded as if someone or something had fallen.

"I had no idea a police officer was on the roof at all."

She said she and other officers were attempting to catch the burglars in Twickenham, south-west London, in October 1999.

After she had arrested one, she asked if it was him who had fallen.

Not reckless

"He said `no, I never fall off roofs - was it one of yours?"'

It was only after she had taken him to the police station that Sgt Ashworth discovered it was her friend and colleague, Pc Kulwant Sidhu, who had plunged through the roof.

Near to tears she described Pc Sidhu as a conscientious, careful and professional officer who was not reckless.

She was giving evidence in the trial of the country's most senior policemen who are accused of breaching health and safety laws after separate roof accidents involving officers.

If a proper risk assessment had been carried out it should have identified the lack of proper training about procedures
William Norris QC

The prosecution allege Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and his predecessor Lord Condon failed in their duty to protect officers.

They have pleaded not guilty to four charges each under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

Pc Sidhu was died while Lord Condon was Commissioner.

Pc Mark Berwick, was "lucky to escape with his life" when he fell through a roof in May 2000 - after Lord Condon had retired and Sir John had taken over.

Risk assessment

Earlier the court heard that a review of the risks faced by police officers chasing suspects on to roofs was not carried out until 15 months after Pc Sidhu fell to his death.

Pc Berwick had been seriously injured in another roof accident before the assessment was eventually made in January 2001, it is alleged.

"If a proper risk assessment had been carried out it should have identified the lack of proper training about procedures," said William Norris QC, prosecuting.

"There was absolutely no excuse for something like this not having been produced years earlier."

The trial was adjourned until Friday.


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