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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 18:11 GMT
No charges over man's death
Roger Sylvester
Roger Sylvester: Went into a coma after arrest
Police officers who restrained a black man days before he went into a coma and died will not face criminal charges, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

Roger Sylvester, 30, died eight days after being restrained by police officers outside his home in Tottenham, north London, on 11 January 1999.

The Metropolitan Police said Mr Sylvester, an administration officer for a mental health centre, had been restrained for his own safety after it was reported he was naked and banging aggressively on a door.

But after waiting nearly two years for the announcement, his mother, Sheila Sylvester, said she was "shocked" by the CPS decision.

"All I would like to know is the truth of how and why Roger died. There are no answers. I just can't understand what is happening," she said.

Medical experts

After restraining him at his home, police officers took Mr Sylvester - still naked but now handcuffed - to hospital, but he collapsed and went into a coma.

Roger Sylvester's father campaigning in January 1999
Roger Sylvester's family demanded a public inquiry
No doctor was present at the time, having left the room to get a sedative.

A CPS spokeswoman said it had been decided that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against any police officers.

"The CPS took into account the opinions of medical experts, the question of whether Mr Sylvester was lawfully detained and whether there was bad faith, lack of reasonable care, or gross negligence on the part of any of the police officers concerned," she said.

She added: "The CPS anticipates that the inquest into Mr Sylvester's death will now be resumed.

"It is possible that fresh evidence will emerge during that inquest and if so, the CPS will reconsider its decision in the light of that evidence."

Public inquiry

At a press conference in the House of Commons, where the family is being backed by MPs, the family solicitor Daniel Machover said: "If they don't bring charges under these circumstances then would they ever?"

Tottenham MP David Lammy joined fellow Labour backbenchers Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott in calling for a public inquiry into the case.

Mr Lammy said: "This decision is perverse and I am truly shocked and stunned.

"I am a young black man and this could have been me - my family live just two streets away from Roger."

The BBC's Community Affairs Correspondent, Geeta Guru-Murthy, said the family are now looking at a possible legal challenge to the CPS decision.

They also want to see Jack Straw to ask for an independent judicial inquiry into the numbers of young black men dying in police custody.

"In this case police officers have not had to explain what happened whilst they were restraining this young man," she said.

The Metropolitan Police said it would consider the question of disciplinary action against all officers involved, adding that any decision would be taken in consultation with the Police Complaints Authority.

A force spokesman said: "We wish to extend our sympathies to the family for the death of Roger Sylvester and understand the distress felt by them.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment in any further detail about the investigation pending the coroner's inquest."

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
"People are not going to let it go"
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