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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Police marksman cleared of shooting

A police marksman has been cleared of unlawfully killing a man during an authorised operation.

PC Christopher Sherwood, 34, was cleared at the Old Bailey in London on the directions of the judge, Mrs Justice Rafferty.

The Sussex police officer shot James Ashley, 39, during a police raid at his home in St Leonards, East Sussex, at 0400GMT on 15 January, 1998.


Sherwood shot him to avoid being killed

Mrs Justice Rafferty
PC Sherwood said he had fired in self-defence believing, mistakenly, that he himself was about to be shot.

Judge Rafferty ruled that there was no evidence that the shot was fired other than in self defence.

She told the jury: "Sherwood's account in interview was that he genuinely feared - never mind whether it was right or not - that Ashley had a gun.

"Sherwood shot him to avoid being killed."

Judge Rafferty directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

In a statement read out by his lawyer Ben Brandon, PC Sherwood said: "I am hugely relieved and pleased. I greatly regret that a man was killed by a shot I fired."

Outside court, Mr Ashley's brother Tony, 32, a Customs and Excise worker from Dingle, Liverpool, said his family were disappointed at the outcome of the case.

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