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The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson reports
"The family of James Ashley say they will not rest until they get an apology"
 real 56k

The BBC's June Kelly
"Everyone involved with Sussex police is very taken aback"
 real 56k

Former chief constable Paul Whitehouse
"I'm sorry that the Home Secretary didn't have the courtesy to speak to me himself"
 real 56k

Solicitor for James Ashley's family, Brian Jackson
"The family will be delighted that someone at last has taken responsibility"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Police chief quits
Paul Whitehouse
Paul Whitehouse was tipped as a future head of the Met
The home secretary has welcomed the resignation of the chief constable of Sussex Police, who had been strongly criticised over the death of an unarmed man during a bungled raid.

Paul Whitehouse announced his decision a day after David Blunkett ordered the local police authority to consider sacking him to restore public confidence in the force.

Mr Blunkett said the force had to learn lessons from the operation which saw alleged drugs dealer James Ashley, 39, shot by police marksman Chris Sherwood at his St Leonards flat in January 1998.

In an interview with BBC News 24, Mr Whitehouse said he took the decision to quit and had not been pressurised by the home secretary or the police authority.

'Behaved honestly'

James Ashley
James Ashley: Shot at close range
He said: "Although people have condemned me, they have never demonstrated with evidence that I behaved improperly.

"I have always behaved honestly, with integrity throughout."

He also defended the use of armed police and insisted: "What we have to recognise is that if we wish police officers to go and confront armed and dangerous men they will have to carry firearms."

In a statement he said he would retire from the force on 25 September.

The chief constable was suspended and reinstated following the shooting, while his deputy Mark Jordan, who gave the go-ahead for the raid, remains suspended.

'Welcome news'

Mr Ashley's mother, Eileen, welcomed Mr Whitehouse's resignation.

She said: "This is very welcome news. This is something we've been waiting for a long time and it has really made our day.

"Obviously nothing can bring James back and we still miss him terribly.

"But somebody has to pay for the dreadful mistakes on that day and Whitehouse was the boss.

Manslaughter conviction

Mr Whitehouse has been severely criticised, especially after two of the officers prosecuted and acquitted in the aftermath of the raid were promoted and given backdated pay rises.

We have been writing to Sussex Police demanding an apology for three years

Tony Ashley
Victim's brother
James Ashley, originally from Liverpool, had a conviction for manslaughter and Sussex Police said at the time that he was wanted in connection with a stabbing at a pub in the town.

Firearms officers had been briefed that there was a large haul of drugs in the flat and the occupants could be armed and dangerous.

Only a small amount of cannabis and an air pistol were allegedly found.

The officers were instructed to search the flat using the "high-risk Bermuda method" favoured for dealing with terrorism.

Mr Ashley was naked in bed with his girlfriend when officers burst in.

No evidence

Mr Blunkett has confirmed that the dead man's family had been invited to meet Home Office minister John Denham to express their concerns and calls for a public inquiry into the affair.

Superintendent Christopher Burton, 44, Inspector Kevin French, 48, Inspector Christopher Siggs, 42, were cleared of neglect of duty after the prosecution offered no evidence.

Course of events
Jan '98 - police shoot James Ashley
May '98 - four officers suspended
Feb '99 - deputy chief constable suspended
March '99 - chief constable suspended
March 2001 - chief constable reinstated
June 2001 - Home secretary suggests sacking chief constable
A fourth officer, Pc Robert Shoesmith, 39, was cleared of misconduct when the prosecution also offered no evidence in a separate trial.

Mr Blunkett said: "The shooting incident, the issues which emerged during the subsequent investigations and criminal proceedings, the reasons for the discontinuance of the trial, and the promotion of two officers who may yet face disciplinary proceedings have given rise to grave public concern."

James Ashley's brother Tony, 32, welcomed news of the home secretary's intervention.

He said: "We have been writing to Sussex Police demanding an apology for three years now, and we still have not heard anything.

"It's about time action was taken."

The family is continuing to pursue a civil case against Sussex Police.

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