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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 19:02 GMT
Ashley shot naked and unarmed
James Ashley
James Ashley was shot at close range by police in January 1998
James Ashley was in bed and unarmed when officers burst into his flat in Sussex at 4am on 15 January 1998.

Ashley, 39, was shot - in front of his girlfriend - at the flat in St Leonards after incorrect intelligence reports suggested he might be armed.

Two subsequent investigations into the affair criticised Sussex police for methods used in gathering intelligence, planning and executing the raid.

Yet no-one has been convicted of any wrongdoing.

There have been calls for a public inquiry into the incident, although this has not taken place.

Wrong information

Ashley did have 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.

It was later reported that his only involvement in the stabbing had been to pull the assailant off the victim.

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

No hard drugs or firearms were subsequently found.

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

But they had no plans of the interior, which meant officers had bumped into an ironing board and had been delayed as they had to force an unexpected communal door.

When an armed police officer stepped into the darkened room he thought Mr Ashley was attacking him, and shot him at close range.

Ashley's girlfriend Caroline Courtland-Smith later said Mr Ashley had been walking towards the door to investigate noises they had heard.

Murder charge

A police officer was subsequently charged with murder and manslaughter, but was cleared at the Old Bailey in May 2001.

The judge agreed that he had fired in self-defence believing, mistakenly, that he himself was about to be shot.

Defence barrister Nicholas Purnell, QC, said officers had been "badly served" by those who had organised the raid.

Intelligence information from London had been misinterpreted and Ashley was wrongly linked to a drugs ring.

Authority was sought from, and given by, deputy chief constable Mark Jordan for an armed raid on the basis of information which was "simply not true in a number of significant respects".

Mr Jordan was suspended in February 1999 and retired from the force in December 2001.

He was investigated but no criminal charges were laid.


The Crown Prosecution Service said it did not have enough evidence to charge other senior Sussex officers who had been investigated.

Chief constable Paul Whitehouse
Chief constable Paul Whitehouse was suspended and forced to retire
These include chief constable Paul Whitehouse, assistant chief constable Maria Wallis and assistant chief constable Nigel Yeo.

However, Mr Whitehouse was suspended, and although later reinstated, he was eventually forced to retire from his post after pressure from Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Mr Blunkett wrote to Sussex Police Authority inviting them to exercise their powers to dismiss the chief constable.

Ashley's family began writing to the Sussex force demanding an apology as far back as 1998.

Police 'sorry' for shooting man
13 Nov 03  |  England

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