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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 14:48 GMT
Inquiry call over police killing
James Ashley
James Ashley was shot at close range by police in January 1998
The family of an unarmed man who was shot dead by police have renewed their call for a public inquiry in to his death.

Their demand came as the chief constable of Sussex Police made a personal apology for the killing of James Ashley by the force's officers during a bungled drugs raid in 1998.

Mr Ashley's death in St Leonards, Sussex, led to one officer being charged with murder, and the resignation of the then chief constable, Paul Whitehouse.

Mr Whitehouse's successor, Ken Jones, travelled to Liverpool on Thursday to say sorry to Mr Ashley's parents and other relatives.

No officers were found guilty and none sacked over the incident.

I was 14 when he died and it's been five years. It's bad that it's taken so long to get an apology
James Ashley's son, James
Mr Ashley, 39, was shot in front of his girlfriend during the night-time raid by police who wrongly believed he might be armed.

An investigation subsequently revealed police guidelines had not been followed, but the officer charged with murder was acquitted after arguing he had acted in self-defence.

He said he had mistakenly believed he was about to be shot, as Mr Ashley was coming towards him.

Mr Jones said on Thursday: "Whilst no words of mine can undo the wrong that was done, I need to repeat that I am deeply sorry."

He said he had made changes in the force since the incident.

'Unprecedented apology'

He added: "James should not have died but, and this will be of small comfort to his loved ones and friends, his death has resulted in safer firearms procedures for us all."

Mr Ashley's mother, Eileen Ashley, said: "I am glad he came to clear Jimmy's name.

"But we still want a public inquiry into his death."

His son James said: "I was 14 when he died and it's been five years.

"It's bad that it's taken so long to get an apology."

Pauline Ashley
We've basically been treated like criminals
Pauline Ashley
The family's solicitor, Jane Dyson, said the chief constable's apology was "unprecedented".

She said: "The family have asked for a public inquiry not only into the killing of their son but into the way which that killing was investigated - into what the family believe to be a cover up.

"It was an investigation which led to no criminal convictions and no formal disciplinary proceedings against any of the officers involved in the killing of James Ashley."

She added the family were still pursuing legal action against the former chief constable Paul Whitehouse.

Mr Ashley's sister Pauline said what happened to her brother was "legalised murder", adding: "From day one we haven't had the support network of the police which usually happens to other people in different circumstances.

"We've basically been treated like criminals."

'Long overdue'

Four other officers were also cleared of misconduct and neglect of duty in two separate trials.

Mr Whitehouse was later forced to resign after pressure from Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Meanwhile Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman has called for a review of the police complaints procedure.

She said: "This welcome apology is long overdue. James Ashley's untimely death exposed inadequacies in police operations and the complaints system."

The BBC's Richard Bilton
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