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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Ashley shooting police sue force
James Ashley
James Ashley was shot at close range by police in January 1998
Five policemen involved in an operation which ended with an unarmed man being shot dead are to sue their force.

The officers are suing Sussex Police over the way they were treated after the death of James Ashley in 1998.

Police thought Mr Ashley was armed when they stormed his house in Hastings and shot him as he got out of bed.

The officers stayed off work for three years until charges against them were dropped and they are now seeking a reported 50,000 each from the force.

Mr Ashley, 39, who was with his girlfriend, was shot as he got out of bed.

Supt Chris Burton, Insp Kevin French, Insp Christopher Siggs, Pc Stephen Crocker and Pc Robert Shoesmith were all suspended after the incident.

I hope the public will be as appalled about this as we are
Tony Ashley, brother
They are accusing Sussex Police of abuse of public office, negligence and breach of duty.

Mr Ashley's family, from Liverpool, said they were disgusted and horrified the officers were planning to sue.

Tony Ashley said: "My brother is dead, we are all deep in debt and they are suing the force for 50,000 each.

"I hope the public will be as appalled about this as we are.

"I had to take a year off work to follow the court cases which followed the shooting, but they were all on paid leave and now they are suing."

Chief constable Paul Whitehouse
Chief Constable Paul Whitehouse resigned after the shooting
He said they had not had a penny from Sussex Police and had not heard anything from the force apart from when the new Chief Constable, Ken Jones, publicly apologised.

And Mr Ashley's MP, Louise Ellman, said she was considering raising the issue again the Commons.

"I am very concerned about the impact this is having on the family who were treated so badly.

"I think there is something wrong with a system which causes so much grief," said the Labour MP who represents Liverpool Riverside.

"This whole incident was tragic and there has never been any satisfactory explanation."

Federation support

She added: "The Ashley family are very distressed that all this is now being continued. It should be possible to draw a line under it."

The officers have the support of the Police Federation.

Federation spokesman Graham Alexander said: "Their entire situation has been handled appallingly form the start, not just by Sussex Police but by other agencies too.

"They (the officers) have our full support but we have always maintained the family of Jimmy Ashley are as much victims as anyone else."

The shooting led to the Chief Constable at the time, Paul Whitehouse, resigning.

In 2001, Pc Chris Sherwood, who was said to have fired the fatal shot, was cleared of unlawful killing and Pc Shoesmith was cleared of misconduct.

'Flawed operation'

A statement from Sussex Police said: "It is always disappointing when serving or retired officers sue their police force because ultimately the burden could fall to taxpayers.

"Sussex Police have previously conceded that the operation was flawed.

"We have apologised to the family and dealt with some of their financial claims.

"We are actively pursuing financial settlement with other members of James Ashley's family and are keen to complete that process."

Inquiry call over police killing
13 Nov 03  |  England
Police chief quits
26 Jun 01  |  UK

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