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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Met chief defends safety record
Sir John Stevens and Lord Condon
The officers deny the charges

One of England's most senior policemen has given evidence in the same court where he once received a commendation for his work.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens and his predecessor, Lord Condon, who retired in January 2000, are accused of health and safety breaches relating to accidents involving two police officers.

The trial follows the death of Pc Kulwant Sidhu and injuries to Pc Mark Berwick after they fell through the roofs of two separate buildings while chasing suspects.

Sir John and Lord Condon have both pleaded not guilty to four charges under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

Mr Justice Crane ordered the jury on Tuesday to find Sir John not guilty of one of the counts.

On Thursday Sir John told the court he had been awarded 27 commendations for outstanding bravery or detective work, one of which was given by a judge in court two at the Old Bailey.

We don't know why officers make decisions. It's a split second decision
Sir John Stevens, Met Commissioner

He received one of them after chasing four suspects in 1965 when he saw them getting out of a car doorway outside a nightclub in Goodge Street, London with hatchets, crowbars and knives.

Sir John said he followed them up a ladder in the club and saw them go across and down through the roof.

"I decided I was just not going to go any further."

Ronald Thwaites QC, defending, asked Sir John what training he had received in relation to him deciding not to go on the roof.

The commissioner replied that, in those days, officers received on-the-job training and training from mentors.

He said: "They gave you the skills to actually be able to do the job."

'Heroic example'

The prosecution case, brought by the Health and Safety Executive, argues that only in very exceptional circumstances is going on a roof worth risking an officer's life.

William Norris QC, prosecuting, asked Sir John if it surprised him that Pc Sidhu had gone up on the roof.

"He was a heroic example of the best the Met has," Sir John replied.

"Don't second guess me when I was on that roof in 1965. I was there, you weren't and I feel the same about Pc Sidhu.

"We don't know why officers make decisions. It's a split second decision."

The trial was adjourned until Friday.

BBC London's Guy Smith
"The Health and Safety Executive is saying the Metropolitan Police didn't have sufficient working practices set up."


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