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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 12:53 GMT
Officers win damages for BBC show
Roger Sylvester
Roger Sylvester fell into a coma after he stopped breathing
Eight police officers have accepted libel damages at the High Court over an accusation of unlawful killing made in a BBC broadcast.

The officers were all serving with the Metropolitan Police when on duty in January 1999 on the night a mentally ill man was restrained and later died.

The next year Roger Sylvester's family appeared on the Nicky Campbell Show, falsely alleging unlawful killing.

The BBC agreed to pay substantial damages and apologised unreservedly.

Mr Sylvester was found naked and behaving strangely in a street in Tottenham, north London, the court heard.

Public controversy

The officers' solicitor Barton Taylor said he was suffering from the combined effects of mental illness and cannabis, so the officers took him to a hospital "for his own safety".

Once there, a struggle ensued and Mr Sylvester suffered a cardiac arrest, the court heard. Attempts to resuscitate him failed and he died a week later.

Mr Taylor told the court his tragic death then became a matter of great public controversy.

In December 2000, the Nicky Campbell Show conducted a live interview with Mr Sylvester's family, and a campaigner supporting them, in which their comments amounted to a claim of unlawful killing, the court heard.

The BBC accepts responsibility for what is said in its programmes, by its own staff or outside contributors
David Glen, counsel for the BBC

However, neither the Metropolitan Police, nor the officers, were given the opportunity to contribute.

Although not named, previous publicity meant they were likely to be identified by people who knew them, said Mr Taylor.

He said the allegations caused great distress to the officers - Sergeant John Anderson and constables David Clohosy, Simon Creevy, Sean Kiernan, Jaswinder Matharu, Andrew Newman, Ian Smith and Philip Steadman.

Extensive inquiries and legal proceedings followed, culminating in the November 2004 decision by Mr Justice Collins that a verdict of unlawful killing would not be a "just verdict".

David Glen, counsel for the BBC, told the judge: "The BBC accepts responsibility for what is said in its programmes, by its own staff or outside contributors.

"On the BBC's behalf I apologise unreservedly to the officers for this programme, as well as for the distress it caused them."

No charges over Sylvester death
16 Jun 05 |  London

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