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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 13:31 GMT
Stop and search refusenik cleared
Cast members from The Big Life
The Big Life cast members backed the Crooks family
A man wrongly accused of being a drug dealer on a West End night out is to make a formal complaint against police.

O'Neil Crooks had gone to see The Big Life, a stage production about Windrush immigrants, when he was approached by police at the stage door in July 2005.

He was so annoyed by the officers' behaviour he refused to be searched and swore at them, and was charged with assault and threatening behaviour.

This week the case was dropped and it is now being reviewed by Scotland Yard.

The Crooks family has been living with the charges for eight months and has gone through two solicitors and four court appearances.

The case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on Wednesday.

We went out as a family to the theatre to have a good evening
O'Neil Crooks

A CPS spokeswoman said it dropped the case for three reasons.

She said the prosecution's independent witness failed to turn up at court, the credibility of the police officer involved had been thrown into doubt by a judge in a different case, and the prosecution did not see the defence witness statements until the day of the hearing.

Mr Crooks, a builder, described how he and his family had headed out to see The Big Life, which has been praised for attracting more black theatregoers to the West End.

"We went out as a family to the theatre to have a good evening," he told the BBC.

"I wasn't expecting what was going to happen next."

'On a mission'

Recognising one of the musicians, Mr Crooks headed to the back stage door to wait, when the police turned up and told them to stand against the wall.

But Mr Crooks refused to be searched because he was annoyed by the attitude of the police officers and the way he said they accused him of being a drug dealer.

"To me, they were basically on a mission," he said.

Mr Crooks, his son and a family friend were arrested and charged with threatening behaviour and assault.

His wife, who has cancer, was left on her own as they were held for six hours. Mr Crooks said it was "appalling".

It is really disappointing
Sgt Keith Jarrett
National Black Police Association

The trio was backed by some members of The Big Life's cast who supplied formal statements on their behalf.

Mr Crooks said he will be making a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Scotland Yard told the BBC it would not comment while it is reviewing the case with the CPS.

But the National Black Police Association's Sgt Keith Jarrett told the BBC the professionalism of officers carrying out stop and search had to be reviewed.

He said he was disappointed that the police service was again having to explain the behaviour of officers which had alienated members of an ethnic minority community.

"It is really disappointing, I am so saddened to hear what happened to Mr Crooks," he added.



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