THE POLICE OFFICER who chased Rashan Charles,20, into a corner shop in Dalston on 22nd July, forced him to the ground, held him down and then tried to pull something out of his mouth will not face criminal charges.
The arrest was caught on CCTV, and after some moments on the floor with the police officer it can be seen that Charles stops moving. He was taken to hospital and died a few hours later.
Because a member of the public had died after coming into contact with the police, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigated. The IPCC is now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), and this body did send a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
The CPS considered whether a police officer involved in the arrest should be charged with common assault. They have now announced that the will not be pressing any charges – on the grounds that the evidence is not strong enough to begin a prosecution”. The Metropolitan Police have indicated that they will not comment on the CPS decision.
After Charles died, there were riots in Hackney as people demanded justice. Charles’s relatives called for calm. Last November, a Court ruled that the police officers involved in the arrest should remain anonymous at the inquest into Charles’s death, as they feared reprisals.
The CPS decision leaves several questions unanswered – which may be considered by the jury at the inquest into Charles’s death, which is due to start on 4th June. On the one hand, the CCTV appears to show a young man resisting arrest. On the other hand, Charles was already in handcuffs and the police officer believed he had put something in his mouth and the officer was trying to get it out again as Charles struggled.
It does not appear to have entered the officer’s mind that even if he got to his feet, Charles would not be able to go far fast, given the handcuffs. It does not seem to have occurred to him that Charles may be choking on what he had swallowed.
Was the struggle Charles attempting to resist arrest, or was it Charles desperately trying to sit up because he was choking? We can see – and it is a shocking moment to witness – Charles going limp. Was that the moment he lost consciousness because he could not breathe?
The latter is a painful possibility which the jury must consider. And if it concludes that it was even possible that Charles was trying to breathe, rather than escape, every police officer in London must watch this CCTV and be told that if a suspect may have swallowed something, that thing may be a choking hazard.