27/07/2006

Civil trial granted over police shooting

The family of a man who was shot dead while naked and unarmed in his flat will be allowed to put the force on trial for unlawful killing.

On Thursday, judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that a civil trial should be held over whether Pc Chris Sherwood was guilty of assault and battery when he shot 39-year-old James Ashley, during a raid in Hastings, East Sussex in January 1998.

Mr Ashley, who was from Liverpool, was shot dead after he got up from the bed he was sharing with his girlfriend during a drugs raid at his flat.

Sussex Police will now have to show that Pc Sherwood, who was found not guilty of murder in a criminal trial, acted in self defence during the raid.

Announcing the decision, the Court of Appeal's Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said that the family should be allowed to take the issue to court "if only in order to seek a declaration that the deceased was unlawfully killed by Pc Sherwood, especially in circumstances in which there has been no inquest or public inquiry into the death".

Edward Faulks QC, who represented the police during the hearing, told the judges that the self defence issue was "a point of great constitutional importance". He said: "The effect of this court's order is that there will be a murder trial which could result in a declaration of unlawful killing."

Mr Faulk's application to take the case to the House of Lords was refused.

The ruling was welcomed by Mr Ashley's son James and his father, also called James.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Ashley's son said: "Nothing will ever bring my dad back, but I am very pleased with the outcome of this appeal. Maybe our family will now get some answers."

(KMcA/SP)

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