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Hicks family: Justice has still not been done

Sister of teenager killed in moped crash vows to fight on after misconduct hearing clears officers ­– but left her asking: What about us?

27 October, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Henry Hicks: ‘He was loved by everyone’

VISITORS to the Hicks family home are greeted by a large black-and-white poster of a young man, just on the cusp of adulthood – a constant reminder of a lost friend, brother and son.

On the opposite side of the poster, a tiny white dressing gown lay drying on a radiator on Wednesday morning at the home where Henry Hicks lived.

Embroidered with the name “Henry” in light blue thread, the dressing gown belongs to the one-year-old nephew of the popular Angel teenager who died in a moped crash almost three years ago.

“He was lovely, the best brother we could have asked for. He was loved by everyone, really. He had loads of friends. He was very well respected and he was a proper gentleman – I think that can be seen from his funeral, by how many people turned up,” said Henry’s sister Claudia, 25, speaking exclusively to the Tribune.

More than 1,000 people attended Henry’s funeral in February, 2015, with mourners spilling onto the street outside Holy Redeemer Church in Exmouth Market.

Ms Hicks spoke this week after a misconduct hearing in which it was concluded that four police officers who were tailing her brother in the moments before the fatal crash had not got close enough to signal for him to stop and were not involved in a pursuit, as defined by Met guidelines. A coroner’s inquest had previously said Henry would have believed it to be a pursuit.

Sister Claudia with Henry’s parents David and Dionne. Claudia and David left the misconduct hearing before the panel’s decision was read out

“It’s hard to understand how an inquest jury can find that the four officers were pursuing him and then that [misconduct] panel can go against it,” she said. “What else can we expect when the panel is set up the way it is? I think the whole system is too close. I just don’t think it’s right. We’re obviously not happy. They made out they were victims.”

The three-person panel, chaired by Eileen Herlihy, an employee of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, agreed with the officers – who have never been publicly identified – that they were not taking part in a pursuit. Her co-chairs were Newham police chief, Superintendent Ade Adelekan, and an “independent assessor”, Vincent Walker.

“To be honest I was never really expecting much. You can’t beat the law,” said Ms Hicks. “They’re very powerful.”

She criticised the procedure used in misconduct hearings and the way police officers are held to account, especially when a member of the public ends up dead.

“With the misconduct hearing, they choose the barrister that we have. They choose the panel. They choose the witnesses that can and cannot be called,” she said.

The barrister representing the Hicks family, Jeremy Johnson QC, was chosen by the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile, the four police officers who followed Henry were represented by two barristers, Neil Saunders – husband of director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders – and Matthew Butt, both from Three Raymond Buildings chambers.

Floral tributes to Henry in Wheelwright Street

During the hearing, the panel heard from Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett, a senior officer who helps write police pursuit policy. He said: “They [the officers] did not formally make a requirement for Henry to stop, so were not in the pursuit phase and didn’t ever reach it.”

But the police officer who investigated Henry’s collision, PC Paul Summerton, who gave evidence at the inquest last year, was not present at the misconduct hearing.

He had told the inquest: “It’s my opinion that he did not want to be stopped and spoken to by the police officers.”

When asked if he would have considered himself to have been in a pursuit had he been driving one of the cars behind Henry, he said: “As a uniformed officer I would consider myself to be in pursuit.”

Henry’s sister, alongside his father, left before the chair’s reasoning was read out. In an unprecedented move by the Met, the family were not allowed in the room where the hearing took place but had to watch a live video feed from a separate building.

“I just left. I didn’t want to listen to it, to be honest,” said Ms Hicks. “I thought it was really nasty the way she said: ‘These three police officers have been waiting three years and I’m not going to make them wait any longer.’ What about us? My brother’s been dead for three years. It’s not about them it should be about us.”

During the hearing, Ms Herlihy dismissed the initial accounts of the two officers in the car closest to Henry on his moped. Immediately after the crash, they had told investigators they had signalled for Henry to stop or were less than 12 feet away from him at points.

Scene of the fatal crash in December 2014

During the hearing, they said their initial accounts differed from later ones because of “shock” and that they did not initiate a pursuit by signalling for Henry to stop.

In her decision read out last Friday, Ms Herlihy said: “We accept that in a fast-moving, dynamic situation, accounts from officers may not always be entirely reliable or consistent and we remind ourselves that the events which the officers were relating occurred in a very narrow timeframe of just 60 seconds.”

Ms Hicks believes a member of the public under investigation would not get to change their account. “That’s not how it works,” she said.

Of the future, Ms Hicks said her family would continue fighting for her brother. “Justice has not been done,” she said. “We have not had any justice. I have got ideas [on what to do next] and we’ve got meetings with our solicitors.”

Deborah Coles, Director of Inquest, a charity which supports families of those who die after contact with the police, said: “[The] decision again raises serious questions about the integrity of police misconduct hearings and will further undermine confidence in the mechanism for holding the police to account.

WATCH: CCTV footage from night Henry Hicks died

“It is difficult to reconcile this outcome, reached after two days’ evidence of a police disciplinary panel, with the conclusions of an inquest jury after two weeks of evidence. They came to the opposite conclusion.

“Policies and procedures on police pursuits exist to safeguard lives, particularly important with the year-on-year rise in police pursuit and road traffic fatalities.”

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation revealed Henry had been stopped and searched at least 89 times by police officers in the three years leading up to his death – none of the stops resulted in his arrest.

A separate misconduct hearing for a police officer not involved in the crash is scheduled for April next year.

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