26 February – 1 March 2018
Magistrates Court, Goole
A gross misconduct hearing into intrusive surveillance by Humberside police of a bereaved family during an inquest has concluded, finding ‘no case to answer’ for two (then junior) officers involved, as the source of the verbal orders they received could not be identified and were not recorded. The hearing found that the surveillance of Janet Alder and her lawyer during the inquest of her brother, Christopher Alder, was not lawful or appropriate and could not be justified. However, the chair concluded that the officers on the ground could not be blamed for following instructions.
Between 3 July and 24 August 2000, an inquest took place into Christopher Alder’s death in Humberside police custody. A team of police were deployed to follow Christopher’s sister Janet, and her legal representative. This came to light in 2013 and was investigated by the then Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), who found evidence of a case to answer for gross misconduct for four officers, two of whom (the most senior officers) had already retired.
Humberside police declined to bring proceedings, but were then directed to do so in respect of the two officers still serving. The officers were given anonymity during the hearing. They said that they believed they were carrying out lawful orders, given from higher up in the command chain. Evidence was given by a number of former senior officers at Humberside police who denied ordering the operation, and the hearing was unable to establish the source of its authorisation. Evidence was also given that surveillance officers could be told to follow individuals but without being told why.
Janet Alder was an ‘interested party’ at the hearing, however she and her lawyer were disregarded by the Appropriate Authority (Humberside) and will be making a formal complaint about their treatment.
Ruth Bundey, solicitor for Janet said: “This entire process marginalised and disrespected Janet. The Appropriate Authority (Humberside) ignored her rights as an interested party and declined to communicate with us. Those in attendance seemed obsessed that she might be potentially disruptive, when nothing was further from the truth. Surveillance all over again.”
Janet Alder, Christopher Alder’s sister, said: “I am not surprised nothing came out of this. Humberside had no real commitment to bringing the case. I still don’t know why I was followed. And those who authorised the surveillance have evaded responsibility.”
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “This hearing amounts to a shocking lack of accountability, as senior officers who authorised this inappropriate and unlawful surveillance evade identification and no one is held responsible. This reprehensible spying was a clear attempt to intimidate and undermine Janet’s attempts to get to the truth about the brutal reality of the unlawful killing of her brother by police.
Decades on Janet is still being treated with contempt, as she was ignored and forgotten in this process. The weak and inconclusive results of this hearing are of great concern, as the wider issue of undercover policing begins to be explored. An unlawful killing and unlawful surveillance with no accountability shows that the rule of law does not apply to police officers at an individual and senior management level.”