Fresh inquest concludes finding actions of Metropolitan Police contributed to the 1997 death of Onese Power

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Sean Horstead of Garden Court was instructed by Daniel Machover of Hickman and Rose solicitors for the family. The family are also represented by INQUEST.

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Onese Power suffered fatal injuries during a dangerous high-speed Metropolitan Police pursuit in Kentish Town, London on 17 August 1997. An inquest in February 1998 returned an 'open verdict', leaving the family with more questions than answers.

On 8 March a fresh inquest concluded that Onese Power died in a Road Traffic Collision, with the jury finding the duration and intensity of the pursuit contributed to his death. In a narrative conclusion they also found that, once engaged in the pursuit, the required ongoing assessment of risk by police officers was inadequate, given the escalation of risk, especially from Pathsull Road onwards. They also found that this escalation was inadequately assessed by the pursuing officers and was not communicated to central command, meaning the pursuit continued.

Although the jury concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine if close proximity between the police car and Mr Power’s bike in Royal College Street was a contributory factor to the collision, the evidence heard at the inquest made it clear that if the police had terminated the pursuit before Royal College Street, as the jury’s conclusion indicates, this death would have been prevented.

Onese was a 51 year old father of three, who lived and worked in Shepherd's Bush, London. His family describe him as a loving, protective and supportive family man, who was well known and well liked in the neighbourhood.

The inquest heard evidence that Onese nearly came off his bike on several occasions when going over speed bumps on Pathsull Road prior to the collision. Additionally, the police driver nearly knocked over a member of the public on a bicycle, but none of this was relayed back to the control room. In contrast to the original hearing, this inquest also heard evidence of Onese slowing down and a potential closing in of the pursuit car.

Questioning of experts on behalf of the family led to evidence that Onese was likely to be doing a maximum speed of 59 miles per hour (mph) from about 70 metres from the collision, following heavy-braking, reducing the speed to around 32mph at the point of impact. The 1998 jury was directed that at the same 70 metre point he was travelling at least 72mph, which gave a misleading impression of the final seconds of the pursuit.

In December 2017 the original inquest conclusion was quashed by the high court and this fresh inquest was ordered. This came after the family spent over two decades battling for the truth, and with the assistance of a legal team funded by crowdjustice donations. Without legal funding at the original inquest, Onese’s widow, Ann Power, represented the family on her own. In contrast, an experienced barrister acted for the police at public expense.

Deficiencies in the first inquest included the police’s refusal to disclose witness statements to Ann Power, denying her the opportunity to properly question officers on their identical accounts of the pursuit and collision. At the original inquest there were also failures to investigate marks on the police car which could have been caused by the impact with the motor bike.  All these matters were fully explored at the second inquest.

Ann Power said:

“As far as I’m concerned, my husband was chased to his death. In the words of the police driver, ‘The intention was for it to stop. However, that was gonna happen. I mean there was always the possibility that he would crash.’ Make of that what you will.”

This case has been reported in the Camden New Journal and Ham & High.

Sean Horstead of Garden Court is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests and Inquiries Team. Leslie Thomas QC, also of this team, was instructed at the successful earlier High Court stage in this case.

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