London

Metropolitan Police officer faces riots race abuse charge

  • 17 April 2012
  • From the section London
New Scotland Yard sign
Image caption Eighteen Met officers and one civilian staff member are being investigated over alleged racism

A Metropolitan Police officer is to be charged with racially abusing a suspect during the London riots, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

A review by the CPS found "sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction" of PC Alex MacFarlane.

It has now advised the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to press charges.

It comes after a review was carried out following a decision by the CPS not to charge the officer in January.

London's chief prosecutor, Alison Saunders, said lawyers for the 21-year-old man behind the complaint challenged that decision and a review was carried out.

The advice to charge Mr MacFarlane was issued after a more senior lawyer - who was not previously involved - decided there was enough evidence to prosecute.

Ms Saunders said the initial decision not to prosecute was "regrettable", adding that a prosecution was needed to maintain public confidence.

Self-defence claim

The CPS has decided to uphold its initial decision not to pursue a separate charge of assault relating to an allegation of "strangulation".

Ms Saunders said there were inconsistencies over the identity of the officer accused of taking hold of the man.

"The complainant said that this was one officer but all other witnesses dispute this," said Ms Saunders.

"There is also inconsistency over why the officer, who does accept that he took hold of the complainant, did so. He and other witnesses say it was in response to the complainant's apparent aggression and in self-defence."

The alleged incident occurred in Beckton, east London, on 11 August - during the week of the riots - when the man was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs but no charges were brought against him.

Racism pledge

Another allegation of abuse by a police officer against a youth at Forest Gate police station remains under consideration, the CPS said.

Currently 18 Met officers and one civilian staff member are being investigated over alleged racism.

The police watchdog announced on Monday that it would now automatically investigate all complaints of racism against the Metropolitan Police.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said he was pleased prosecutors had reviewed their original decision.

"We have to let the criminal case take its course," he said, adding: "I'm glad that it will be tested in court".

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