The award of £60,000 for damages to Babar Ahmad in his civil case against the Metropolitan police for injuries inflicted on him during a pre-dawn arrest by helmeted officers at his home in December 2003 is a stunning victory for Ahmad, and an admission by the police of shocking abuse and Islamophobia by its officers. Ahmad was never charged after his arrest.
Six years ago, Ahmad sought an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into his mistreatment, but it concluded there was only sufficient evidence to bring disciplinary proceedings against one officer, PC James Bowen, for his one act of an “initial charge” at Ahmad. The Crown Prosecution Service concluded the assault was “not provable to criminal standard”.
After this morning’s judgment, Ahmad’s wife said: “At last Babar has been exonerated. This whole case was always about the police lies, and their attempt to say that Babar had lied.
Now everyone knows that he never did. The money is not the point and never was.”
The case was against five officers of the Territorial Support Group from Paddington Green police station, one of whom was identified only as X. It had been expected to last all week. But the medical evidence that was to be brought of the litany of injuries sustained by Ahmad, the mysterious loss by the police of sacks of documents of records of the arrest, the refusal by some officers to attend the court, citing “fear”, and the chance discovery by Ahmad’s legal team that X was facing another case of assault, meant that Sir Paul Stevenson preferred to pay than see the case continue. But the police still refused to apologise.
On Monday, the High Court heard that Ahmad was subjected to “serious gratuitous prolonged unjustified violence” and “religious abuse” after his arrest.
The court was told that after beating him in the bedroom, stamping on his feet, and swearing at him, the officers forced him to his knees and mocked him, “Where is your god now?”
Phillippa Kaufmann, counsel for Ahmad, told the High Court that he had been dragged by handcuffs, causing acute pain, and while in the back of a police vehicle subjected to neck holds, which made him feel like he was dying.
As his counsel said, his treatment at the hands of the officers was intended to humiliate and debase him and make him fear for his life.
Kaufmann said the officers engaged in “extreme, sadistic and dangerous acts of violence against an individual who was completely restrained and vulnerable”.
This was in fact an “extreme abuse of power which was in no sense justified nor was it excusable”.
Within the Muslim community this settlement will be greeted with great satisfaction, particularly by those who have experienced similar treatment.
Ahmad was again arrested on August 5 2004 on an extradition warrant from the United States, and has been in Long Lartin prison fighting extradition ever since. His case is currently before the European Court of Human Rights.