Who was Roger Sylvester?
Roger was a healthy Black man who lived in Tottenham, London. He came from a large loving family and had numerous friends. He worked as an administration officer for a drop-in mental health centre where he was a member of his trade union, UNISON. He was well liked by his colleagues and clients alike. Roger had suffered from mental health problems in the past but for the last two years of his life he had been well and feeling positive about the future.
On the 11th January 1999, Roger was detained outside of his home, under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, and restrained “for his own safety” by eight police officers. They took him to St Ann's hospital where, after being restrained for a further 20 minutes, he went limp. Roger remained in a coma until his life support machine was switched off seven days later.
What was the legal implication?
In 2003 an inquest decided that Roger Sylvestors killing was unlawful. In reaching its verdict, the jury concluded Mr Sylvester had been restrained for too long, in the wrong position, and was not given sufficient medical attention. However, the decision was later overturned and a judge determined it an open verdict. The Metropolitan Police officers involved in Roger’s arrest welcomed the reversal of what they called an “irrational” ruling, accusing the media and MPs of vilifying the police officers and stated that the previous inquest and media attention confused the jurors.
If you want to find out more about other victims of police and state violence in the UK, click here.
The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where use of force is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where mental health-related issues are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody.