Asian cop’s long fight for justice ends happily

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

London : A celebrated Asian traffic cop’s 14-year-long fight for justice had a happy ending after a court quashed his criminal conviction and a police chief offered to help him rejoin the force he once accused as racist.

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Sultan Alam, who was arrested and thrown into jail in 1996 just before a hearing on charges of racial harassment brought by him against his Cleveland police force, broke down in tears when the Court of Appeal ruled Monday that he did not commit the theft for which he was jailed for nine months.

As Lord Justice Moore-Brick read out his ruling, Alam, a resident of the northern town of Linthorpe, said he wished to rejoin the police force.

“I never wanted to leave in the first place. I was pushed. I was very good at my job,” said Alam, who has been working at a mobile phone shop since being released from jail in 1999.

“My life has been in limbo for thirteen long and painful years. I will now pick up the pieces of what’s left and try to build a better future, especially for my children, who have only had a part-time father for far too long,” he added.

Alam hit the British headlines in 1993 after starting legal action against his police force in Cleveland, 450 km north of London, claiming he had been the victim of racial discrimination by four officers. Examples of racial harassment included a Ku Klux Klan poster being left on his desk.

But just before the hearing was to begin, he was arrested by the brother-in-law of one of the four accused men on charges of handling stolen motor vehicle parts, convicted for 18 months and discharged from the Cleveland Police in disgrace.

But Alam continued his campaign from jail, and after his release nine months later gathered enough evidence to convince an independent investigating force – the Northumbria police – of his case. All four police officers named by him were charged in 2004.

At Monday’s hearing, Moore-Bick described it as a “very grave case” in which the police had “deliberately misled the court in order to suppress evidence.”

And Alam tasted sweet victory when Sean Price, chief constable of Cleveland, said his police force would welcome him back into the force.

“Neither myself nor any of the current Association of Chief Police Officers team were in post at the time of these events. But it is only right that I, as Chief Constable, apologise on behalf of the force to Mr Alam for what happened,” Price said.

“We understand it is his wish to take up his legal right to return to police duties and we will support him fully in this course of action,” he added.