Payout over ex-soldier’s death in custody ‘an insult’

23rd December 2011. Janet Alder.
23rd December 2011. Janet Alder.
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THE sister of a Falklands veteran who died in police custody has branded the level of compensation offered by the Government as “an insult”.

Proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg were halted last month when the Government admitted breaching the European Convention on Human Rights over the death of Christopher Alder, 37, a former paratrooper who died in a police station in Hull in 1998.

As well as issuing an apology through the court, the Government also agreed to pay £25,780 in compensation, plus £6,440 in costs.

But Mr Alder’s sister Janet, 50, who has spent the last 13 years campaigning for justice for her brother, said the settlement came nowhere near to accounting for the loss and suffering his death had caused.

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, Miss Alder said: “I think it’s an insult. I’ve had how many years taken away? Thirteen years. I lost my job. My mind’s been focused on what happened to Christopher, the detail, the trauma.

“Then they turn round and say yes, we have failed, treating you as if you are the one in the wrong and then wondering why I’m shouting at them. How dare they? They are paid by the public purse to do a job and nobody’s been held accountable.”

Miss Alder, who has yet to receive a penny of the settlement more than a month later, also said she felt disappointed that no-one on behalf of the Government had contacted the family to say sorry personally.

“Nobody has contacted me to apologise,” she said. “I would have thought somebody would have been in touch. It’s like a hot potato; nobody wants to touch it. They all know they are in trouble.”

The family’s case had been supported by human rights campaign group Liberty, which called the Government’s apology “unprecedented”.

In a statement to the court, the Government said it accepted there had not been an “effective and independent” investigation into the case, which amounted to breaches of the Convention. It also said steps had been taken to prevent a repeat of the circumstances surrounding Mr Alder’s death.

After being hurt in a scuffle outside a nightclub, he was arrested after becoming aggressive in hospital and choked to death on the floor of the police station with his arms handcuffed behind his back.

The court said the level of compensation was consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases.

The Home Office would not discuss the level of compensation, but a spokesman said: “Mr Alder’s death in 1998 is a matter of great regret and our sympathies are with his family.

“Humberside Police has already apologised to Mr Alder’s family and work is ongoing across the police service to ensure this sort of tragic incident is not repeated.”

In a shocking twist, Mr Alder’s body was found in a morgue last month, 11 years after he was thought to have been buried.