Yorkshire officers accused of spying on sister of dead man were ‘ordered from above’, hearing told

Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
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TWO HUMBERSIDE Police officers accused of gross misconduct for spying on the sister of a man who died in custody would have been acting on orders from higher-ranking officers, their lawyers have told a hearing.

Officer One and Officer Two - as they are being referred to - appeared behind screens at a Humberside Police misconduct hearing in Goole today.

Christopher Alder

Christopher Alder

They are accused of gross misconduct over the unauthorised surveillance of Janet Alder more than 17 years ago, outside the Hull inquest at Hull into her brother Christopher’s death.

Mr Alder, 37, choked to death while handcuffed and lying on the floor of a police station in Hull in 1998.

The hearing at the old Goole Magistrates’ Court was told how a police surveillance team was deployed outside the inquest in July 2000 with orders relating to possible public order situations.

The officers facing disciplinary actions are accused of carrying out surveillance on July 28 2000 “without appropriate authorisation and justification” when they followed Ms Alder and her barrister, Leslie Thomas QC, and listened to their conversations.

Jason Pitter QC, representing Officer One - a detective sergeant at the time - said the officer does not have full recollection of the events of 2000 but knows through his “ordinary working practices” he would only have acted on instructions from a more senior officer.

He said that although there may have been failings, “the culpability lies with others, further up the chain and parts of the wider system deployed by Humberside Police Service.

Sam Green QC, for Officer Two, who was then an acting detective sergeant at the time, said his client will also not argue that the surveillance was justified.

Mr Green said: “He is at a loss to know what he was supposed to do once instructed to carry out highly sensitive surveillance.”

He said: “He believed he was carrying out lawful orders.”

Dijen Basu, for Humberside Police, told the panel that when the officers were questioned by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Officer One refused to answer 324 pertinent questions and Officer Two refused 403 times.

He described the death of Mr Alder as “a shameful and terrible episode”.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided the officers would not be prosecuted.

The inquest jury in 2000 returned a verdict of unlawful killing and in 2002 five police officers went on trial. But all the officers were acquitted on the orders of the judge part-way through the proceedings.

Retired chief superintendent Paul Cheeseman told the hearing he did not know who authorised the surveillance of Ms Alder, despite being the Silver Commander for the operation to police the Christopher Alder inquest in 2000.

Mr Cheeseman said there was no cover-up over the surveillance of Ms Alder as the officers reported it at the time.

At the end of his evidence, Mr Green said to him: “Somebody, somewhere in Humberside Police, retired or still serving, the authorising officer, is squirming silently, hoping their identity is not revealed.”

Speaking outside the hearing Ms Alder, 56, from Leeds, said: “My concern is not the surveillance team, it’s who further up ordered it. It’s not these two.”