When former UK paratrooper Christopher Alder died in police custody in Hull his death left many unanswered questions. He and his family were failed by the system. To add insult to injury it turned out they had been failed again when it was revealed that his loved ones had buried the wrong body after mortuary mistakes.
Today the UK government decided it would settle an outstanding claim of "unfair police treatment" which had been made by family members. Sounds fair? Well on the surface it does but there is more to it than that.
Chris choked to death in a Hull police Station in 1998. During the 13 years which followed his sister Janet fought long and hard for someone to officially admit blame.
There was so much that was wrong about the death of Christopher Alder yet it seemed that the authorities wanted to sweep it all under the carpet. Janet's determination meant she did not simply fall at the first hurdle but continued her fight.
She eventually took her complaints to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg claiming that the treatment of her brother was a "violation of the substantive aspects of two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights - Article 3, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Article 14, which prohibits discrimination". Janet also alleged "a breach of the procedural guarantees" of Article 3 along with Article 2, the right to life.
Ten years ago a coroner informed the Alder family that Chris had been "unlawfully killed". Getting authorities to officially accept this and apologise was a different matter.
It appears however seeking out a judgement form the European Court of Human Rights has in some small way paid off. Today this court closed its case when the UK government finally accepted responsibility and settled a claim. It is a paltry amount for the distress that was caused to Chris and his family, 26,500 euros (£22,770) to the family, plus 7,500 euros (£6,440) to cover legal costs and expenses. Hardly fair compenstaion in my mind.
Janet however told the BBC that, "I see it as an admission that what we've been fighting for for 13 years was true and that the government had failed to hold them accountable." It certainly took them long enough. Would they have done so if Janet had not been so determined and contacted the Human Rights Court yhough?
Part of the problem after the event was that an independent inquiry was noticeably absent. It was not until 2006 that finally an Independent Police Complaints Commission was able to conclude that "four of the officers present in the custody suite when Mr Alder died were guilty of the "most serious neglect of duty""
Today's admission and settlement falls far short of what they should have entaiiled. For Chris and his family they are a start. A means of closure perhaps at long last. Janet has done Chris proud.
The body burial mix-up is still under review.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog