THE recent prosecution of Gurpal Virdi was “the worst I have seen in 40 years of parliaments”, according to veteran Tory MP Peter Bottomley. He was speaking after the swift acquittal of the former Scotland Yard sergeant of charges of indecent assault on a prisoner 28 years ago.
The MP is right to question how the case ever got to court. It stank of revenge against an officer who for 17 years had publicly combated racism in the force.
It all started when Virdi complained that colleagues were failing to record racially motivated attacks properly, only to find himself fitted up and sacked for sending race hate mail to fellow ethnic minority colleagues. It ended with Virdi rejoining the Met and winning large sums in compensation for discrimination and victimisation.
Inaccurate press release
No doubt there were elements within the force, past or present, who believed Virdi was finally getting what he deserved in 2013, when a black man complained that when he was a teenager in 1986, the Sikh officer had racially abused and sexually assaulted him with a truncheon in the back of a police van. How else to explain the Met’s decision to put out a damaging and inaccurate press release about the allegations early last year, when Virdi was about to stand as a Labour candidate in the local elections? It said he had been accused of indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16, when a simple look at the alleged victim’s birth certificate would have shown he was not a minor at all. Sexual assault was a serious enough allegation against Virdi without turning it into child abuse.
The man, who cannot be identified, turned out to be an inveterate liar – he even lied on oath about his marital status until presented with his wedding certificate. He was also a convicted fraudster and bankrupt. He admitted that he had seen publicity about Virdi winning substantial sums from the Met before he went to the police with his allegation. He had told others he wanted to sue the police and had gone to no fewer than 20 solicitors.
It should have been clear to investigating officers from the Met’s directorate of professional standards (the same department which had previously pursued Virdi outrageously for race-hate) that there were serious flaws in the man’s account.
There was no evidence to back up the alleged victim’s claims that when he was arrested for possessing a knife, and in the presence of another officer, he had been sexually assaulted by Virdi in a police van on the way to Battersea police station. Rather, what evidence still existed (most records had been shredded) pointed to Virdi’s innocence.
The man said he was assaulted with a particular type of collapsible truncheon, which was not available in the UK at the time and was not introduced into the Met until years later. The man said Virdi used to drive him around in a police car trying to persuade him to become an informer. In fact Virdi was neither qualified nor permitted to drive police cars.
The only officer called in support of the prosecution, Tom Makins, actually contradicted the complainant’s evidence. He said he remembered an incident in the back of a van when Virdi used what he considered “excessive force” on the “mouthy” youth during a scuffle. Curiously, two other officers identified in what little documentation relating to the man’s arrest still exists were not interviewed. As Virdi’s barrister, Henry Blaxland QC, said: “Taken on its own, Makins’ evidence did not prove that Virdi was guilty of misconduct in public office, let alone indecent assault.”
‘Ten blatant lies’
Further, the complainant had no sign of injury and told no one at the time. He did, however, originally claim to the jury that he had told his lawyer at the time, but that she did not want to pursue it. However, his account of what she is supposed to have said about interview tapes and other matters was subsequently shown to be untrue. It made up one of “ten blatant lies” highlighted to the jury by Blaxland.
Blaxland told the jury: “Mr Virdi is an angry man and he has good reason to be angry.” The Met did not seem to have learnt any lesson from the past, and at best subjected Virdi to a “thoroughly unprofessional and shoddy investigation”.
As Matt Foot, Virdi’s solicitor, told the Eye: “I have no doubt that if the allegations were against anyone else, they would not have been brought.” Peter Bottomley is now demanding a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and the head of the Crown Prosecution Service to find out why the charges were brought.