May 23 2013 Latest news:
Exclusive by Jane Ball, News Editor
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The father of a man found crushed in a cement mixer more than ten years ago is using human rights laws to sue the head of the police force responsible for the original investigation into the death.
Solicitors for Les Balkwell, from Hornchurch, this week submitted a detailed damages claim to Leeds High Court against the chief constable of Essex Police, Jim Barker-McCardle.
The documents allege his force breached Section 6 and Article 2 of Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act by failing to carry out “an effective investigation into Lee Balkwell’s death.”
Lee was found trapped between the drum and chassis of the industrial vehicle at Baldwins Farm, Dennises Lane, in July 2002.
Police said the death was a tragic industrial accident and closed the case after 19 days but Les, 65, has spent the past decade demanding a full criminal re-investigation.
A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), released in January last year after four years, found the original investigation was “seriously flawed”, for which Mr Barker-McCardle apologised.
Les’s case is being taken on by top Leeds-based human rights lawyer, Simon McKay, who submitted 18 separate alleged breaches to the court, including failures by police to seize evidence; interview witnesses; preserve the integrity of CCTV evidence; obtain expert opinion; and keep Les sufficiently involved in the probe.
Les said: “This is not about the money; this is, as I have always said, about getting justice for Lee; getting facts out in the open; and getting Essex Police to assume responsibility for their failings.”
Mr McKay, the man who forced the disclosure of MPs’ expenses in the High Court, said: “The message here is that Les Balkwell will not rest until he gets justice for his dead son.
“If successful, it would show the incompetancy of a police force and that the public should be protected in how it investigates crimes.”
A spokesman for Mr Barker-McCardle confirmed he had received a letter of claim but would not comment further.
An inquest into Lee’s death, carried out in 2008, ruled he had been unlawfully killed as a result of gross negligence manslaughter.
Five people were arrested in connection with the investigation in November last year. They were released on bail soon after and this month were re-bailed until April.
The arrests were carried out by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate who have been investigating the circumstances around Lee’s death since August 2010.