Police ‘played down’ crime’s racist motive
Senior officers decided the motive behind Mr San’s killing was robbery, despite repeated pleas from his family that they believed the 40-year-old was attacked because he was Chinese.
That officers sought to downplay any racist element to the crime so early in the investigation is revealed in the damning report of an internal inquiry into the case.
Police chiefs yesterday publicly apologised to Mr San’s family for the “significant failings” uncovered by the probe. It is understood a number of officers have been disciplined following the inquiry’s findings, although the force refused to confirm how many or any sanctions they faced.
The family’s solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said that relatives believed the youths convicted over the attack would have received longer sentences had it been considered a racist crime.
He said: “The police denied any racial motivation just hours after Simon’s death, despite the evidence being present. There were significant failures at the heart of this investigation and prosecution and the family strongly believe that they received such treatment because of their Chinese origin.”
Mr San died in August last year after being assaulted by youths in Lochend Road, with 16-year-old John Reid later jailed for culpable homicide.
The inquiry, launched following complaints from the San family, found that officers failed to record the killing as a hate crime despite a number of witnesses telling them the youths who attacked Mr San had referred to him as a “Chinky”.
The officers also learned that one of the accused had been reported for a racist offence while two of the other youths had been charged over an incident where the victim was a Chinese shopkeeper.
Members of the San family, who ran the Yong Hua Garden takeaway on Lochend Road, had also been the victims of previous racist attacks.
The inquiry found paperwork completed at 4am on August 12, 2010, showed that an officer cited “robbery” as the motive behind the attack. Mr San was declared dead at 8.30am that morning after suffering brain injuries from a single punch.
By 12.30pm, a community impact assessment completed by an officer read: “The main risk as perceived was that this had been a hate crime, evidence to date is categoric that this is not the case. ”
The thugs who attacked Mr San had rocked his Smart car before he was punched after getting out of the vehicle. His car keys and mobile phone were then stolen.
The inquiry found that assessing the motive for the attack as robbery was “misguided” and did not consider why the youths had started rocking the car in the first place. The inquiry also ruled that Mr San’s killing should have been declared a “Critical Incident” as an attack on a Chinese man by a group of white males was “unusual and significant” and could impact on the confidence of the larger Chinese community.
.Mr San’s sister had told officers on August 16 that the crime “could” have been racially motivated. The family finally wrote a letter of complaint on August 24 asking why the police were “not taking into account” their belief that Mr San was the victim of a hate crime.
The witness statements detailing racist comments made by the accused were passed to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service who declined to prosecute the youths with a racially aggravated offence.
The San family called for Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC to mount an inquiry into the prosecution of the case, but that demand was refused last night.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said an inquiry into the prosecution of the case was a matter for the Lord Advocate, adding: “In every incident lessons have to be learned and they are being learned here. ”
Michael Roberts, 16, and Keir Rodger, 16, admitted carrying out an assault on Mr San by rocking his car and forcing him to leave the vehicle just before he was killed by a single punch from Reid, who was sentenced to five years in prison. Roberts was later jailed for 26 months while Rodger received 24 months after their sentences were cut on appeal.
n The complaint inquiry concluded “Lothian and Borders Police failed to recognise the attack on Simon was racist”
n A “misguided assessment” that the motive was robbery
n Failure to identify killing of Mr San as a “Critical Incident”
n A lack of relevant training of the senior investigation team
n A “lack of emphasis” placed on previous racist attacks on the San family and the background of the accused
n Placing “little emphasis” on racist language of accused
n Not establishing the perception of the San family that it was a racist attack