Police ‘sorry’ and admit that killing was racially driven
An internal inquiry found “significant failings” in investigators’ repeated denials that racial prejudice fuelled the attack.
Before the killing in August last year, police were repeatedly called out by Simon San’s family over complaints of racial harassment and assault.
Immediately after the assault, witnesses reported hearing the youths describe the victim as a “Chinky”.
Despite this, and the family’s insistence that the murder was racist, police denied this when they passed their report to prosecutors. John Reid, 16, who backed the delivery driver up against a wall in Lochend, Edinburgh, and killed him with a single punch on 10 August last year, was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to five years’ detention.
Michael Roberts and Keir Rodger pled guilty to assaulting Mr San by rocking his car and forcing him to leave the vehicle.
Roberts was sentenced to 42 months, Rodger to 34, and an unnamed 14-year-old, who admitted breaching his bail conditions but denied assault, was referred to the children’s hearing system. The trial judge described them as “pack animals”.
Mr San’s father, Trieu Seng San, said in a statement: “I am convinced that the accused received a lesser sentence because the officers failed to investigate the racial motivation of this case.”
Racially motivated crimes carry a higher sentence, but judge Lord Matthews was told in court there was no evidence to suggest that was the motive behind the killing of Mr San, who worked for the Yong Hua Gardens Takeaway restaurant.
Aamer Anwar, the family’s lawyer, said: “The family strongly believe that they received such treatment because of their Chinese origin.”
Deputy chief constable Steve Allen has denied Lothian and Borders Police was “institutionally racist”.
Mr Anwar has also called on the Lord Advocate to order “an immediate inquiry into their prosecution of this case”.
However, the Crown Office has said it will not as there was nothing in the police evidence presented to prosecuters to suggest the crime was racially motivated.
Mr San’s mother’s is understood to be suffering from cancer and her health has deteriorated since her son’s death. His tearful father said: “This is the darkest moment of my life, knowing that I am going to be left alone in this house soon.”
He added that “the findings do not offer me any peace”. A number of officers have been disciplined in the wake of Operation Waymark, the internal inquiry into the criminal investigation. However, Mr Allen refused to say what action had been taken, or how many officers had worked on the original investigation.
He promised that “lessons had been learned” and would be added to police guidance and working practices.
Turning to face Mr San’s father, who was holding a framed picture of his 40-year-old son, he admitted that “obviously, it was a racist crime”.
Mr Allen said: “I am sorry we didn’t listen to you when you told us you thought the attack on Simon was racially motivated.
“I am sorry we did not treat you in a way that made you feel like you mattered to us.
“I am sorry that we did not record and investigate the attack on Simon as a racist incident when we should have done so.”
He said he did not believe the force was institutionally racist, adding: “One of the complaints put forward to us was that this was a systemic failure.
“I’m content that systems, processes and procedures are robust and will deliver the results they are meant to deliver.”
The investigation highlighted a string of failures in the way the criminal justice system dealt with victims of Chinese ethnicity.
There was no interpreter available when Mr San was taken to identify his son’s body and he had to wait a week for one to be found.
When the Crown Office contacted the family, the interpreter mistakenly called Simon the accused and asked his father to bring him to court.
The family has promised it will continue to campaign against the Crown Office’s refusal to hold its own inquiry.
Mr Anwar said: “The San family will never forgive the officers who were responsible for the unnecessary pain they have caused the family.”
A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “The Crown was alert to the question of racial motivation from the beginning of the investigation and raised the issue with the police at an early stage.”