Three security guards from the controversial security firm G4S have been cleared of manslaughter, despite accusations they killed a 46-year-old man by forcibly restraining him on a charter airline flight.
Jimnmy Mubenga, from Angola, died on the 12 October 2010 after being restrained by guards at Heathrow Airport while on a British Airways flight. He was due to be deported to Angola from the UK.
The guards, Terrence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52, and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, were accused of killing Mubenga by forcibly pushing his head down and restricting his breathing.
The court heard fellow passengers said Mubenga told the guards he couldn’t breathe. Mubenga was already handcuffed and held down with a seatbelt during the restraining.
In a statement issued on the guards behalf, Alex Preston from Olliers Solicitors said: “Terrence Hughes, Colin Kaler and Stuart Tribelnig are delighted to have been found not guilty so quickly. They bitterly regret the death of Mr Mubenga but have always said they were trying to do a very difficult job in difficult circumstances to the best of their ability.”
“They are grateful to the judge and jury for the care they have taken resolving these sad events,” the statement added.
The hearing comes weeks after the death of Eric Garner in New York, an African-American who also suffocated despite telling police that he couldn’t breathe whilst being restrained.
Mubenga came to the UK with his wife Adrienne Makenda Kambana in 1996, but faced extradition after being involved in a violent nightclub brawl in 2006.
Mubenga’s lawyer, Mark Dennis QC, also told the court he was co-operative before boarding the extradition flight, but became upset after he spoke on the phone in the plane’s toilet cubicle.
“Each officer would have known from their training and from common sense that keeping someone in such a position was likely to cause a person harm yet they did so over a prolonged period and did so ignoring shouts from Mr Mubenga that he was in trouble,” Dennis said.
“‘I can’t breathe’ shouts were heard by many a passenger seated further away.”
Following the court hearing, a number of human rights organizations expressed their disappointment, including Amnesty International UK, who said the outcome ignored the ‘multiple failings’ that led to Mubenga’s death.
The Migrants Rights Network also said the outcome would not provide comfort to immigrants facing deportation from the UK.
“Once again a migrant has lost their life in detention, and once again no one will ultimately be held to account,” said MRN’s action director Jerome Phelps.
“There needs to be a fundamental review of the detention and deportation system, to ensure that the UK does not needlessly jeopardize the lives of people who have come here in search of a better future.”