Man takes police to court over alleged hitman’s identity

July 20, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A businessman has taken a police force to the High Court after it refused to tell him the name of a hitman who has allegedly been hired to kill him.

Michael Austen, 30, was stunned when detectives from Wiltshire Police told him that someone had taken out a contract on his life.

But he has now launched a landmark legal challenge after the constabulary refused to reveal further information about the hitman’s identity.

Motor trader Michael took Wiltshire Police to the High Court on Monday, where a judge gave him permission to apply for a judicial review.

Michael, from Cricklade, Wilts., said details of the threat to his life were revealed by detectives in front of his shocked mother.

”They said they had been given information that I’ve got an assassin on me and I’m going to get shot or killed or something, which is obviously nonsense,” he said.

”My mum was there when they issued the warning. I know there’s no harm to me but when you tell someone’s mum they are going to be harmed it’s a different matter.

”They said they had intelligence that there was someone who was armed and would shoot me. Mum’s getting better now because we told her there was no truth in it.”

Speaking outside the High Court he added: ”The police accepted there is an immediate threat but they won’t tell us anything about it.”

In February this year police carried out a huge multi-agency raid on Michael’s van dealership, Austen Trading Ltd, in Cricklade, Wilts.

Scores of police officers along with HM Revenue and Customs, the UK Border Agency, VOSA and the Environment Agency searched the premises for drugs.

Michael was fined after officers recovered a small amount of cocaine and thousands of pounds was seized from his safe under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

But the following day a district judge ordered that it be handed back to him due to lack of evidence.

On February 26 this year Michael was invited to a police station to be given an Osman Warning – where police inform someone of a ”real and immediate” threat to their life.

But when Michael asked chief constable of Wiltshire Police Brian Moore for details of the hitman’s identity he refused to reveal any further information.

The force claimed it could breach data protection laws and could encourage Michael to take the law into his own hands and hunt down his would-be assassin.

He took the case to the High Court where his QC Hugh Tomlinson claimed the police’s refusal breaches his ”right to life” under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Judge Mr Justice Charles ruled that Michael had asked a ”perfectly normal, intuitive question” and has given him permission to apply for a judicial review.

He said: ”The police just said ‘no’ because it is obvious why we should not, but it is not obvious to me.

”There’s an arguable case that they should be answering the request made.

”Equally, it seems to me there is an arguable case that they simply failed to give coherent reasons as to why they are not answering the requests made.”

The judicial review, which could force Wiltshire Police to reveal further information about the case, will be heard on a date to be fixed.

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