Six officers charged over the death of a Birmingham father-of-three in their custody were cleared by a jury yesterday, sparking condemnation from his family and police officials.

The family of Michael Powell described the outcome as a "travesty of justice" while representatives of the policemen said the multi-million pound trial should never have been brought to court.

Mr Powell, a 38 year-old factory worker described as showing mentally instability, died in the early hours of September 7, 2003, after he was detained outside his m other's home in Birmingham.

None of the officers had ever been accused of causing Mr Powell's death.

Mr Powell died after being transferred from Thornhill Road police station in Hands-worth to the City Hospital.

After the verdicts, the Powell family issued a statement saying: "We are like any other family who have lost a loved one as a result of a death in police custody. All we are seeking is justice - sadly, today's verdict is a travesty of just that. Mikey was a hardworking, loving father of three boys - that's how he will be remembered by his family and friends.

"But for others, Mikey has become just another statistic, another person added to the growing list of deaths in custody where no police officer has been held accountable."

One of his cousins, Joyce Springer, said they were considering civil action and called for changes in the police service to restore trust.

Tim Coolican, head of the criminal department at Russell Jones & Walker in Birmingham, issued a statement on behalf of the ten officers welcoming the jury's verdicts.

"The officers have always believed that they acted properly to deal with a violent and disturbed man, having been called to do so by his family," he said.

"They find it difficult to understand why this case was brought to court.

"This misconceived prosecution can only leave everyone involved, including the Powell family, damaged by the process." He also claimed the prosecution had been characterised by "basic failures of investigation and a lack of objectivity".

Police Federation chairman Jan Berry added: "Not only has it caused great dis-tress to the officers involved, it has cost the public purse several million pounds."

West Midlands Police said: "We now await the report from Northamptonshire Police and will consider any matters arising from it in consultation with the IPCC."