JUSTIN Berry's death is emblematic of the torment endured by many victims of violent crime.

The tragedy should also serve as a reminder to the police of their duty to treat those victims with the greatest sensitivity.

Mr Berry suffered what detectives described as a "bizarre" assault in April. While cycling home late at night he was struck on the face and came round to discover a plastic cable tied around his neck. He nearly died.

Although he recovered physically, Mr Berry suffered from depression following the assault, and took his own life a couple of weeks later. He was 31.

It is a desperately sad story. In a few brutal moments, one man's life was shattered, and his friends and loved ones were left trying to pick up the pieces.

Yesterday, an inquest heard that Mr Berry's ordeal was made worse by a line of police questioning which insinuated that he might have caused his own injuries.

As a spokesman for the North Yorkshire force said, officers must consider every possibility. But in a case like this, they have an obligation to tread with the utmost care.

Mr Berry was very vulnerable. He had just been through a terrible experience. He was also gay, which left him feeling the police almost "expected him to be some sort of pervert".

It is now a decade since the North Yorkshire police was rocked by scandals over sexism, bullying and a so-called "canteen culture". Many training initiatives were put in place as a result, and the force is undoubtedly the better for them.

But in this case the coroner ruled an assault victim was traumatised for a second time by the police investigation. That suggests more lessons can still be learned.

Updated: 12:06 Tuesday, October 21, 2003