Hoping for Change.
Eighteen people have died in this year in police custody so far. Over the past five years (up to the end of 2010) there have been a total of 117 deaths in police custody, according to INQUEST. It is clear from these statistics that custody deaths remains an important issue that the public should take note of in the UK today.
As recently as 22 August 2011 Jacob Michael, a 25-year-old mixed-race man from Widnes, Cheshire, died after an unprovoked altercation with police in which he was assaulted with pepper spray and beaten with batons. Michael’s parents believe their son died on the way to the police station. Requests for medical attention were ignored. No officers from the Cheshire police force have been suspended over the incident.
This death, similar to others, sheds light on the recurring problem of a lax oversight of police conduct and a lack of inquiry into potentially wrongful deaths.
On Saturday 29 October 2011 the annual march against custody deaths will be held at 12:30 pm, beginning with a silent procession from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall followed by a protest outside Downing Street. The march and protest is organised by the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) in memory of those who have died in police custody.
Head Steward of the event, Lee Jasper, said he hopes the rally will,
“Initiate a national campaign to push deaths in custody onto the national agenda so the Prime Minister can understand the national importance of shining a bright light on an area that continues to cause tragedy and anger and poison community relations.”
“The phenomenon of deaths in custody shows no respect to race, class, or religion, and everyone can be affected. As we saw in the case of Mark Duggan there can be profound effects [to custody deaths] not just in areas like Tottenham but the country as a whole."
Jasper stated the issue of custody deaths can be mediated by,
“an independent public inquiry, a reform of the coroner’s inquest system, radical reform of legal aid, changes to the police disciplinary procedure and finally, fundamental reform at the Independent Police Complaints Commission to restore public confidence.”
Jasper is asking volunteers who wish to participate in the march and protest to arrive at 11:30 am on the south side of Trafalgar Square on 29 October.
Oksana Trofimenko and Danny Mucinskas
(First published at OBV: http://www.obv.org.uk/)