Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Christopher Alder: Justice remains little more than an ideal for some - by Richard Sudan

Christopher Alder

The story broke at the weekend that Hull City Council had mixed up the body of former British paratrooper Christopher Alder 37 who was said to have been buried over a decade ago with that of Grace Kamara, a Nigerian woman in her 60’s who had died of natural causes.

Alder however had died in police custody, footage of which was captured on CCTV.  He had been arrested by police and was handcuffed face down.  The footage of Alder in the cell surrounded by officers appears to reveal the circumstances in which he had died.  Trousers around his ankles face down in a pool of blood, with officers allegedly making monkey noises, 11 minutes of footage is said to show the police standing around laughing while Christopher lays dying. Police later claimed they thought he was putting on an act.

Needless to say all of the officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing by 2002.  The independent police complaints commission (IPCC) did however concede that the officers were guilty of “Unwitting racism” whatever that means.  I’m not sure how a person or persons can be unwittingly racist, especially when they are police officers charged with the wellbeing of an individual in their custody.  The resulting tragedy seems more like racism due to negligence, not the by product of some level of incompetence.

It must be acknowledged that this story unfolds in the backdrop of the fight for justice of countless other families who have lost a loved one in police custody.  Here is a list of the individuals who have died in police custody over the last 40 years published by United Family and Friends Campaign
No guesses for how many convictions accompany the list totaling more than 3000.

While a statement from Hull City Council chief executive Nicola Yates conceded that “At the moment, we cannot explain this” the tragedy surrounding the case of Christopher Alder is a sharp reminder of the injustices that many families continue to face and is in many ways a double edged sword.

It’s difficult to view the incompetence surrounding the mix up of his body as anything other than another symptom of a system which routinely fails to convict any police officers of any wrongdoing- especially when a Black person dies in police custody.

Christopher Alder’s sister Janet who along with her family believed she had buried her brother more than ten years ago speaking to press in Yorkshire has said that “I think when we buried Christopher they made a mistake, but because we’d had the funeral they didn’t want to release the body of that woman because it would come out.”

“This is why her family has had a hard time trying to get the release of the body.”

The campaign for justice and dignity for Christopher Alder and countless other families continues.

By Richard Sudan
(Originally published at: http://blogs.independent.co.uk)