Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Letter to Nick Herbert, Home Office from UFFC re: deaths in custody

C/o Inquest 89-93 Fonthill Road, London N4 3JH

Email Contactuffc@gmail.com                                                      Telephone: 07770 432 439

Your ref: M19541/11                                           Reply to: Marcia Rigg – Chair UFFC


The Rt. Hon Nick Herbert MP
Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
30 January 2012

Dear Mr Herbert

Deaths in State Custody

Thank you for your letter of 7 December 2011 in reply to our letter to the Prime Minister of 28 October.

You state that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (the “IPCC”), a public body providing a specific service to the public is “independent – ‘by law’ – and they make their decisions independently of the police ….”.  You thereafter go on to outline the definition for what this means and to whom the IPCC are accountable and the procedures – by law – taken by the IPCC.  We thank you for your clarification.

We note that you make no reference to any report to the fact that 8 out of 9 senior investigators within the IPCC are ex-police officers.  Neither do you comment on the Home Affairs Select Committee’s Inquiry into the work of the IPCC and that the IPCC ‘fail to inspire public confidence’.

You also state that the IPCC will “stand up to scrutiny throughout both the coronal and (if applicable) criminal process”.  If the Home Secretary and Ministers and, in turn, Parliament, to whom the IPCC are accountable, were to investigate fairly and thoroughly, we have no doubt that it will be found that the IPCC requires urgent reform in order to be truly independent – as required by law.

With reference to the 6 priority areas identified by the IPCC to ensure that police forces learn and improve - specifically deaths and serious injuries in police custody - and that deaths, injuries and complaints reduce in number in order that the public’s confidence generally improves, we submit that there is sufficient evidence to show that, even after countless recommendations, including the voluminous recommendations given in the McPherson Report following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry back in February 1997 having held that the police are institutionally racist and evidence of police corruption, there has been little improvement.

Following the recent welcomed “partial” justice by the Stephen Lawrence family, which was unnecessarily long over-due, due to the fact that the Lawrence family had to tirelessly pursue the judicial system for 18 years (and we are proud to say with dignity and remarkable strength), having received unacceptable service in the initial investigation by the police and the judicial system, it is widely accepted that there is still much work to do to bring about justice and change.

You say the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 makes clear that unlawful killing verdicts at Inquests may not be “framed” in such a way as to appear there is any question of criminality.  In contrast, unlawful killing verdicts are given by a jury who have scrutinised the evidence and “found” criminality, hence the unlawful killing verdict.  Any “realistic prospect of conviction” is then quashed by the Crown Prosecutor usually due to insufficient evidence, which evidence of course is likely to be in the custody of the police and in some instances conspiracy is engaged, hence the lack of conviction and accountability of any officer due to deliberate lack of evidence and denial.  So, it’s an unnecessary vicious circle - 18 years to get ‘partial’ justice when the evidence is available all along and after an unlawful killing verdict at an inquest.  Surely this is unlawful.  In any event, it is totally unacceptable. 

Not to mention the Alder family whereby after 13 years, like the Lawrence family, have tirelessly fought the judicial system for the unlawful killing by police (as was found by a jury at an inquest) of Christopher Alder, a solider whom had fought for this country - including the family taking the Crown Prosecution Service to court for not making the police officers accountable for their unlawful racist killing, and thereafter to the European Court of Justice - were further insulted by being informed that, contrary to the fact that the family had buried Christopher some 11 years ago, in fact, his body was still lying in a mortuary, 13 years after his death, and that the family had buried an elderly woman instead!

The Government’s recent unprecedented and highly unusual admittance of failures in that investigation; that it breached its obligations in regard to preserving life and ensuring that no one is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and the giving of an apology: - "The government of the United Kingdom regrets the occurrence of the actions which have led to the bringing of the present application, in particular the treatment in custody of the applicant's brother, Mr Christopher Alder, and the anguish that this treatment and his death have caused to his family.  The government accepts that the lack of an effective and independent investigation in this case constitutes a violation of the procedural obligations in articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. Further, the government accept that the treatment that the applicant's brother received in police custody amounted to a substantive violation of article 3 with 14 of the Convention."  It is deeply worrying that even after all the unlawful treatment, Christopher’s body is still not buried.  The public are deeply alarmed at this and the Government should note that it is of the most greatest concern to us.

We note the list of charges that may be considered outlined by you where the case involves a death in custody or death after contact with the police and that the Government “fully endorses” the requirement for all deaths in custody to be sufficiently investigated under the States obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  Thank you for your clarification.  It is for this reason that you will be pleased to know that on 20 January 2012 the United Families and Friends Campaign supported by others, including the Rev Jessie Jackson of the Civil Rights Movement, launched an e-Petition to 10 Downing Street for there to be an independent inquiry into deaths in custody and no doubt this should contribute to the endorsement. 

You give no reasonable explanation as to why there are no plans to place cameras in police vehicles.  Wasted costs carrying out unnecessarily long drawn out investigations from the public purse could be better spent on cameras at the back of police vehicles.  With respect, and in the interests of the public and the police, and transparency, and the fact that the Government are aware of the genuine concerns of the public about what sometimes happens unlawfully inside some police vehicles by some police officers (such as death or near death or serious injury), this is unbalanced.  For instance, irrespective of the Data Protection Act, cameras are placed on buses, trains, taxi’s, on the street, almost everywhere ‘Big Brothers’ watching, except inside police vehicles. Why? If there is something to hide (which there is), then this is unacceptable to the public.

In contrast, however, CCTV evidence is crucial in any police investigation against the public, and rightly so.  Imagine if police investigations against the public encountered the lack of witnesses or CCTV or the CCTV was not working or had been tampered with in order to conceal any crucial evidence, or even concealed by the police for some reason, criminals would evade murder charges as there would be insufficient evidence and therefore no realistic prospect of conviction, even though there are instances where it is known that a murder was committed by a named person or persons.  Alarmingly, there would be killers on the loose.  Obviously, and we agree, this would be unacceptable by the Government and the public.

You appear in your letter to be ‘tactfully’ silent on the alarming statistics of deaths in custody, apart from repeating the fact that the Government say they regret all these deaths. The Independent Advisory Panel (the “IAP”) on Deaths in Custody report published in 2011 states: “… in total, there were 5,998 deaths recorded for the 11 years from 2000 to 2010.  This is an average of 545 deaths per year.  Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution.”  One should consider, as the Government appears to - by law - doing, whether there has been any improvement in respect of deaths in custody?  If not, why is there no improvement?  Should officers be made accountable for these deaths?  Perhaps if officers and/or officials were properly made accountable for criminal offences, as would a member of the public, things would improve and it would be in the public’s interest to do so.

Nor do you comment on the necessity of officers and/or officials being interviewed by the IPCC immediately after a death in police custody or the prevention of collusion between officers and/or officials (which is unlawful) or full disclosure to families.  Does your silence offer the possibility that police corruption (which is unlawful) is still institutionalised?

We politely repeat that in respect of the Legal Services Commission’s procedure outlined in your letter and reiterated previously by Crispin Blunt; the procedure is unfair.  The State has a duty of care and families should not have to contribute costs for representation at any inquest to find out how their loved one died whilst in the said State’s care.  With respect, an inquest is not a private prosecution by the family. An inquest is a fact-finding exercise and not a method of apportioning guilt. The procedure and rules of evidence, which are suitable for a trial, is unsuitable for an inquest. It is an inquisitorial process, a process of investigation.  The proceedings and evidence at an Inquest shall be directed solely to ascertaining the following matters, namely who the deceased was, how, when and where the deceased came by his death, and the particulars required by the legislative Acts to be registered concerning the death.

We are disappointed that the Prime Minister (to whom we are copying this letter) has not felt it courteous to reply personally to the UFFC or to offer his acceptance or declination to the invitation to meet some of its members; if only to show his sympathy and to listen to the families for the loss of their loved one whilst in the care of the State, and the fact that families were grieving outside his residence.  This would show some regret.

Again, we invite the Prime Minister to meet with us.  A direct voice to express concerns with Mr Cameron would be appreciated.

This is an open letter, as with previous correspondence and in the interests of the public.  All our rights are reserved.

United Families and Friends

Cc:      The Prime Minister, The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

 Open letter from UFFC to the Prime Minister re: deaths in state custody:


Letter from Nick Herbert(Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice):
7th December 2011


Monday, 30 January 2012


A poem by Zita Holbourne, copyright January 2012

David Lammy’s smacks of hypocrisy smack of hypocrisy
He seems to have forgotten his roots and history
If he thinks beating the young into submission
Is the way to instil order and discipline

David Lammy seems to believe the saying ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’
And that if you don’t beat little children, later on they’ll turn violently wild
Boris Johnson has now giving his backing
To Lammy’s call for working class parents smacking

According to Lammy middle class children can play tennis to learn discipline
But if you’re a poor child with working class parents you need a regular beating
The riots would not have happened if only parents had given smacks
The world would be free from disorder, violence and attacks

The cuts to youth centres and slashing of EMA
Tripling of tuition fees and frozen pay
1.2 million Youth unemployed and deprivation
Police attacks, deaths in custody and discrimination

Would all have been acceptable
If mummy and daddy had felt comfortable
Distributing smacks as discipline
The riots would never have been

Perhaps if smacks had been given to all the little aspiring money makers
They wouldn’t have grown up to be greedy irresponsible bankers
And if smacks had been given to those with political ambitions
They wouldn’t have grown into expenses cheating politicians

And if smacks had been given to all the little Davids, Gideons and Borises
They wouldn’t have got involved in gang culture acting so amiss
Joining the Bullingdon Club
And acting like violent thugs

Perhaps if Lammy and his cronies had been smacked in their youth
They’d have learned to act with integrity, conscience and truth
They’d stand up for workers, justice and equalities
And not be so fast to destroy communities

Making and endorsing cuts
And instead they’d have some guts
To stand up against the real criminals
Instead of attacking the most vulnerable

David Lammy smacks of hypocrisy
With his smacks of hypocrisy


BARAC will be holding a public meeting to discuss race and racism in the UK following on from the sentencing of 2 of the killers of Stephen Lawrence 19 years after Stephen was murdered.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 9th February, starting at 6.30pm.

 University of London Union Malet Street, WC1E 7HY, nearest stations Euston, Euston Square, Warren Street, Goodge Street and Russell Square.

FaceBook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/243400699069381/

BARAC FaceBook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/108132359239521/

On Tuesday 3rd of January we saw 2 of the killers guilty of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence sentenced to imprisonment for their crime.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence fought an 18 year battle in their quest for justice for their son and whilst this was a positive outcome, it has come 18 years too late and the battle is still not over as at least 3 of those who were part of the gang that murdered Stephen are free.

We commend Doreen and Neville Lawrence for the inspiration, strength, hope and determination they have brought to so many others facing racist attacks and race discrimination – whilst enduring their own prolonged battle.

10 years after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and MacPherson Report, Dr Richard Stone who was a panel member of the Inquiry produced a review report which exposed the failure of government to implement the vast majority of the original recommendations.
Image Detail
Chair: Lee Jasper, Co-founder BARAC

Panel: Dr Richard Stone, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Panel Member
Zita Holbourne, Co-founder BARAC, PCS NEC
Michael Abatan, Justice 4 Jay Campaign
Samaira Anjum, NUS Black Students Campaign

Discrimination is impacting on all aspects of our lives, cuts to jobs and services, attacks on terms and conditions, in access to education, the criminal justice system, policing to name but a few.

Come along and hear the views of our panel speakers and debate the way forward in addressing these issues including the MacPherson report recommendations that are yet to be addressed.

Chicken Run 4 starring Boris Johnson. Shot on location at City Hall

                                                        Uploaded by

Saturday, 28 January 2012



Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK supports the Justice 4 Jay Campaign. The Justice 4 Jay Abatan campaign will hold a vigil this Sunday 29th January in memory of  Jay Abatan from 8am to 1pm outside Brighton Police Station. *Update - Sussex police have issued a press release, scroll down for details.
Jay Abatan, a 42 year old black man was murdered in a racist attack by a gang in Brighton in January 1999, at the end of a night out to celebrate his recent promotion.
Justice for Jay photoJay was accompanied by a friend and his brother Michael, who were also attacked.

Five days later, Jay died in hospital, having sustained severe head injuries.
Thirteen years on, no one has yet been tried for Jay's murder. Jay's family continue to campaign for those who killed him to be brought to justice.
Jay's brother, Michael Abatan has issued the following statement:
"People will ask why I am still here asking for justice for my brother after 13 years. It is not just for myself and his family but the people of Sussex deserve a police force who are competent and transparent. There are facts that still remain unanswered into the police re-investigating into my brothers death : 1. Why was my brother's original homicide investigation the only one in Sussex that year that was underfunded and so destined to fail. Was it his race or some other reason.

2. I now know Sussex police continue to have links with the men who murdered my brother - drinking with them that night Jay was attacked, giving character references for them, even trying to interfer with the second investigation, and as recently as 2010 I had to warch a senior police officer called to attend to give evidence at the inquest sit with one of the suspects chatting friendly.

The Inquest that took place in October 2010 showed me there is still new evidence out there not gathered by the police. The inquest was somthing police officers didn't want to happen and now despite clear findings by the coroner the police still refuse to look at the evidence and investigate those people it implicates regardless of whether they know them.

Stephen Lawrence family have been through an uphill struggle and it has given me faith that even after 18 years justice is possible, but the police must pursue all avenue of enquiry without fear or favour."
More information about the campaign can be accessed here:
The address for the vigil is:

Brighton Police Station
John Street
East Sussex

Zita Holbourne & Lee Jasper
Co-founders/ National Co-Chairs
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC UK)

press release from Sussex police :
Lines of enquiry are still be actively pursued into Jay Abatan's death.

Mr Abatan, 42, died five days after being punched to the floor in an attack outside the Oceans Rooms nightclub, Brighton, in January 1999.

 Officers have been in regular contact with Jay's family and recently held a meeting with them and the CPS to discuss developments in the investigation. This follows the inquest where evidence was heard that had not previously been revealed to police.

Following the inquest, which recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, a man was interviewed regarding the evidence he gave. He is currently on bail.

Chief Superintendent Steve Fowler said:"We understand the frustration of the family that no one has been brought to justice for this crime and we are determined to continue in our pursuit.

"We have taken detailed legal advice from the CPS following the inquest into Jay's death and have interviewed a man regarding his evidence at the inquest. We liaise closely with the family and are updating them on the progress we are making.

Should new information come to light we will investigate."

Sussex Police has apologised both publicly and privately to Jay's family for shortcomings during the initial investigation into Jay's death in 1999. The force now operates totally different procedures for major crime.

Re inquiry by another force:
Jay's family has raised this issue before. There is no mechanism for another force, such as the Met, to have primacy on this live investigation.
We have welcomed ongoing scrutiny around this case and the second investigation was subject to full review by other forces. The ongoing investigation remains a priority and lines of enquiry are being followed. We will be happy for it to be independently reviewed in line with our regular practices for major crime investigations.
We have apologised publicly and often for the failings in 1999, but reinforce that current investigative practice are vastly different.

Sussex Police – Serving Sussex

Thursday, 26 January 2012

You say Australia, I say invasion - by R.M. in SYDNEY for The Economist

WHILE many Australians headed to the beach on January 26th, some aboriginal leaders and their supporters used the holiday marking the country’s national day to occupy lawns outside Parliament House in Canberra. It turned unexpectedly dramatic. Australia Day marks the anniversary when the British first settled Australia, on the shores of what is now Sydney, 224 years ago. Many indigenous Australians see the anniversary somewhat differently: as invasion day. This Australia Day sees the start of a process that will try to resolve the two viewpoints. At long last, Australians will soon have a chance to vote in a referendum on recognising aborigines in the country’s constitution.

The Canberra demonstration this Australia Day concentrated minds on yet another anniversary in aborigines’ long struggle for recognition. Forty years ago, on January 26th, 1972, a handful of young aboriginal protesters pitched a tent on lawns in front of Parliament House.

They were fed up with the then conservative federal government’s refusal to grant traditional land rights to their people. The centre of the protest became known as the “Aboriginal Tent Embassy”; it has stayed on in various forms ever since.

The demonstration this Australia Day to mark the embassy’s founding showed the issues it represents remain just as volatile today. Julia Gillard, the Labor Party prime minister, and Tony Abbott, the conservative Liberal Party opposition leader, were at a nearby restaurant for an unrelated event. Earlier, Mr Abbott told journalists who had asked if the tent embassy was still relevant, that it was “probably time to move on” from it.

Taking his remarks as a call for the embassy to be closed, demonstrators converged on the restaurant. They banged on its glass walls, chanting “racist” and “shame”. The two political leaders stayed inside until police and security officials arrived, surrounded them and bundled them out in dramatic scenes past the demonstrators. Michael Anderson, one of the tent embassy’s founders, called Mr Abbott’s comments disrespectful. “He said the aboriginal embassy had to go. We thought 'no way', so we circled around the building.” No one was injured or arrested.

Four years after the tent’s pitching, in 1972 another conservative government enacted legislation, drafted by its Labor predecessor, to grant aboriginal land rights for the first time.

The fact that this took so long reflected a principal concept for the men who drafted the constitution, under which Australia’s six states formed a federation in 1901: that Australia was terra nullius, or unoccupied, when Europeans first settled. Today Australia’s 500,000 aborigines (about five times their number in 1901) comprise about 2.5% of Australia’s 23m people. They still lag behind the rest of Australia in health, education and life expectancy.

This time, the omens are more promising. Despite their rancour on almost every other issue, both the Labor government and the conservative Liberal-National opposition support constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in some form. Some constitutional experts worry nonetheless about the sort of campaigns that might be launched by fringe groups and conservative radio “shock jocks”, and urge that the referendum's questions be kept simple and incapable of distortion. Australia is a bigger and more complex country than in 1967; deleting an exclusionist clause about aborigines then was probably an easier process than inserting fresh ones, as now proposed. The 90% yes vote of 45 years ago remains a record.

Still, Patrick Dodson, a co-chairman of the expert panel, says that as Australia “repositions” itself in a global world, and casts a critical eye over other countries' human-rights records, “we have to get our own house rectified”. Known as Australia’s “father of reconciliation”, Mr Dodson says that of all his battles for his fellow aboriginal people, a yes vote would be a “source of greatest pride”.

Mark Leiber, his panel co-chairman, says the stakes in this referendum are greater than in earlier ones: “A no vote would send a terrible message.”

In 1967 Australians voted overwhelmingly to drop a clause from the constitution that had excluded aborigines from being counted in the census. But that proved to be unfinished business. On January 19th, a panel of 22 experts, more than half of them aboriginal people, delivered a new report to the Labor government of Julia Gillard. It recommends questions for yet another referendum aimed at bringing aborigines into the country’s founding document. Ms Gillard has promised the referendum by the time of the next federal election, due in 2013.

The panel said Australia has an “historic opportunity” to remove the “last vestiges of racial discrimination from the constitution”. These vestiges are two remaining sections that sit oddly with Australians’ evident pride at having built a successfully multicultural country. One gives states the power to disqualify people of “any race” from voting in state elections. The other allows the federal parliament to make “special laws” for “any race”.  Drawn up in the era of the discredited and long since abandoned "White Australia" policy, these sections were also aimed at preventing people from Asia and the Pacific islands from taking Australian jobs.

The panel called these sections a “blemish on our nationhood” and said they should be repealed, not before time. In their place, it recommends a new section recognising “that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”; the same new section would give parliament power to make laws for the “advancement” of those peoples. In one respect, the panel went further than some expected: it called for another new section, which would take up a blanket ban on racial discrimination, on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin.

The Gillard government has yet to respond on whether it will accept the panel’s recommendations as the basis for the next referendum’s questions. Choosing the questions will be crucial. Thanks largely to the founding fathers’ strict approval rules, Australia has a dismal record on constitutional change: for a referendum to succeed, there must be an overall majority yes vote in the country, as well as a yes vote in at least four of the six states.

Consequently, less than a fifth of 44 referendums that have been attempted since 1901 have passed. Governments seeking to modernise the constitution have often seen their campaigns fail when opposition parties refused to support change. (The last failed referendum, 13 years ago, on whether
Australia should become a republic, bucked the pattern. This was the sole case of a prime minister, then John Howard, both initiating a referendum and then campaigning against it, thus ensuring its defeat.)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012




The privatisation of Sure Start, the destruction of the Youth Service, scrapping of the EMA, hike in tuition fees, welfare reforms, NHS reforms.

And more cuts are coming.

Community & Voluntary sector –v- The BS (Big Society)

We know the cuts will disproportionately impact on the Black communities;

black youth unemployment now over 50%, disproportionate job losses.

And with concern about Policing culture and the neglect of consultation with Black associations it has been asked ‘Where is the justice?’

Malcolm X said: ‘Nobody can give you equality and justice you have to take it’

This is an opportunity to be informed about how the cuts, welfare and NHS reforms are being imposed by the coalition government and how local government has responded to their imposed austerity budgets.

But as importantly hear the Alternative argument to the cuts and how we as a community can make a stand against them, for as Malcolm X said,
‘If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything!’


Lee Jasper; Co-Chair BARAC;

Zita Holbourne; Co-Chair BARAC; National Exec PCS Union

Kingsley Abrams National Exec UNITE; Independent Labour Councillor (TBC)

Merlin Emanuel; Justice for Smiley Culture

Gabrielle Samuels; Manchester Active Voices

Ratna Lachman; justyorkshire

Saturday 18th February registration at 10.30am – 4.30pm close


140 Raby Street, Moss Side, M14 4SL Manchester, United Kingdom


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Attend the Boris Johnson Policing Conference 4th Feb 2012

Picture courtesy of Dee Constantine-Simms

Boris Johnson has taken exclusive control of the Metropolitan Police Service after the abolishment of the Metropolitan Police Authority. This means the Mayor is now in sole control of the Police in London. The issues of youth violence and mentoring, stop and search, local police consultative groups, (will he close them down?), police complaints and accountability and community consultations.

Johnson does not believe institutional racism in policing exits .

How then can he tackle this problem? How will he consult with black communities in London?  All these issues and more will be up for discussion. I don't think Boris has any idea of the scale of anger in black communities over the issues of deaths in custody or the shooting of Mark Duggan or the 300% increases in stop and search.

You need to register to attend and of course they have organised this consultation at 9.30 on a Sat morning in the hope few will turn up. I intend to raise these issues. I need your help - can you attend ?

Please promote and invite your contacts.

Saturday 4 February 2012, CroydonVenue: Croydon Jury's Inn - Conference Room
Address: Wellesley Road, Croydon CR0 9XY (
Google maps)
Event start time: 9:30am

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/364484073565525/

Register at: http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-and-crime/road-shows

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Boris goes suited and booted on a drug raid!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The London Riots were entirely avoidable; tackling institutional racism is not.

'Relationships with London's black communities has changed dramatically since the election of Mayor Boris Johnson'
For the last 30 years I have been at the forefront of debates about the relationship between police and black communities. In that time I have worked on improving police community relationships often representing communities concerns about difficult issues such as police racism and brutality. I have campaigned extensively on issues of policing, racist attacks, deaths in police custody and stops and search issues.

Of late, having served as Policy Director for Equalities and Policing for London for eight years I speak with some authority on these issues, much to the annoyance and consternation of the Police, the Mayor's Office, and sections of the media all of whom have, of late, adopted a policy of largely ignoring critical voices such as mine.

The political culture and relationships with London's black communities has changed dramatically since the election of Mayor Boris Johnson.  The priority of race equality policy in London, one of the most diverse cities on the face of the planet, was substantially downgraded.

Policy, projects and funding associated with tackling institutional racism were swept away in an ideological right wing onslaught that left London bereft of any substantive and effective policies that focused on reducing racial inequality.

London’s growing multiracial demography demands that race equality is taken seriously. The costs of failing to do so, is deeply alienated communities that slowly fester in simmering anger and discontent.

Far from being “special interest group pleading” as described by London Tories and their supporters, effective race equality policies are essential to any city whose population is 40% non white.  Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s ideological abhorrence of such policies have come at enormous cost to Londoners.

Not only have we seen a substantive reduction in public funding in this area, but there has also been a notable reduction in the number of black people on the boards of various London bodies to which the Mayor has nomination rights. Compare racial diversity and gender representation in the Mayors Office itself, within the senior and middle management of the Greater London Authority and the senior ranks of the Metropolitan Police Service. All have reduced dramatically under this Mayor.

This fundamental and damaging political, cultural and policy shift, lead by the Mayor and his team, has infected other London institutions that take their lead on these issues directly from the Mayors Office.

I saw first hand how this operates and the policy of the Mayors Office can impact on the policy priorities of London institutions by setting strategic policy and budget priorities for the city.

This policy shift has also affected the Metropolitan Police Service that has in my view, returned to its historical cultural default setting of institutional racism.

One look at the astronomical increases in stop and search rates since Boris’s election in 2008 gives a stark illustration of that reality.

The Kirkin Report and the London Riots.

The events of August 2011 left the nation reeling in shock. Following the Tottenham shooting of Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police Service and the release of lies by both the Police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission who reported that Mark Duggan shot at a police officer, riots erupted in major cities across the country.

Mark Duggan: It was falsely reported that he shot a police officer

On the 30th November 2011 the MPS very quietly released its interim findings on the riots. The Kirkin Report  stated aims were ‘to develop a detailed understanding of the MPS response to significant public disorder in London between Thursday 4th August and Friday 19th August 2011 in order to inform future policing operations’.

What is significant here is that there was no press reporting of the report at the time neither was there any comment from the Mayor of London’s office. This is remarkable given the unprecedented nature of the events and the huge press interest in these issues.

The key areas of focus of the Kirkin Interim Review are the issues of public order policing and community engagement.

Community engagement is an absolutely critical component in modern policing. The established and accepted culture of ‘policing by consent’ is informed by this important principle. When it goes wrong the consequences can be devastating. 

Developed in the post Scarman and Lawrence era’s, consultation gave communities opportunities to express their complaints, concerns and frustrations with policing tactics, training methods and standards of professional behaviour.

Local community policing consultative groups were established after the 1981 Brixton riots. Groups such as Lambeth Police Consultative Group, which I had the honour of chairing, gave practical relief to acute community tensions and concerns and influenced policing policy enhancing police accountability.

Community consultation was further developed into a fine art by the MPS in partnership with communities and the now abolished Metropolitan Police Authority.

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MPA Member Cindy Butts said that the MPA (now disbanded) had improved accountabilty.
It included the concept of Gold Groups and Independent Advisory Groups who, as long as they have credible memberships, can do a tremendous job in reducing police community tensions, particularly where communities have very low levels of trust and confidence in the police service.

The Kirkin report where it addresses the issues of community engagement reads like a police report of the 1970’s. The central thrust of the report is that the events in August 2011 ‘were entirely unprecedented’ and;

“Community engagement was seen as an immediate priority following the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan. The specific activity undertaken by Haringey Borough following the incident was comprehensive and strenuous in its efforts to ensure effective communication was instigated across the Borough. The MPS used its existing community contacts to seek information regarding community tension and to consult on the policing style to adopt.

As soon as police became aware of family and community concerns regarding communication, direct liaison with the IPCC was undertaken to relay these concerns.

Analysis to date of the feedback and information from the community suggests that either the violence was spontaneous without any degree of forethought or that a level of tension existed amongst sections of the community that was not identified through the community engagement process.”

That analysis is a travesty of the truth and constitutes a grievous and very serious political attack on the local community of Tottenham.

In an explosive revelation in the London Evening Standard the much-respected Pastor Nims Obunge released an email that he sent to the Metropolitan Police Service 24 hours before the riots erupted. Nims is not a man to speak out critically: it is simply not his style. He prefers quiet, as opposed, to gunboat diplomacy. That such a man has chosen speak out is hugely significant.
Nims Obunge
Pastor Nims Obunge: 'If someone had spoken to the community earlier ...yes, the riots could have been averted'
(London Evening Standard)
Not only were the MPS informed by Pastor Nims of the gravity of the situation in Tottenham, through a series of communications including phone calls and emails, he was ignored. No action was taken to ensure that his strong recommendation was implemented: that a senior police officer meet with the family of Mark Duggan and the local community.

Pastor Nims did not bother to contact the Mayors Office. I can tell you now if there had been someone he felt he could have called and be taken seriously, he would have no doubt made that call.

This illustrates the extent to which relationships with the Mayor’s Office and London’s black communities have degraded. Nims’s contact with me whilst in the Mayors Office was frequent. We were both on speed dial. It is very significant that he felt unable to call anyone in the Mayor’s Office regarding a riot in London. Who you going to call? Not the Mayors Office

The MPS failed to provide a senior officer to meet with what at that stage was a peaceful demonstration outside Tottenham Police Station. That demonstration significantly included members of the Haringey Independent Advisory Groups many of whom were outraged at the attempt by the IPCC press statement that falsely stated that Mark Duggan had fired the first shot at a police officer.

The report then goes onto to say that The MPS were expecting the IPCC to make contact with the Duggan family. This again is a fundamental error there was nothing preventing the MPS from contacting the family or addressing that initially, peaceful demonstration.

Nims describes the report as a ‘whitewash’ and he condemns the MPS for failing to act on his warnings.

London Riots - August 2011
London August 2011
 The MPS conclusion that they had no advance intelligence on the nature of increasing tensions between police and London’s black communities is also fundamentally flawed. In March of this year Smiley Culture died in police custody and at the time, I described those relations as being at ‘boiling point’.

Nationally there were three more suspicious deaths of black men in police custody that caused huge outcries of public concern. In April a huge march demanding justice descended on Scotland Yard, and others took place around the country. Add to that the huge historical significance of the shooting of a black man in Tottenham and even the most amateurish of observers should have concluded that tensions were running extremely high.

These political and professional failures cost Londoners and other cities dear.  The real tragedy is that lives, including that of Mark Duggan’s and others were lost. As I have stated previously and Pastor Nims has recently stated, this riot was entirely avoidable.

If the MPS, the Home Office and the Mayor’s Office did not recognise the reality of the situation, then that is a direct result of their general ideological predisposition that results in racial equality policies and the fight against institutional racism being taken off the agenda.

As a result, race equality policies that could make a difference are ignored on the basis of political ideology, which further results in administrations becoming less diverse as a result, black concerns being marginalised and distrustful communities becoming increasingly alienated and angry. In such a context, in such a city such political and professional prejudice is not only short sighted, it is extremely dangerous.

With the abolition of the MPA and with Boris Johnson’s Office, the Home Office and the MPS all failing to see what was hidden in plain sight, I can offer another warning which they may well choose to ignore.

Black communities and police relationships in London are now back to where they were in the 1980’s. Urgent action is needed. Ignore that at your peril.

Lee Jasper

Friday, 20 January 2012

They’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts - by Cllr Lester Holloway

Our black and Asian MPs and aspiring candidates continue to maintain a Trappist silence about the stark race inequalities in Britain today so expertly highlighted in an Independent on Sunday special report earlier this month. We now have 28 BAME MPs but it is now painfully clear they are adding colour to the Commons without bringing the politics of change.

Sadly during our two decade-long quest for greater Black political representation we’ve lost sight of the need to politically represent Black people.

Of course all politicians must represent all constituents equally regardless of colour or any other identity. As a twice-elected local councillor I cherish that principle. But that has never prevented ‘extra-curricular’ action whereby MPs coalesce around issues they feel passionately about.

Women in Labour and the Liberal Democrats are never shy about pushing the case for gender equality, not just at the foothills of those party’s, but in the corridors of power, right at the heart of government. Just ask Harriet Harman or Lynne Featherstone.

There are informal lobbies on disabilities, age discrimination and a host of other issues, yet MPs of colour have experienced difficulties even talking to each other since the late 1980s when the late Bernie Grant tried to establish a parliamentary black caucus only to be rebuffed by a former grassroots equality lawyer-turned-ambitious greaser Paul (now Lord) Boateng.

Caucus: Bernie Grant
 The closest I’ve observed to any semblance of joint working was when Diane Abbott led concern over the closure of the Commission for Racial Equality in 2003. Even then, the grouping was pitifully small, involving just Keith Vaz, Parmjit Dhanda and Sadiq Khan. What happened to the other eight BAME MPs around at the time, I do not know.

Today, the recent election of Seema Malhotra in the Feltham and Heston byelection has taken the BAME counter up to 28, still only four percent of the Commons but over double the figure a decade ago. Yet this numerical progress is tainted by the reluctance or fear of those MPs to stand up and be counted on tackling race inequality.

As the Independent on Sunday piece pointed out, black men are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched, twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training, more likely to be remanded in custody and receive heavier sentences for the same crimes compared to their white counterparts.

Add to this higher child mortality rates, higher school exclusions, and higher diagnosis rates for mental illness with stronger medication and less therapy, and the task before MPs is clear. We desperately need policies to challenge arguably Britain’s greatest long-running scandal, the entrenched exercise of witting and unwitting racism by public authorities and employers.

Yet when the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg made an inspiring speech about race inequality in November not a dickybird was heard from any black or Asian MP. Here was a rare chance to build on Clegg’s sentiments and push the case for a more radical approach with new policies, yet the opportunity was squandered by the silence of our political representatives. Twenty-eight, nothing said.
I more disappointed than surprised. The class of 2010 includes Tory Kwasi Kwarteng, an Old Etonian who paved his selection as a candidate in Spelthorne by writing a full-page article in the Daily Mail defending Rod Liddle for claiming that all Caribbean people had contributed to Britain was “curry-goat and rap”.
Rap: Kwasi Kwarteng

It includes Labour’s fast-rising star Chuka Umunna who used to grace Black Socialist Society events but now tours TV studios denouncing Diane Abbott, a woman who was first elected when Umunna was in short trousers playing with his Scalectrix.

The prospects are not much better for the future class of 2015 either. Yesterday Clegg unveiled the candidates for the Lib Dem’s Candidate Leadership Programme aimed at increasing diversity for all under-represented groups. The scheme involves training and mentoring, plus two reserved places for participants on the shortlists of target seats.

I support the principle behind this scheme, and will continue to do so despite being rejected for it. However, I was disappointed to discover that many of the successful black and Asians who got through have a sad record of opposing positive action, even though they now find themselves benefiting from a positive action programme.

One of the chosen, Layla Moran, wrote about the scheme on Lib Dem Voice this week. Yet only a few months ago she was proposing a motion to the London Regional conference calling for positive action to be scrapped in the selection of London Assembly list candidates.

Another, Chris Lucas, helped narrowly defeat positive action proposals in an Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) motion speaking against it from the floor of the annual conference. And yet another participant, Munira Wilson, also opposed the plan to boost BAME representation. They now all seek to benefit from positive action.

While I can just about understand Lib Dems from a European background who take ‘purist’ and colourblind approach to race equality, BAME members know better. Or at least they should. Fairness and equal outcomes has never come naturally, or arrived by ignoring the problem.

Not all the Candidate Leadership hopefuls are guilty of this, however. Birmingham City councillor Karen Hamilton has always been positive about equality. But speaking generally, black and Asian activists who opposed positive action in the past were picked while many able members of EMLD were rejected, with the exception of Anuja Prashar who has only recently become active.

Doubts: Chris Lucas
 Writing on the thread underneath Moran’s article, Lucas denies this was a conspiracy and insists the outcome was because the quality bar was set high. I remain unconvinced.
Considering that the Candidate Leadership Programme started life as part of EMLD’s motion – moved at the party’s 2010 annual conference in Liverpool – it is somewhat ironic to witness the motion’s opponents jump onboard the good ship lollypop.

To add insult in a thread discussion under Moran’s piece, Lucas accused me of “anger and hostility” and claimed that members of EMLD had treated him with “offensive words and behaviour” after the conference debate. Worse, he linked this with racist language used by footballers. I responded that I simply did not believe his allegation, which he has failed to substantiate, and called his claims “disgraceful.”

Lucas sunk pretty low. I am not alone having grave doubts over his allegation to have suffered offensive behaviour from any EMLD member. No-one with integrity should seek to please the master like this.

The list of successful candidates is dominated by white women, which can be explained by the fact that women are under-represented too. It is interesting to note, however, that many are proud of their affiliations with the Campaign for Gender Balance, the women’s equivalent of EMLD. Given that EMLD members were rejected, the smack of different standards hangs in the air. But then historically Black self-organisation, more than any other equality political grouping, has always provoked fear and suspicion.

Closer analysis of the successful candidates reveals several people who have such a wealth of experience they appear not to need the help of any leadership development scheme. Dorothy Thornhill has been a directly-elected executive mayor of Watford for the past three terms. Terry Stacy is a former leader of Islington Council who personally delivers leadership training to top achievers. Emily Davey is wife of the foreign office minister and Kingston MP. Do they really need a leg-up?
This was a point picked up by Lib Dem member Jennie Rigg, who writes on her blog:
“I thought the leadership programme was supposed to be to help people who were disadvantaged in means to get political experience to get ahead in the party. I didn’t realise it was just a not-pale-and/or-male preferred candidates list. Disadvantaged, to me, does not JUST mean being a woman or being LGBT+ or BAME. If you’ve been an elected mayor, or you are the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Candidate Association, or you are the wife of a currently serving junior minister, that does not scream disadvantage to me.
“Please note that I am not saying that any of the people on the list would not be great MPs: I’m sure quite a lot of them would – I was particularly pleased to see one of my favourite people, Belinda Brooks-Gordon, on there – but I am very worried that my definition of disadvantage is radically out of step with the rest of the world. I love Belinda to bits, but she’s a very canny political operator and (I hope she won’t be offended by me saying this) is someone who most local parties would happily select as a candidate, not someone who needs an extra leg up to get ahead of the competition.”
The list also includes a Cambridge-educated white man. The programme covers socio-economic background, sexual orientation and disabilities, so the four white men undoubtedly fit into one category or another. Yet there is only one African, a teenage student. Yahaya Kiyingi may well be one for the future but is he really ready to become an MP in 2015, which is what the programme was supposed to be about?

And even if one, or more, of the BAME hopefuls are returned to Westminster at the next election, will they be any better than the 28 already there? With the exception of Diane Abbott and Keith Vaz – both elected in 1987 with the help of Black Sections – none of the present incumbents have had much, if anything, to say about race inequality.

Invisible: Mark Hendrick
 One, Mark Hendrick has been MP for Preston since 2000 yet is hardly a household name in his own household. Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas, as white MPs, have proven themselves infinitely more effective in raising the issues than many of the black and Asian MPs combined.
I was initially sceptical when race activists backed the white Sharon Grant over David Lammy to replace the departed Bernie Grant in 2000. But I’ve changed my mind. It’s not just about appearances, it’s also about representation in the true meaning of the word. If a politician is black, they’ve got to give back. Represent everyone, of course, but spend at least some time campaigning to improve unfair outcomes for disadvantaged BAME communities.

It seems the greatest stumbling block is from within the ‘community’ itself. Too many aspiring politicians of colour are controlled entirely by their party machines to whom they owe their patronage, and lack a ‘constituency’ in the communities from which they come. Our joy at their election is but momentary until we realise how cut off they are from their roots. Then apathy and disillusionment sets in, leading to self-disenfranchisement.

It was Marcus Garvey who said:
“As a people we find that we have more traitors than leaders. There is many a leader who tells us that everything is well, and that all things will work themselves out.”
‘Traitor’ is a harsh word, but not totally inappropriate. Many BAME MPs – and the aspiring politicians who hope to arrive there – have nothing to offer us and nothing to say about our condition. At a time of disturbances and unrest most are speechless (although Lammy did write a book on Tottenham riots). The authentic voice of the mass of black people is rarely, if ever, heard in parliament.

Even the Stephen Lawrence verdict was not enough to tempt most of them to articulate an opinion as a person who has faced racism – as we know they all have, whether they admit it or not. They will flatter us with news of political progress but never put their heads above the parapet to advocate specific policies to combat unequal racial outcomes.
Booker T Washington

In some ways many of today’s BAME politicians are less help to us than WEB DuBois or Booker T Washington. They may have promoted an assimilationist agenda and counselled protesting against Jim Crow laws, but at least they had a plan and addressed the community with it. Modern politicians barely acknowledge racism exists. They appear unaware of history, unconscious, and singularly selfish.

Yet we are only 184 years since slavery was abolished in 1833 – a mere seven generations – and the legacy of exploitation is still very much alive today. We must reject this breed of do-nothing wannabe politician and hold to a spirit of no compromise. As previous world leaders in the fields of science, art, literature, medicine, maths and astronomy, we have come too far and suffered too much to be led by duds subservient to a colour-blind agenda when all around them is evidence that we are far from a colour-blind society.

In 2010, I wrote a paper for a court case defending the term ‘coconut’ in the case of a Bristol councillor Shirley Brown, who was being prosecuted for using the word against an Asian Conservative councillor who criticised spending money on a project to remember slavery during the bi-centenary of abolition of the slave trade in 2007. I argued that it was a legitimate term which described a person of colour using their position of power or influence to knowingly work against the interests of the BAME community in order to do that community harm and please their white bosses.

And while the term often provokes rancour – and isn’t particularly conducive to polite debate – when the offending parties refuse to listen sometimes you just have to call it how it is. Coconuts exist, I argued then and I still believe today.

Many of our politicians are coconuts, and their party colleagues are only to happy to keep it that way. That is why there will never be another Bernie Grant, as I argued on this blog in June last year, until Black communities better self-organise and choose the quality candidates who are going to best represent the community, and not sell them out.

As someone who has campaigned for greater BAME representation all my life, and has worked for Operation Black Vote, I desperately want to see more MPs of colour. Yet I am increasingly of the view that in some ways we would be no worse off if many of these these principle-less opportunists were not in parliament. Now we have 28, it is time to say “no more self-interested careerists, please!”
Wrong: Lord Paul Boateng

We need politicians of honour, vision, spiritualism, pride in the ancestors, and most of all politicians who are accountable to the community. If the party gate-keepers won’t allow them through, the example of the Labour Party Black Sections shows us the necessity to self-organise and force change instead.
Far from suggesting a ‘crabs in the barrel’ approach, I am asking why the crab wants to leave the rest of the barrel to perish? The barrel needs representation!

Many moons ago in the 1990s David Weaver ran the Bandung Parliamentary Institute which was dedicated to promoting unity, accountability and consciousness in quality political leadership, as opposed to merely increasing the numbers. I believe we need to return to this idea and deepen our understanding about what it means to represent, as a BAME politician.

Yes, we must represent all constituents without fear of favour, and yes we must contribute to mainstream political discourse. But we also represent a whole people. There are 940 million people of African descent in the world alone, plus tens of millions from the Indian sub-continent; and these numbers should give us courage.

Paul (now Lord) Boateng was wrong when he said he was a politician who just happened to be black. Barack Obama knew better than to say this because he understood the black world would rejoice at his election.

So whether we are a ward activist, local councillor or MP, everyone of colour we meet places hopes and expectations on us. It is no longer good enough simply to be there, feathering our own nests. We are now entering an information age when those who take advantage and serve only the party machine will be exposed and rejected. And the call will grow ever louder: no more coconuts!

Lester Holloway

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