Friday, 20 January 2012

Why we need an independent public inquiry into suspicious deaths in custody.

A heartfelt letter was delivered to the Prime Minister from the UFFC (United Friends and Family Campaign). The letter called on him to respond to the scandal of suspicious deaths in custody and set up a public inquiry. The Government rather short-sightedly rejected this demand.
March against deaths in custody - police reinforcements in front of Downing Street
Police kettle the UFFC March outside 10 Downing St. in 2011 (Photo by Dee Constantine-Simms)

At the time of Mark Duggan’s shooting by the Met Police in Tottenham in August of 2011 the family were desperate for answers. Such is the statutory contempt with which British black communities are now viewed, it was not felt remotely necessary to contact the Duggan family to explain what had happened to their son, brother and father. I have written on this issue before and you can read more here.

 Last October the UFFC organised a march of families to Downing Street to deliver their letter to number 10. Unbelievably, the Metropolitan Police attacked that peaceful march. Despite attending one of the last meetings of the Metropolitan Police Authority raising our objections and the Commissioner himself promising UFFC a meeting, to date the Commissioner has not organised this meeting.

(Picture by Dee Constantine-Simms)

One would have thought that even the most callous indifference in political circles would have recognised the need to positively respond to both the UFFC complaint and the need to urgently contact the Duggan family at the time of the tragic killing. Not so, such indifference and gross insensitivity are now the statutory stock Government and police response to acute black concerns.

The UFFC letter demanding a public inquiry represents families of all races of and faiths. All united, having endured the lack of accountability of the police, the infectiveness of the Independents Police Commission and the antiquated medieval Inquest process.
(Photo by Dee Constantine-Simms)

These processes leave most families doubly victimized as a consequence of a search for the truth, frustrated by a process of administrative injustice that is stacked against them.

We should not be surprised however as the contempt of this Government and the Police is palpable. What little response we do get can be best characterised as patronising drivel, carefully orchestrated into bleeding heart headline sound bites. All designed to convey a level of political concern that is betrayed by biased partiality.

Our marginalisation even extends to all sections of Whitehall. For example, there is not a single black or ethnic minority organisation in the UK sat at the Government policy table.

These issues as so tragically demonstrated in August 2011, continue to have the power and potential to ignite alienated communities, whose deep distrust of the police can result in riotous carnage ripping thorough British cities.

The consequence’s of such profound marginalisation is growing levels of anger that remains unrecognised by the politicians until it is too late.

In order to avoid future civil unrest and begin the process of restoring trust and confidence in the police we need an open and transparent judicial public inquiry. This would have the effect of providing families and communities with hope that justice will be done and statutory agencies will be held to account. An Inquiry would bring parity and justice for families seeking the truth when their loved ones die in suspicious circumstances.

To novitiate this demand we should call on Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct a scrutiny on this issue.

Given the forthcoming London Mayoral elections we should also call on upon the new head of the Met Police, Boris Johnson, to immediately set up an independent judicial inquiry into this issue. He now has the power and the budget to do so. And so I ask that we now all fully support the recently launched email petition for a public inquiry launched by the UFCC.

Humanitarian justice demands it. The collective peace and safety of British cities may well depend on it.

Lee Jasper

Click here to sign: