Today in London policing history: cops shoot Harry Stanley dead, Hackney, 1999

Harry Stanley was a 46-year-old Scottish painter and decorator, who lived in Hackney, East London. In September 1999 he was recovering from a successful cancer operation.

On September 22nd Harry left home, went to visit his brother, who had been fixing a table leg after it had been damaged earlier in the year. On his return home he went for a drink in a local pub.

Another punter in the pub, mistaking Mr Stanley’s accent for Irish rather than Scottish and noticing that he was carrying ‘something long in a bag’, telephoned the police to say that a man with an Irish accent was leaving the pub with a sawn-off shot gun in a plastic bag.

Within a few minutes PC Fagan and Inspector Sharman, an armed response unit from the Metropolitan Police service specialist firearms unit SO 19, arrived in the area. The officers approached Mr Stanley from behind. They shouted, “Stop, armed police!” Mr Stanley (who had no reason to imagine that the police wanted him or having any idea that they were police officers) did not stop at that command.

The police say that they shouted again, to which Mr Stanley responded by turning around. The police officers opened fire, killing him. One shot hit Harry Stanley in his head, the other hitting him in his left hand.

In the bag he was carrying was the repaired two-foot table leg, which he had collected from his brother.

Surrey Police carried out a criminal investigation under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority (which was replaced in April 2004 by the IPCC).

In June 2002, after the CPS decided the officers should not face criminal charges, an inquest was held. HM Coroner for Inner North London Dr Stephen Chan refused to allow the jury at the inquest into the shooting by Metropolitan Police officers of Harry Stanley to consider Unlawful Killing as a verdict, they returned instead a unanimous “Open” verdict rather the only alternative left to them of “Lawful Killing”.

This verdict was, however, quashed by the High Court and a second inquest was held in October 2004. The second inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but this was also later quashed by the High Court.

However, the officers were arrested by Surrey Police in June 2005, after new forensic evidence emerged. The damage caused to the rear of the left shoulder of Harry Stanley’s jacket indicated that the fatal shot DID come from behind him before entering the left side of his head, above his ear.

When Surrey Police and the officers obtained expert opinions about the new forensic evidence a reasonable doubt was nevertheless raised that the officers and Harry Stanley both had time to perceive a threat to each other before the fatal shot was fired. Therefore, in October 2005, the CPS announced that they had advised Surrey that there was insufficient evidence to charge the officers with any criminal offence, including perjury. Both officers had claimed Harry Stanley had pointed the table leg at PC Fagan in a threatening manner – neither inquest jury accepted this, and neither did the IPCC.

Harry Stanley’s widow Irene and other friends and family organised as the Justice for Harry Stanley campaign. The campaign succeeded in getting the initial inquest’s “open verdict” overturned. In November 2004 a new jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”.

The two officers who shot Harry Stanley were then suspended from duty. This resulted in a protest from fellow armed Metropolitan Police officers, 120 of whom handed in their gun permits. Since the stare really can’t afford to piss of its own armed wings, this lead to a “a review of procedures for suspending officers” concluding that the two officers could return to work, although on for “non-operational duties”.

In May 2005 the verdict of “unlawful killing” was itself overturned in the High Court, reinstating the original “open verdict”.

The two officers were arrested and interviewed, but in October 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges because there was insufficient evidence to contradict the officers’ claims that they were acting in self-defence.

Evidence, like a chairleg, perhaps?

The investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission also recommended that no further disciplinary action be taken against the two officers, but was critical of the way that they had conferred in the process of making their notes about the shooting. Indeed the IPCC recommended that police officers should give video recorded statements immediately after events rather than making their own notes in collaboration with others.

How many more?

Mainly taken from Inquest’s briefing on Harry Stanley

You can read the very lovely self-justification of the cops who shot him. You really couldn’t make this up…


An entry in the
2016 London Rebel History Calendar

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Today in London funereal history: William Curner buried, Brockley, 1888, after being killed by police.

‘ON Saturday, 7th, another Trafalgar Square victim was buried with the ‘honours of war.’ William Curner, member of the Deptford Liberal Club and N.S.S., was at Trafalgar Square, got bludgeoned, arrested, and in the approved law’-n’-order fashion sentenced to fourteen days for doing nothing. The inquest is not finished, and so we do not know all particulars, only enough to make it sure that his death lies at the door of the police. The society to which he belonged gave him a public funeral, in which the Law and Liberty League and Socialist League took part.’ (Commonweal, January 14 1888).

In November 1887, the Social Democratic Federation and the Irish National League organised a demonstration against ‘coercion in Ireland’ in Trafalgar Square. The day became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ after a clashes with police left hundreds injured and at least three dead. (Read a good account of Bloody Sunday.)

Among those who died was a Deptford radical, William Bate Curner. In circumstances similar to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the 2009 G20 demonstration, there was a dispute about the cause of his death. The inquest, held at the Lord Clyde pub in Deptford on 16 January 1888 heard that ‘he was stated to have received injuries to the head, inflicted by a policeman’ described as ‘barbarous and cruel’. However a verdict of ‘death from natural courses’ was returned, after medical evidence that he also suffered from heart problems. (Times January 17 1888). As with Tomlinson it is surely hard to believe that the injuries sustained at the hands of the police didn’t contribute to the death, even if there was an underlying health problem.

Curner’s funeral in Brockley Cemetery was a major event, reported in The Times on the 9th January 1888 (although they call him Curwin):

‘The remains of William Bate Curwin, stonemason, of 58, Henry-street, Deptford, who had died suddenly after undergoing a sentence of 14 days’ hard labour for taking part in riotous proceedings in Trafalgar Square, in the course of which he received certain injuries, were interred in Brockley Cemetery on Saturday. The circumstances of the death are forming the subject of an inquiry by coroner’s jury, the case standing adjourned.

The funeral procession reached the cemetery about 4 o’clock. It consisted of a hearse and two coaches and a walking party numbering about 1,000, and was made up of representatives of the Deptford and Greenwich branches of the National League, the Deptford branch of the Social Democratic Federation, the East Greenwich, Deptford, and Woolwich Radical Clubs, the West Deptford Reform Club, the Home Rule Union, &c.

The bands of the local branch of the National League and the East Greenwich Radical Club played the ‘Dead March’. The hearse bore the inscription ‘Killed in Trafalgar Square’. On banners draped in mourning were such inscriptions as ‘Honour to the Dead’ and ‘Assist the Widow. There was a very large gathering at the grave and a number of torches were used while the burial ceremonial adopted by the Secularists was performed by Mr Robert Forder. Addresses were then delivered by Mr W T Stead, Mrs Besant, and Mr J J Larkin, and a ‘Death Song’ having been sung by a Socialist choir, the proceedings terminated’ (Times, Jan 9 1888).

As can be seen from these two reports there is some confusion about the name of the dead man. The Times report of the inquest has the surname Curner, but in their funeral report gives it as Curwin. The former name seems, however, to be correct; genealogy sites have a William Bate Curner in Deptford, but not Curwin. Also the name Curner is used elsewhere – in the Socialist League’s report (below), and in E.P Thompson’s biography of William Morris (Romantic to Revolutionary).

Morris wasn’t at the funeral but he did write the Death Song which closed it – it was first used at the funeral of another of those who was killed in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, Alfred Linnell. The line up at Curner’s funeral was quite impressive though. Annie Besant was already well known as a socialist and secularist, and later in 1888 was to play a role in the famous Match Girls Strike. W T Stead was a prominent campaigner and journalist – he was the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette at the time.
Robert Forder was secretary of the National Secular Society.

Henry Street, Deptford, is probably now part of Childers Street. Efforts to locate Curner’s grave in Brockley Cemetery a few years ago brought no result: if anybody else knows its whereabouts please comment.

Commonweal, newspaper of the Socialist League, also reported the funeral, on January 14 1888:

“Last Saturday afternoon William B. Curner, who died from injuries received from the conflict with the police on Sunday 13th November, was buried in Brockley Cemetery. The deceased was a Secularist and Radical, and as such occupied a somewhat prominent position in the borough of Deptford, where he resided. The occasion of his burial was marked by a public funeral, and the whole line of route from his residence in Henry Street, Deptford, to the cemetery was lined with sympathetic spectators. Blinds were drawn and mourning borders were displayed from houses, one of the chief. tradesmen displaying over his shop black flags, two with mottoes, ” Honour the Dead,”  and “Let all assist the Widow.” The funeral hearse bore Radical, Irish, and Socialist flags, and also a shield with the inscription “Killed for Trafalgar Square’. A band playing the “Dead March” preceded the hearse, the whole procession to the cemetery being most imposing.

At the grave R. Forder, surrounded by a dense throng of people, among them being representatives of Secular, Radical, and Socialist bodies, read the secular burial service. After which Mrs. Besant made a most impressive speech, in which she urged her hearers not to shrink back from the struggle for freedom in which their brother in the grave had fallen, for in their efforts to make life worth the living some must fall. Let them go from the grave the more determined than ever to carry on the fight for which, he had given his life. Mr. Stead followed with a most fervid speech, and speaking as a Christian at the grave of an Atheist dwelt on the necessity for the sinking of mere minor differences of opinion: the cause of the people was the cause of humanity, and all its lovers would unite for the overthrow of its enemies.

Mr. Larkin then made a brief speech, and the choir of the Socialist League brought the proceedings to a close by singing William Morris’s ” Death Song,” written to commemorate the death and burial of Linnell.

This is the second public funeral that has taken place within a month, the dead in each case being martyrs to the cause of freedom of speech. How many more are to be sacrificed ere “liberty the parent of truth” shall triumph?”

Good question – still waiting on the answer…

The majority of this post was lifted from our good friends at Transpontine (hope they don’t mind…)


Appendix: William Morris’s Death Song

As noted above, written by socialist poet and artist William Morris, for the funeral of Alfred Linnell. Linnell was not in fact killed at Bloody Sunday, but was beaten by police a week later, on November 20th, in further clashes in Trafalgar Square as radicals attempted to re-establish public meetings there.

Linnell was buried in a huge radical/socialist funeral in December 1887, which tens of thousands attended, and Morris was one of the orators. he later led the crowd in singing the Death Song.

What cometh here from west to east awending?
And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?
We bear the message that the rich are sending
Aback to those who bade them wake and know.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

We asked them for a life of toilsome earning,
They bade us bide their leisure for our bread;
We craved to speak to tell our woeful learning;
We come back speechless, bearing back our dead.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

They will not learn; they have no ears to hearken.
They turn their faces from the eyes of fate;
Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies that darken.
But, lo! this dead man knocking at the gate.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

Here lies the sign that we shall break our prison;
Amidst the storm he won a prisoner’s rest;
But in the cloudy dawn the sun arisen
Brings us our day of work to win the best.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.

EP Thompson’s book gives a good account of Linnell’s funeral.


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2018 London Rebel History Calendar

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Today in London’s history: Richard O’Brien killed by police, Walworth, 1994

Richard O’Brien died on 4 April 1994, after being arrested for being drunk and disorderly and taken to Walworth police station, South London. He had 31 separate areas of injury to his body including cuts and bruising to his face and fractured ribs.

Richard, a market trader, was 37 and weighed 19 stone. He was placed face down on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back and his legs folded behind him, while cops pushed and racially abused him, then held him there with his face to the pavement while one of them, Constable Richard Ilett, knelt on his back.

The police said that he was drunk and disorderly outside the English Martyrs Club in Walworth Road. His family said he was waiting for a taxi.

Richard called out, “I can’t breathe, you win, you win”, One officer replied: “We always win.” Richard’s wife Alison was also nicked, as was their 14-year-old son, also called Richard, who was slapped and arrested by another officer after pleading with them to check on his father; and another of their children.

(A Crown Prosecution Service lawyer later argued in court that Richard Junior may have caused some of his fathers injuries. Seriously.)

Richard O’Brien had 31 sites of injury on his body, including cuts and bruising to his face, a dislodged tooth and fractured ribs. He had pinpoint bleeding suggestive of haemorrhaging after blood vessels on his face burst. The cause of death was given as “postural asphyxia following a struggle against restraint.”

After being held on the ground, Mr O’Brien was carried to a police van by six officers. He was then said to have been half-pushed and half-dragged into the vehicle.

His wife, Alison, who was already seated in the van with their son Richard, recalled an officer shouting: “We can’t get the big fat Paddy in,” before another grabbed him by the hair or head.

Police officers claimed they tried in vain to resuscitate Mr O’Brien after he was taken out of the van at Walworth police station.

At an Inquest in November 1995, PC Ilett insisted that Mr O’Brien had been drunk and struggled violently on arrest. He said that he had not seen any of the 31 injuries Mr O’Brien sustained and said he had shown nothing but concern for him. Patrick O’Connor, counsel representing the family, held up a photograph of Mr O’Brien showing his bloodstained and battered face and asked the officer: “Does this show your concern?”

The inquest jury brought in a verdict of unlawful killing. Sir Montague Levine, the Southwark coroner, said the case had shown an “appalling lack of instruction” in the training of police officers in restraint techniques. He went on to recommend the regular retraining of officers and improved education in methods of monitoring individuals involved in restraint.

Alison O’Brien, said after the verdict: “I’m delighted. The truth has finally got out now and after 18 months someone actually believes our story.”

The then Police Complaints Authority announced that two police officers concerned in the death would face disciplinary charges for neglect of duty, which enraged his family.

The Director of Public Prosecutions later admitted that decisions in the cases had been ‘fundamentally flawed’.

Alison later, in conjunction with Olamide Jones, partner of Shiji Lapite, also killed by the police, went to the High Court to appeal to have the DPP’s decision not to prosecute any officers overturned. This was successful, forcing the CPS to prosecute.

Three officers — Richard Ilett, Gary Lockwood, and James Barber — were eventually charged with manslaughter, but they were acquitted in 1999, when the defence argued successfully that O’Brien had had a heart attack when he tried to remove himself from custody.

In 2002, the O’Brien family won a £324,000 payout from Scotland Yard, partly for the arrests of Alison and the 2 children, but they received no apology.

The cops say they always win. They often do. Will that ever end?

Support Inquest, the organisation which has been working to help relatives of those who have died in custody and detention.


An entry in the
2017 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online.

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Today in London’s murderous policing history: Wayne Douglas dies in Brixton police station, 1995.

Brixton’s long history of police harassment and violence against its black residents has included several deaths in custody, or police murders if you prefer. Amidst the constant litany of beatings, fit-ups, hospitalisations from the 1960s onwards, at any time you can focus on one individual… however it remains systematic.

On December 5th 1995, Wayne Douglas, 25, died in Brixton police station, after being picked up for suspected burglary.

Douglas, a resident of a homeless hostel, was found unconscious in his cell at Brixton police station at about 3:30 a.m. He was dead on arrival at the hospital. The Metropolitan police claimed he died of a heart attack.

But witnesses described a different story. One eyewitness told the Caribbean Times how Douglas threw down a knife he was carrying when confronted by the cops. “As soon as he did it, they all jumped on him,” said the unnamed bystander. “They dragged him to the park and beat the shit out of him. They murdered him. I could hear the guy screaming…. They were jumping on him, kicking him, hitting him with their batons.”

Another said that “you could hear the sound of their batons on his bones.” Two witnesses gave statements to a local lawyer detailing the police assault.

In November 1996, the inquest into the death of Wayne Douglas was told by eye-witnesses that a police officer knelt on his head while he was handcuffed and held face down on the ground by at least four other officers. The jury found that his death was “accidentally” caused by stress, exhaustion and positional asphyxia. (Doesn’t this last mean that he couldn’t breathe due to the position he was in – ie being sat on? Who put him in that position?)

This was only few months after Brian Douglas (no relation) had died after being stopped searched and beaten up in Clapham by Kennington cops; protests had filled the summer months.

In response to Wayne Douglas’ death a demo was called for the following week at Brixton Copshop… This demo became a riot, smaller than many previous one in Brixton’s history, but no less angry. As well as attacking the police, rioters attacked the increasing symbols of gentrification that had begun to transform the area from the working class, mainly black neighbourhood, into the trendy playground for white poshos that large parts of it has become. So the Dogstar, recently opened by white trendies (backed by he police and the council) to replace the much harassed and raided black pub, the Atlantic, was trashed; among other targets.

In July 1997 Wayne’s family sought to quash the verdict of accidental death given after an inquest in December 1996. The jury found that Wayne had died of `left ventricular failure due to stress and exhaustion and positional asphyxia….following a chase and a series of restraints, in prone position, face down, as used in current police methods’.

On four occasions, Wayne had been held face down with his hands cuffed behind his back by officers. Despite the jury accepting his death was caused by police restraint, they found that the heart failure was an accident.

The lawyers acting for the family argued that the coroner made errors in summing up to the jury when instructing what they needed to find before coming to a verdict of unlawful killing reflecting gross negligence or manslaughter.

In July 1998, Wayne’s family were told that another inquest would not be held. The Court of Appeal upheld the initial ruling of accidental death as it was unlikely that the new inquest would reach any other verdict.

Lord Woolf, while accepting that there may have been ‘just enough sufficient evidence’ for unlawful manslaughter to be a possible verdict, he commented that the first inquest that was carried out in an exemplary manner. Woolf also said ‘…little more could be achieved by subjecting all concerned to the considerable expense and stress of a further inquest.’ He however denied the possibility of gross negligence.

The family said they had been ‘denied justice’. In particular Lisa Douglas Williams, Wayne’s Sister, said her family were particularly upset by Woolf’s comments on the expense of holding another inquest. She said, “A proper verdict on my brother’s death is far more important than money.”

No-one ever faced any charges for Wayne’s death. Because that’s the way it generally goes with the police, they can kill you and get away with it. And even if an outcry does force the powers that be to bring someone to court, the cop inevitably gets off, witness the acquittal of the shooter of Cherry Grice in Brixton in 1985. In 2008 Sean Rigg dies in Brixton police station in very similar circumstances to Wayne Douglass – held down in a prone position by several cops for eight minutes. In September this year the Crown Prosecution Service, after years of inaction, ruled there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any officer over his death. There’s always ‘insufficient evidence’. You’d really think they’d think up some new fucking excuses.

Contact: United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC)

Sean Rigg Campaign


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

Today in London’s radical history: Police kill Blair Peach during anti-fascist demo, Southall, 1979.

A long post: we make no apologies for that…
Never forget.

Southall and the death of Blair Peach

In April 1979, the events of the general election were overshadowed by fighting between the police and the largely-Asian population of Southall near Heathrow in West London. The background to the events lay with the decision of the far-right National Front to hold an election meeting in Southall.

Southall was one of the most racially diverse areas in London: in five wards surveyed in 1976, 46 per cent of the population had been born in the New Commonwealth. The National Front’s candidate, John Fairhurst, had stood in nearby Hayes and Harlington in the two 1974 elections. He wasn’t standing in Southall in the hope of securing a high vote, but because the NF thought putting up a candidate there would get them publicity. On 23 April, 2875 police officers were deployed (including 94 on horseback) to protect the NF’s right of assembly, 700 protesters were arrested, 345 of whom would be charged, 97 police officers and 64 members of the public were reported to have been injured, and one demonstrator, Blair Peach, was killed.

Three years earlier a National Front-inspired gang had stabbed Gurdip Singh Chaggar in Southall. After the killing, Kingsley Read of the National Party was quoted as having remarked, ‘One down – a million to go’. Chaggar’s killers were never convicted. The failure of the state to take action gave the later events at Southall their edge. Prominent local anti-racist activist Balwindar Rana remembers reading about the NF meeting in the Ealing Gazette, ‘The news spread like wildfire. People felt very angry and insulted.’

On 18 April, residents met with the Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to ask him to ban the Front’s meeting. Rees declined. Instead, the Metropolitan police was instructed to keep the NF meeting open. On Sunday April 22, the day before the planned NF meeting, five thousand people marched to Ealing Town Hall to protest against the Front, handing in a petition signed by 10,000 residents. Local workplaces also agreed to strike in protest against the Front, including Ford Langley, SunBlest bakery, Walls pie factory and Quaker Oats.

Monday April 23 was St. George’s Day. Local shops, factories and transport closed at 1pm, as the demonstrators had requested and several local factories with mixed or majority white workforces voted to strike. Anti-fascist demonstrators aimed to hold a sit-down protest on the roads around the town hall and there were rumours that the police aimed to get round it by smuggling National Front members into the building long before their 7.30 meeting, even before the sit-down began at 5 p.m. According to one young Asian interviewed by the BBC, ‘We had to do something, the young people – we don’t want a situation like the East End where our brothers and sisters are being attacked every day.’

By one or two o’clock, ‘There were young people milling around. A bus went past, with skinheads on, making v-signs. Some of the young Asians started to fight the skinheads, and the police responded by fighting the Asians. Soon they were charging down the streets.’

By 3.30 in the afternoon, the entire town centre was closed, and the police declared it a ‘sterile’ area, meaning that it was free of anti-racists. Heavy rain began to fall. Large numbers of people found themselves on the wrong side of police barricades. The tension rose, reaching its peak at around 6pm.

‘The police used horses, they drove vans into the crowd, fast to push us back. They used snatch squads. People rushed back with bricks, or whatever they could pick up.’ The whole area was now in chaos. The links between the protesters had broken down: individuals ran into the park to hide from the cops, or took shelter in local homes.

The police decided to close down the ‘Peoples Unite’ building, which anti-racist demonstrators were using as their headquarters. Those inside were given ten minutes to leave. Police officers, formed up along the stairs, and beat people as they tried to escape. Tariq Ali was in the building, bleeding from his head. Clarence Baker, the pacifist manger of reggae band Misty and the Roots, was hurt so badly that he went into a coma. The building itself was so badly damaged by the police action, it had to be pulled down. Officers with batons smashed medical equipment, a sound system, printing and other items.

At least three protesters suffered fractured skulls. Others were beaten until they lost consciousness. Caroline, then an active member of the Anti-Nazi League in Ealing, spent the night driving between Southall and Heathrow: ‘Many of the Asian kids that the police arrested, they beat them up for a bit, and then they took them out of London. They dropped them in the middle of nowhere, on the side of motorways, nowhere near telephones or anything. These young kids were confused, crying. The police just wanted to humiliate them.’

Perminder Dhillon describes her memories of the day. ‘Around ten, many of us gathered to watch the news at a restaurant where Rock Against Racism and Indian music had been blaring out all evening, drowning out the National Front speakers inside the town hall. Their heads still bleeding, people saw the Commissioner of Police, the Home Secretary, and other “experts” on the black community condemning the people of Southall for their unprovoked attack on the police! As usual, only pictures of injured policemen were shown – nothing of the pregnant women being attacked and the countless other police assaults.’

Blair Peach, a 33-year-old teacher, was somewhere in this crowd on the Broadway. After the bus had passed, the police made concentrated efforts to clear the area, bringing in more officers, including Special Patrol Group officers in vans. Some protesters tried to escape by heading down side streets. Most of these led the demonstrators away from trouble, but Beachcroft Avenue, a narrow residential road, just led onto another road, Orchard Avenue, which returned to the main road near the town hall and the heaviest concentration of police numbers. At about 7.45 Peach and the four friends who’d gone with him to the demonstration decided to leave the Broadway and turned into Beachcroft Avenue, which was not blocked by the police. Peach and Amanda Leon, who had agreed to stick together, were behind the others. Leon told the inquest that she heard police sirens and saw a row of police officers with shields and truncheons. She then saw a police officer hit Peach on the head from behind with a truncheon. She too was hit on the head but by a different officer. The papers released with the Cass Report show that, according to the police, six demonstrators received head injuries on 23 April, three of them (Peach, Leon and an unnamed Asian man) on Beachcroft or Orchard Avenue.

A local resident, Balwant Atwal, told the inquest that at about 7.30-8 p.m. she saw blue vans coming down Beachcroft Avenue: ‘They were coming very fast − as they came round Beachcroft Avenue, they stopped. I saw policemen with shields come out − people started running and the police tried to disperse them. I saw police hitting. I saw a white man standing there … The police were hitting everybody. People started running, some in the alley, some in my house … I saw Peach, I then saw the policeman with the shield attack Peach.’

In her account, which was accepted by Cass, Peach was just turning the corner from Beachcroft to Orchard Avenue when a police officer with a shield in his left hand and a truncheon in his right hit him. She then saw Peach sit down, and a police constable, later identified as James Scottow, go over to him. Peach was leaning against a wall and Scottow, who said he thought Peach was hiding from the police charge, shouted at him to move on. (A police internal investigation found that, given the ‘confusion and general tension’, Scottow had not neglected his duty towards Peach.) Peach was taken into 71 Orchard Avenue by the Atwal family, who let him lie on their sofa and gave him water. An ambulance was called at 8.12 p.m. Peach was admitted to intensive care with a fractured skull, and, despite surgery, died just after midnight.

Anna’s daughter Miriam was attacked on the same road:

‘They were going home. The streets were covered in glass. Then they heard a siren. Someone shouted “run”. They ran into a side alley, then into this garden. They’d already seen what the SPG was up to. Six officers with truncheons got Miriam in a corner and hit her. She’d never known anything like that. When they stopped, they said, “We’ll be back for you later.” She had blood everywhere. One local Asian family took her in, and offered her sugary tea. Later she went to the St. John’s Ambulance. She still gets pains from where they hit her.’

In the aftermath of Southall, the papers swung overwhelmingly behind the police. The Daily Express, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph all covered the story as their front-page lead. The headlines included, ‘BATTLE OF HATE. Election Riot: Police Hurt, 300 arrested’, ‘RACE RIOTERS BATTLE WITH POLICE ARMY’, ‘300 HELD IN RIOT AT NF DEMO’, and ‘300 ARRESTED AT POLL RIOT’. One edition of the Daily Mail went furthest in deliberately confusing the racists and the anti-racists, proclaiming, ‘RACE RIOTERS BATTLE WITH POLICE ARMY’. The press depicted a mix race group of young anti-racists as violent, aggressive thugs – as much a threat to society as the real criminals of the National Front.

But for the vast majority of Southall residents, and thousands in communities increasingly under attack from the police and racists, the murder of Blair Peach became a symbol of the unjustified use of police violence. Fifteen thousand people marched the following Saturday, in honour of Blair Peach, with Ken Gill speaking, from the TUC. Workers at SunBlest bakery raised £800 for Peach’s widow.

For the next week, protesters were everywhere, flyposting, speaking, organising, discussing the lessons of the police riot. The police were around, in very large numbers, but they did not dare to stop people from organising. It was almost as if the police were shamed by the enormity of what they had done.

Rock Against Racism brought out a special leaflet, Southall Kids are Innocent, ‘Southall is special. There have been police killings before … But on April 23rd the police behaved like never before … The police were trying to kill our people. They were trying to get even with our culture … What free speech needs martial law? What public meeting requires 5,000 people to keep the public out?’

For eight weeks, Peach’s body was left unburied, while people paid their respects. Queues formed outside the Dominion Theatre, where his body remained. According to one source, Peach’s death had ‘particular reverence for the predominantly Sikh Punjabi community, both as a white man who chose to assist them and thereby defend their right to reside in the country, and as an enemy of tyrannous oppressors whose struggles with the Sikhs are still talked of and remembered in popular bazaar calendar art.’ 10,000 people attended his funeral.

The inquest into Peach’s death was a masterpiece of whitewashing even for the relatively authoritarian approach of the era. The coroner, John Burton, was determined to close off lines of inquiry that would be implicitly critical of the police. He regularly interrupted lawyers acting for Peach’s family, sowing confusion everywhere and acting as if his primary business was to divert attention from the only credible explanation for Peach’s killing: that he had been hit on the head, whether accidentally or deliberately, by a member of the Special Patrol Group, the only police officers on Orchard Avenue at the time. He refused the request of Peach’s family to have the case heard by a jury (though this was reversed by the Court of Appeal)

Burton also refused to let the jury or Peach’s family see the Cass Report into the events, which had already been completed. At the same time as seeking a jury, the family sought a judicial review of the coroner’s refusal to disclose all the statements and interview notes that underpinned the Cass Report. This application failed, on the grounds that the statements were the property of the police, and natural justice could not help Peach’s family to obtain them since he was accused of nothing, and justice could only succeed in protecting him from allegations, not in helping to identify how he had died.

Burton also tried to muddy the waters by suggesting that there were two alternate theories of Peach’s death – that a left-wing ‘fanatic’ had struck Peach on the head in order to create a ‘martyr’ (a regular practice of us lefties everywhere, you’ll find); or that he had been killed by the police. Burton failed to mention that this was the central finding of the investigation into Peach’s killing carried out by the police themselves.

No-one else had suggested that anyone else had killed Peach. Ten people had seen police hit him over the head. One distinguished pathologist Professor Mant, commented on the damage done to Blair Peach’s skull, with an instrument that had not pierced his skin. He concluded that the murder weapon was probably not a truncheon, but more likely a cosh, or possibly a police radio.There was also a considerable weight of circumstantial evidence, including a raid in June 1979 on the lockers of the SPG officers who had been at Southall which found a number of offensive weapons, including a leather-covered stick, two knives, a very large truncheon, a crowbar, a metal cosh and a whip. Since the medical evidence seemed to suggest that Peach had been struck by a weapon other than a baton the raid was relevant – it was relied on by Peach’s family in their application for a jury.

There was no rational basis on which to deny that Peach had been killed by a police officer. The only matter which should have been in dispute was whether the killing had been lawful; in other words, whether the officer who killed Peach had had a lawful reason for striking him – namely, self-defence or to restore order. The theory the coroner was pressing on the jury was that the violence of other demonstrators elsewhere in Southall was so outrageous that it justified any degree of retaliatory force. But not a single police witness had suggested that Peach or the people around him had done anything to justify the officers’ charge.

On 27 May the following year, the inquest jury reached a verdict in Peach’s case of death by misadventure. This was a huge blow to Blair’s family and his partner Celia Stubbs. But the jurors had not been given access to all the relevant information. Soon after Peach’s death, Commander John Cass, chief of the Metropolitan Police’s Complaints Investigation Bureau, carried out an internal inquiry into the killing. It was a substantial piece of work: Cass was assisted by thirty police officers, the inquiry took 31,000 hours of police time, and, including interview transcripts, the complete report was 2500 pages long. It found that Peach’s killer was one of six police officers, with one clear principal suspect, and that three of the six should be prosecuted for attempting to frustrate the investigation. Counsel for the police and the coroner both had access to the report but went out of their way to conceal its findings from everyone else involved in the inquest. The Cass Report was suppressed; the coroner dismissed the idea that police had killed Blair before the inquest was over, and fired off racist and right-wing attacks on any witnesses who said they had seen officers hit him. The Home Office also suppressed some of his letters with regard to the inquest on the grounds that if anyone read them, it would bring the office of corner into disrepute.

Two papers, the Sunday Times and the Leveller, published leaks naming the officers that had travelled in the van that held Peach’s killer. They were Police Constables Murray, White, Lake, Freestone, Scottow and Richardson. When the lockers of their unit were searched in June 1979, one officer Greville Bint was discovered to have in his lockers Nazi regalia, bayonets and leather covered sticks. Another constable Raymond White attempted to hide a cosh. No officer was ever prosecuted.

On 13 June 1979, Peach was buried. Ten thousand people joined the procession. Another ten thousand marched through Southall again in memory of Blair Peach the following year. A school was named after him and further memorials have been organised since.

The Cass Report wouldn’t be published until 2010, a year after Ian Tomlinson died, having wandered into the protests against the G20 summit and been struck on the leg and pushed to the ground by a police officer. Tomlinson’s death encouraged Peach’s family to ask again for the Cass Report to be released. Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, agreed to do so. The inquest into Tomlinson’s death resulted in a verdict of unlawful killing, which made possible the criminal prosecution for manslaughter of PC Simon Harwood. (He was acquitted.) The finding of death by misadventure in Peach’s case made any prosecution impossible, despite there being a strong argument for a second inquest. The High Court can order one, as it did on the Hillsborough disaster. Of that case Lord Judge, then lord chief justice, held that ‘it seems to us elementary that the emergence of fresh evidence which may reasonably lead to the conclusion that the substantial truth about how an individual met his death was not revealed at the first inquest, will normally make it both desirable and necessary in the interests of justice for a fresh inquest to be ordered.’ This statement is clearly applicable to Peach’s case.

As of December 2009, the Crown Prosecution Service was reviewing the internal report and said it would advise police as to whether further action should be taken. Here the sound of people holding their breath in West London? Me neither.

The reports into the death of Blair Peach were published on the Metropolitan Police website on 27 April 2010. The conclusion was that Blair Peach was killed by a police officer, but that the other police officers in the same unit had refused to cooperate with the inquiry by lying to investigators, making it impossible to identify the actual killer.

The Metropolitan Police report stated that an SPG policeman, identified as Officer E, was “almost certainly” the one whose assault killed Peach. Alan Murray, at the time an inspector in charge of SPG Unit One and now a lecturer in Accounting and Corporate Responsibility at Sheffield University, has admitted that he believes himself to be Officer E, but has denied killing Peach. Murray was described as “young and forceful” by the report, lied to investigators, and refused to participate in identity parades; to this day he wears the beard which it is suspected he originally grew to impede identification in case he were compelled to do so.

Thirty-five years later it might seem that things haven’t changed much. There have been many further deaths: Ian Tomlinson died after being struck by a member of the Territorial Support Group, the successor to the SPG. More than 750 people died in police custody between 1994 and 2013, but there have been barely a dozen inquest verdicts of unlawful killing and just eight prosecutions, some of multiple officers – none succeeded. The rules about the use of truncheons are looser now than in 1979: then they were to be used only in ‘extreme’ cases, and were not to be aimed at the head; now the Association of Chief Police Officers says batons may be used to ‘protect officers, demonstrate that force is about to be/may be used, [or] facilitate dispersal and/or arrest … The level of force should be reasonable and proportionate’ (although some forces have published local guidance which is more prescriptive). Alfie Meadows was hit on the head with a truncheon in 2010 during demonstrations against student tuition fees and had to have emergency surgery. Police bloggers claimed, as the coroner had in Peach’s case, that Meadows had been hurt by another protester, not a police officer. Meadows was charged with public order offences and, following a first trial which ended in a hung jury and a second trial which was aborted after repeated delays, was acquitted at a third trial two and half years after the original incident.

Some of this post is stolen from an article by David Renton


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

Today in London’s history: Police kill Ian Tomlinson during anti- G20 demo, City, 2009.

In April 2009, the G20 group, the leaders of 20 of the most economically powerful nations met in London. On April 1st, the day before the summit proper began, protestors gathered around the Bank of England to demonstrate. For a decade and more the various summits of these leading nations had been the focus of protests, demos, lobbies and so, on by groups varying from anti-capitalist movement to campaigners around developing world poverty. Several thousand came to demonstrate; both protestors and police knew that some folk would try to escalate a demonstration into a riot. Some police always also have the same interests…

On the day, pretty much as soon as most of the various marches converging on the Bank of England area arrived, police kettled us all in; barring the way to anyone wanting to get in – or out. This tactic was a favourite of large-scale public order ‘incidents’ at least since Mayday 2001 (though under other names, the tactic had been in vogue at other times). From the police viewpoint hemming everyone in limits people’s ability to move around, disrupt possible targets, and if kept up for hours, wears angry defiance down into hungry passivity.
The disadvantage for police in Public Relations terms is that you not only piss off the demonstrators still under the impression the boys and girls in blue should be helping them across the road, but that you also often kettle passers-by and random non-demonstrators.

On April 1st the police kettling was to lead to death. Murder, if you like. Newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson collapsed and died in the City of London after being hit from behind by PC Simon Harwood, while being pushed through the area kettle by police, as they were moving people away from certain areas and forcing them into the main group.

On 1 April 2009 there were dealing with six protests in London: a security operation at ExCeL London, a Stop the War march, a Free Tibet protest outside the Chinese Embassy, a People & Planet protest, a Climate Camp protest, and a protest outside the Bank of England. Some 4,000–5,000 protesters were at the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate, and the same number at the Bank of England. Over 5,500 Metropolitan police officers were deployed on 1 April and 2,800 on 2 April, The G20 Bank of England protest was kettled from 12.30 pm until 7.00 pm. At 7 pm police began to disperse the protesters around the bank, and senior officers made a decision that “reasonable force” could be used. Between 7:10 and 7:40 pm the crowd surged toward the police, missiles were thrown, and police responded by using their shields to push the crowd back. Scuffles broke out and arrests were made.

Ian Tomlinson hadn’t been on the protest, he’d finished work and was trying to get back to the homeless hostel where he was living. but wasn’t being allowed to get through any police cordons. Video footage which emerged later showed him in various places around the City, being pushed or forced to move on several times by police, nudged by a police van; at one point a police dog was wet on him and bit his hand.

A week after the incident, the Guardian newspaper was passed footage shot by an investment fund manager from New York who was in London on business. The video shows a group of officers who had already hassled him several times, and were following him down the street, approach Tomlinson at the southern end of Royal Exchange Passage, near the junction with Cornhill. Tomlinson was walking slowly with his hands in his pockets. An eyewitness said Tomlinson was saying that he was trying to get home. No footage showed no provocation on Tomlinson’s part – however, he had a long history of alcoholism and homelessness; automatically bracketing him in one of the groups that police enjoy targeting regardless of whether they get involved in any aggro at a particular time.

The footage showed one officer lunge at Tomlinson from behind, then strike him across the legs with a baton the officer was holding in his left hand. The same officer pushed Tomlinson’s back, causing him to fall. On 8 April Channel 4 News released their own footage of the scene, which showed the officer’s arm swing back to head height before bringing it down to hit Tomlinson on the legs with the baton. A different video obtained by The Guardian on 21 April showed Tomlinson standing by a bicycle rack, hands in his pockets, appearing to offer no resistance, when the police approach him. After he is hit, he can be seen scraping along the ground on the right side of his forehead; eyewitnesses spoke of hearing a noise as his head hit the ground.

In the Guardian video, Tomlinson could be seen briefly remonstrating with police as he sat on the ground. None of the officers tried to help him. After being helped to his feet by a protester, Tomlinson walked 200 feet (60 m) along Cornhill, where he collapsed at around 7:25 pm outside 77 Cornhill. Witnesses say he appeared dazed, eyes rolling, skin grey. They also said he smelled of alcohol. An ITV News photographer tried to give medical aid, but was forced away by police, as was a medical student. Police medics attended to Tomlinson, who was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
The first autopsy had concluded that Tomlinson died of natural causes after suffering a heart attack. His death became controversial a week later when The Guardian published video that showed Harwood striking Tomlinson on the leg with a baton, then pushing him to the ground. Second and third autopsies concluded the push to the ground had caused internal bleeding to his liver, which had killed him. Later, Fredy Patel, the Home Office pathologist who at first exonerated the police violence of having caused Ian’s death was struck off the medical register; he had a long history of ballsing up or covering up evidence, this being only the latest.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began a criminal inquiry, and further autopsies indicated that Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to charge Harwood, because the disagreement between the first and later pathologists meant they could not show a causal link between the death and alleged assault.

After an inquest in 2011 found that he had been unlawfully killed by the officer, Simon Harwood, a constable with London’s Metropolitan Police Service, the CPS suffered one its about-turns (sometimes known as BPRD, or Bad Publicity Reversal Decisions) and charged Harwood with manslaughter. On the day of the incident, he appeared to have removed his shoulder number and had covered the bottom of his face with his balaclava: a tactic favoured when officers want to conceal their identity. For completely legit reasons. Harwood had a blurry history with some allegations of using unnecessary force in the past; he later lied about having been knocked over during the G20 protest and ‘feared for his life’. He was seen getting heavy with protestors and press on the day before he attacked Ian Tomlinson.
He was found not guilty in 2012, but was dismissed from the police service for gross misconduct, in September 2012 after a disciplinary hearing found that he had acted with “gross misconduct” in his actions towards Tomlinson. Slight understatement. Tomlinson’s family filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police, which paid the family an undisclosed sum in August 2013. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner also issued a formal apology for “Simon Harwood’s use of excessive and unlawful force, which caused Mr Tomlinson’s death, and for the suffering and distress caused to his family as a result.”

From the first, police had obstructed the family in their attempt to find out what had happened, lied to them and to the press about the sequence of events; the Independent Police Complaints Commission (a kind of bumbling glove puppet which is supposed to examine possible police malpractice, but ends up usually parroting cop lies and making ineffectual rulings) lurched between incompetence and misleading the family. The zig-zagging by the Crown Prosecution Service just added icing to the cake of general mis-justice.

Harwood’s acquittal left Ian Tomlinson’s family where all other relatives of victims of police violence and deaths in custody (or out of it) usually end up. Ie, with everything left unresolved and a sense that the so-called justice system is not really there to work for them.

One day, you would hope, there will be a day of reckoning.


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

Today in London’s history: Ibrahima Sey unlawfully killed by Ilford police, 1996

Ibrahima Sey, a Gambian asylum seeker, died in the early hours of Saturday 16th March 1996, after having been taken from his home to Ilford Police Station in East London.

He was suffering from a mental illness, the effects of which have been described variously by the labels “excited delirium” or “acute exhaustive mania”. The police arrived at the his home in response to a call for help from Amie as a result of his strange behaviour which had alarmed her to the extent that she had jumped out of a window, leaving the two infant children behind with him.

He eventually came out of the house to be conveyed to Ilford Police Station without any struggle on his part, primarily because his friend, Mr Pa Ebou Ndimbalan, who had arrived at the scene in response to a prior call for help from Amie, was allowed to accompany him.

However, upon their arrival in the rear yard of the police station, the arresting officers refused to allow Mr Ndimbalan to accompany Mr Sey into the police station. Evidence from Mr Ndimbalan as well as some of the officers themselves has described the events that followed : while Mr Sey was still pleading that Mr Ndimbalan should be allowed to stay with him, he was set upon by six to eight officers, one of whom grabbed him in a bear hug from behind while others grabbed his arms and legs so that he was brought down to the ground, and he was then rolled onto his stomach for his hands to be cuffed behind his back.

Mr Ndimbalan did not see anything further, because he was ushered away from the scene. However, the evidence from the officers themselves suggests that the sequence of the subsequent events was as follows:

On two successive attempts to raise Mr Sey to his feet, his legs seemed to buckle and give way, so that he ended up face down on the ground where he seemed to go limp on each occasion while officers continued to hold him down.

On the third attempt to raise him, he was still on his knees, with his hands still cuffed behind his back, when one of the officers sprayed him with CS which hit him in a stream around his nose and mouth, and he was seen to lick off the solvent as it dripped down his nose.

Once he was on his feet, his head was pushed down towards his knees so that he was doubled over, with his hands still cuffed behind his back, and in that posture he was walked backwards into the police station until he collapsed in a corridor.

He was then carried face down and feet first for the rest of the distance into the custody suite where he was placed face down on the floor with his hands still cuffed behind his back. Some four to six officers continued to hold him down by his head, arms and legs – including two officers with their feet on his legs – for the next 15 minutes or more. It was while he was still restrained in this position that he suddenly became relaxed and, after being checked, was found not to be breathing.

In consequence, an ambulance was called, and the ambulance crew have described their surprise and shock to find Mr Sey still on the floor of the custody area with his hands were still cuffed behind his back when he was showing no signs of life whatsoever. They took him to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The purported reason for Mr Sey’s arrest is said to be suspicion of threats to kill and assault on Amie. She later explained to the jury at the inquest into her husband’s death, that there was no prior history of violence in the marital relationship, and even on the day such violence was minimal: the purported reasons for the arrest were founded upon her account to the officers she called to the scene, describing Mr Sey’s strange behaviour that evening, insofar as he had been talking and chanting in a bizarre manner, throwing things about the house including items that went in her direction, and her fear that he might harm himself, herself or her children in his unpredictable state of mind. She explained that the deceased had a history of some kind of mental instability which went back some 3 or 4 years, including a breakdown in Sweden in 1992 and a further breakdown in his native Gambia in 1994, but there had been no similar episode since his arrival in this country in May 1995. The officers who answered her call for help were specifically informed about the mental history, and indeed it was on this account that Mr Ndimbalan was allowed to accompany him in the van to the police station. Their later decision to separate Mr Ndimbalan from the deceased was the spark but for which the death might not have occurred.

A post mortem examination took place on the evening of Saturday 16th March, conducted by Dr Michael Heath on behalf of the Coroner, in the presence of Dr Robert Chapman and Dr David Rouse for the Commissioner and the Police Federation respectively. The provisional cause of death upon that examination, pending the results of more detailed pathological and toxicological tests, was said by Dr Heath to be that “the deceased collapsed following a period of exertion and was suffering hypertensive heart disease”, and that “there was no evidence that the CS spray contributed in any way to the death”. Toxicology tests showed that no drugs or alcohol were found to be present in the deceased’s body.

By late 1996, however, the official opinion as to the cause of death had been revised to be expressed as “acute exhaustive mania” by Dr Heath on the basis of consultations with Dr Henry Kennedy, consultant forensic psychiatrist at Chase Farm Hospital. Both of them gave evidence suggesting that Mr Sey suffered some kind of a “sudden death” purely as a result of his mental illness. As for the supposed hypertensive heart disease, Dr Heath was forced to concede that there was no basis for the diagnosis in the first place, and the Coroner directed the jury that Mr Sey did not suffer from any abnormality of the heart whatsoever.

These findings and opinions were disputed from the outset; an examination and analysis carried out on behalf of the deceased’s family by Professor Bernard Knight and Dr Nathaniel Cary, consultant forensic pathologists at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary and Papworth Hospital respectively, and Dr Maurice Lipsedge, consultant psychiatrist at Guy’s Hospital. In general terms, they gave evidence that the role of the CS spray in the cause of death could not be dismissed out of hand, given that it is said to be effective as a control agent precisely because it is designed to cause respiratory problems; that the most likely mode of death in this case is positional (or restraint) asphyxia, with the effects of CS or exhaustion due to mental illness as contributory factors rather than causes of death in themselves; and that the suggestion that the mental illness might somehow lead to “sudden death” without any other intervening factor such as the restraint is simply not borne out by experience or reported literature.

Similarly, both Dr Rouse and Dr Chapman confirmed their opinions that the restraint was a significant contributory factor in the death, as has Dr James Cairns, the Deputy Chief Coroner for Ontario in Canada who was called to speak about the experience of similar cases in North America.

On the wider context of this case, the evidence heard by the jury confirmed and touched upon the now widespread recognition of the potentially fatal dangers of restraint in the face down position within the Metropolitan Police as well as other forces throughout the country.

Following the deaths of Richard O’Brien in April 1994 and Wayne Douglas in December 1995, both of whom were found to have died as a result of positional or restraint asphyxia, officers throughout the Metropolitan Police, including those involved in Mr Sey’s death, had received warnings and guidance which leave no room for doubt that ignorance of the relevant issues could not be pleaded on behalf of the officers in this case.

Another relevant consideration is the fact that at the time of Mr Sey’s death the use of CS spray was on a six-month trial which commenced on 1 March 1996 – only some two weeks before the incident – involving 2,300 officers in 16 police forces throughout England and Wales. The Home Secretary and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have since approved the general issue of CS spray, despite grave concern and reservations expressed in many quarters within the police forces as well as amongst the public at large about the safety of the device. Two forces – Surrey and Hertfordshire – withdrew from the trials because of safety fears, and a third force – Northamptonshire – banned any training on the use of the device for similar reasons… According to news reports, a leaked ACPO document, circulated to police forces on 4 January 1996, acknowledged the health risks involved in the use of CS spray, and noted the fact that the research carried out on the it has been far from comprehensive. It would appear that ACPO and the Home Office chose nevertheless to press ahead with the trials and the subsequent general issue of CS spray – in full knowledge of the identified health risks – on the grounds that they were not prepared to wait for the development of a safer alternative.

Ibrahima Sey left a widow, Amie Sey, and two infant daughters, Maimuna and Ramatulay

The inquest into the death of Ibrahima Sey at Ilford Police Station on 16th March 1996 concluded on Thursday 2nd October 1997. The jury sitting with the Walthamstow Coroner at Snaresbrook Crown Court from 1st September heard extremely disturbing evidence about the treatment of this mentally ill man by police officers. The inquest raised serious concerns about the role of the police station as a place of safety and the nature of the restraint used on him, including the then newly issued CS spray.

The consensus amongst the numerous and eminent pathologists who have given evidence is that the restraint in the prone face down position would have impaired breathing sufficiently to cause death. The jury decided that the nature and the extent of the force used in the restraint was so unreasonable and unnecessary in the circumstances so as to render the death an Unlawful Killing.

On 1st October 1998 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that no officers would be charged over the death of Ibrahima Sey, despite the unanimous verdict returned (to a standard of criminal proof) by the inquest jury.

Lifted from the website of Inquest, the organisation which campaigns around deaths in custody.



An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online