On Thursday 4th August 2011, the Metropolitan Police shot Mark Duggan in the chest and killed him. The police story at the time was that Duggan had fired on them: a story later confirmed to be false. Having killed Mark Duggan, the police do not appear to have made any attempt to contact his parents to let them know he was dead until Friday: his mother discovered the shooting from a newspaper headline.
Since 1990, 1433 people have died in police custody or after police “contact” – such as Simon Harwood’s baton knocking Ian Tomlinson to the ground – and not one police officer has been convicted of a criminal offense. But despite the clear ongoing need for the police to know how to deal with the family and loved ones of someone whose death they are responsible for, it appears (Fact Check C4) that neither ACPO nor the Home Office have thought how to deal with the fact that, on average five or six times a month, someone dies and the police are responsible:
It may be that lack of clear guidelines contributed to the conclusion, as there is little firm guidance in the otherwise lengthy codes of practice issued to firearms officers on how to engage with the families of people killed by the police.
Guidelines published by the Association of Chief Police Officers say: “In any incident where persons have been killed or injured as a result of police action, consideration should be given to the use of family liaison officers.”
And Home Office guidance is similarly weakly worded: “There should be early consideration of the involvement of family liaison officers, and of the need to keep relevant individuals and organisations informed.”
On Saturday 6th August, a peaceful demonstration outside Tottenham Police station turned violent when, after many hours, no one would come out to talk with the family:
The crowd that gathered outside Tottenham police station at 5.30pm were by all accounts peaceful. The protesters consisted of local residents, community leaders, and some of Duggan’s relatives, including his fiancee, Semone Wilson.
Protesters complained that police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating Duggan’s death, were not communicating with them.
Wilson, they said, had been forced to call the IPCC to identify the body; other relatives first discovered Duggan had been killed when they saw his photograph on the news.
With apparently limited communication, the vacuum filled with rumour.
There were stories of Duggan having been shot after being handcuffed; others said he had sent a message to friends 15 minutes before he was killed, saying he had been cornered but was safe.
There were chants of “we want answers” but those present said the protest was good-natured. The demonstration, which organisers expected to last no more than an hour, was initially fronted by women, who surrounded Wilson, who had three children with 29-year-old Duggan.
The UK riots that lasted from 6th to 10th August began that night. Some eyewitness accounts say
the spark for the rioting was a specific incident involving a 16-year-old woman, who stepped forward to confront police around 8.30pm, demanding answers, but was attacked with shields and batons.
“They beat her with a baton, and then the crowd started shouting ‘run, run’, and there was a hail of missiles,” said Anthony Johnson, 39. “She had been saying: ‘We want answers, come and speak to us.’”
Laurence Bailey, who was in a nearby church, described seeing the girl throw a leaflet and what may have been a stone at police.
Bailey said the girl was then “pounded by 15 riot shields”. “She went down on the floor but once she managed to get up she was hit again before being half-dragged away by her friend,” he said.
I know of no one who has witnessed the Metropolitan Police in riot gear who doesn’t think this a very probable outcome. Police have dragged a young man out of his wheelchair and have claimed that a young man who needed brain surgery after being struck on the head – by a police officer, say witnesses – was guilty of violent disorder. In another incident in September last year, an offduty firefighter driving by spotted a youth throw a rock at a police van, and like a good citizen stopped to let the police know, the police tasered him and took him into custody.
Simon Harwood, though known now to have killed Ian Tomlinson, was acquitted by jury this week. The Metropolitan Police tried to conceal Harwood’s history of violence against “civilians” from Tomlinson’s family, and successfully kept his previous violent assaults as a policeman from the jury.
The Met, represented by Samantha Leek QC, played down the significance of Harwood’s disciplinary files, and argued they should not be shown to lawyers for the family, who at the time suspected they might be of relevance to his inquest.
Arguing the files should be kept secret, the force said: “Disciplinary records concern the private employment data of an individual.”
Eventually, the Met was instructed to share the files with interested parties. When lawyers from Tomlinson’s family were able to inspect the disciplinary records – which filled five lever-arch folders – they discovered detailed complaints containing several allegations of physical assaults.
In one case, a fellow police officer complained that Harwood grabbed a suspect by the throat, punched him twice in the face and pushed him into a table, causing it to break.
In another, Harwood was accused of assaulting a driver after a road rage incident, and then altering his notes afterwards. In a third, a member of the public reported seeing Harwood kneeing a man in the kidney while he was handcuffed to the ground.
[Update, 17th September: today the Metropolitan Police decided there was “no need to examine” the allegation that when Simon Harwood struck Ian Tomlinson to the ground, that was what caused Tomlinson’s death because they already had enough to fire Harwood on the first two.
During today’s hearing – which was initially scheduled to last four weeks but in the end finished after just one day – Harwood faced three individual charges: that he struck Mr Tomlinson on his left thigh, that he pushed him to the ground and that his actions “inadvertently caused or contributed” to his death.
And in 20 years time, because he has never been convicted of a criminal offense, Harwood will collect his police pension.]]
At an inquest this week into the death of Sean Rigg in 2008, the evidence shows that
Sean Rigg, 40, died in the caged area of Brixton police station in August 2008 around an hour after being physically restrained and arrested by four constables.
The officers were accused at Southwark Coroner’s Court of placing the handcuffed Mr Rigg face down in the prone position, with his legs bent back touching his buttocks in the small caged foot well of the police van, which they all denied.
This ‘hog-tied’ position poses a serious risk of positional asphyxia as it restricts a person’s ability to breath, the jury has heard. The risk of asphyxiation is intensified if the person is suffering from acute mental breakdown, has been agitated or restrained for a lengthy period – all of which applied to Mr Rigg.
The four police officers tell a story full of conflicting evidence.
PC Richard Glasson told the court that the mobile computer in the van was not working: but the jury had been shown evidence that information was sent and received from the MDT that evening. Leslie Thomas QC asked:
“I’m going to suggest to you PC Glasson that the reason there is confusion in the documents is simply because you are lying about the MDT… do you accept that?”
Sergeant Andrew Dunn told the court that he “had gone out to the police van in the station yard to check on PC Matthew Forward, who had been assaulted during the arrest, and saw Mr Rigg sitting on the back seat, looking perfectly fine” – but giving evidence separately, PC Richard Forward told the court that Sean Rigg was “in the foot well of the van for the whole time at the station” – and that he didn’t remember that Sergeant Andrew Dunn had come out to the van or asked him anything.
The simplest explanation for the multiple conflicts in evidence which the jury are being asked to deal with is that all four Metropolitan Police officers are lying:
PC Mark Harratt was accused by Leslie Thomas QC of changing his evidence after being “tipped off” about CCTV footage shown to the jury since his last appearance, which the officer denied.
The four officers were unable to explain why the IPCC has provided a record of facial injuries documented on the night of Mr Rigg’s death, when they had all told the jury that they had not seen any injuries.
Mr Thomas asked PC Andrew Birks: “I am going to suggest to you that you put Mr Rigg in the foot well, in the prone position and that explains the injuries on his face, and because of his height he was put with his legs bent up, touching his buttocks.”
“I don’t accept that.”
“If you had put him in that position it would have been quite wrong…it would have be a gross dereliction of your duty officer, do you accept that?”
“It is a hypothetical question but yes it would have been a dereliction of my duty.”
I do not seriously suppose that any of the four police officers will be held legally responsible for the death of Sean Rigg, no more than Simon Harwood was held legally responsible for the death of Ian Tomlinson, no more than any police officer has been held legally responsible for any the deaths that follow police contact or police custody.
(Update, 2nd August:
We were initially disappointed that unlawful killing couldn’t be left, but this would have entailed an unnecessary delay in the process as the matter would had to have been referred to the DPP for consideration as to whether to prosecute with no guarantees. Having recently seen what had happened in the Ian Tomlinson case, we were not keen to go down that route. Also we didn’t want to run the risk of losing our jury (out of the 11 jurors, six were black and the remaining five were white women). I’ve never had such a jury composition before in 23 years. Nor have I experienced such an engaged, deeply sceptical of the police account, and intelligent jury.
We therefore placed our hopes on the coroner leaving to the jury a neglect verdict. However the Coroner refused to leave this verdict, not that this mattered in the end as our jury found a way around this legal barrier and found to all intents and purposes that Sean died as a result of what by any other name many of us would consider to be neglect in all but legal name. (Leslie Thomas of Garden Court Chambers)
On 31st March 1990, about 200,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square for a peaceful protest against the poll tax, but the Metropolitan Police instigated violence against the crowd and the mainstream media at the time failed to report the order events accurately (pre-Twitter and Facebook and mobile phones with cameras, so the eyewitness reports were all after the event: not that we’ve seen this makes much difference to mainstream media even when there is video evidence the police are lying). Avedon Carol reports:
Eventually, some time after the Poll Tax riots (or “Poll Tax Police Riots”, as I was already thinking of them), I saw a documentary on my television called The Battle of Trafalgar, that confirmed everything I had seen on the day – the police actively trying to cause riots before demonstrators had done anything to provoke the crowd-dispersal tactics that were used against a lawful and peaceful demonstration. Having spent hours terrorizing the crowd (who had been barricaded in so that they couldn’t disperse), the police then released them into commercial streets where, yes, a few incidents of “violence” (against property, not people), took place. By that time, the broadcast media was already portraying the events in reverse order, as if the burnt car had preceded the police action. That’s what I saw, and that, it turned out, was what the documentary’s makers were able to demonstrate.
Via: Secret UK censorship court orders BBC not to air documentary: The Riots: In Their Own Words, originally scheduled for Monday, 16th July at 9pm on BBC Two – three days before Simon Harwood was to be acquitted of manslaughter for killing Ian Tomlinson.
A UK judge has ordered the BBC not to broadcast a documentary about England’s August 2011 riots, reports The Guardian. The judge also banned the BBC and media from disclosing the court in which the censorship order was made; the judge’s name; or the details or nature of the order.
The documentary features actors reading from interviews with rioters, but it’s not clear exactly what was deemed worthy of censorship. The BBC “strongly objects” to the ruling and plans to appeal.
Since the BBC have been banned from showing their documentary on the riots, until – I suspect – the Summer Olympics are over and the riot’s anniversary has passed, from now till 12th August, I’m going to tweet once a day to remind the Metropolitan Police they aren’t forgotten. Feel free to join me, or to mark this Olympiad of censorship in other ways.
A second BBC film in the two-part series, which is based on personal interviews with police officers and was scheduled for broadcast on Wednesday, is also banned under the order.
For legal reasons, the Guardian cannot name the judge who made the ruling, the court in which he is sitting or the case he is presiding over. However, it is understood that lawyers for the BBC strongly object to his ruling, the nature of which is believed to be highly unusual.
Hours before Monday’s programme was due to be aired, the BBC tried and failed to appeal the order over the telephone. The corporation’s lawyers are now working on legal arguments for a second potential appeal, which may be lodged tomorrow.
But, the Metropolitan Police remain on the alert to protect us all.
A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed seven people were arrested in Trafalgar Square on suspicion of criminal damage after reports of protesters “throwing” a green substance “believed to be custard”.
The seven, three women aged 35, 37 and 51 and four men aged 24, 45, 64 and 66 remain in custody in London police stations, he added.
So, that’s all right then. We are safe from green custard. Laugh? I could have died.
Update, 26th October
“The police don’t work for us” After yet another acquittal, Benjamin Zephaniah wonders what it will take to get a police officer convicted for using racist language:
“I had formed an impression in my mind that he had low self-esteem,” the officer said. “I wanted him to reconsider his lifestyle, to not view his skin colour as the reason behind the problems he had.”
Following this logic, if I saw someone in a wheelchair who I thought lacked self-esteem, I could insult them, to make them stronger. Following this logic, we would all feel better if we were insulted, even the police. I am surprised any jury members accepted it. But then for many of us IC3s or IC2s – Asian males – racist language from the police is something we expect. Last year I watched two officers stop and search an Asian man late at night. “Do I look like a terrorist?” the lad asked. “You may not look like one, but you smell like one,” was the reply. There was no one recording, and now I wonder if it would have made the blindest bit of difference.