Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Demetre Fraser (AKA T. Dot) funeral postponed

URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT: As you may know, Demetre's funeral was scheduled to be held on 4th July but it has been postponed. This is because the family are arranging for an independent pathology report in order to challenge the forensic evidence that has been made available to them. We will keep you updated. On behalf of Demetre's family, thank you for your support at this most difficult time.

Re: Demetre Fraser: Outrage at new death in police custody

Offical FaceBook Page!/pages/Campaign-4-Justice-4-Demetre-Fraser/100133863415528

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Kingsley Burrell: Birmingham march for justice

Kingsley Burrell: Birmingham march for justice [1.5030120481928]

Britain is a country that is deeply divided by race. Not of course the crude racism of the Deep South antebellum but the echoes of the polite genteel racism that nevertheless produces hard structural inequalities is as real today as it ever was. The collusion with racism and the maintenance of inequalities based on skin colour regardless of citizenship or talent continues to blight the lives of millions of black people.

We are all sailing on the good ship Britannica Meritocracy but a few stroll on the upper sunlit decks taking in the fresh sea air while others labour to serve them on the middle decks. The majority of us sweat, bleed and toil in the steaming hot putrid slave galleys deep in the stinking bowls of the nation. Those of us who are forced to inhabit this rarely seen underworld of racism, poverty, political, social and economic exclusion rarely feel the warm sunshine of justice and opportunity on our faces.

Thus it has always been and maybe will remain so evermore. No starker contrast can there be between the black and white peoples of this nation. A nation divided by race and class, by faith and by gender. This happy isle of consumer fed contentment; fine rhetoric that extols our 1000-year-old democracy and the primacy of the rule of law is a racist nation hiding deep inequalities and flagrant abuses of human rights. Our battle with racism starts at the point of conception and only ends when we die.

Death is non discriminatory. Whatever our status or wealth, death comes to us all eventually and the great equal opportunities leveller in the sky renders all men and women equal in the final analysis.
However for black people even in death the inequalities and injustices can make themselves apparent. Take the case of two recently reported suicides in the news of late. One is Christopher Shale close friend of the Prime Minister and chairman of Cameron’s constituency party and the second is Demetre Fraser aka T. Dot a 21 unemployed black youth from Peckham.

Tragically Mr Shale was initially reported to have taken his own life at Glastonbury and then following further investigation is thought to have suffered a heart attack.

Avon and Somerset Police sealed off the area immediately preserving the crime scene and forensically examined everything looking for any evidence of fowl play. They worked diligently to eliminate all potential possibilities and great care was taken to interview potential witnesses. A model investigation you may say and you would be right.

The second reported suicide of late and one that attracted virtually no press coverage is the case of a 21-year-old black man known on the road as T. Dot. He is reported to have been visited by the West Midlands Police on a routine visit. There was no warrant for his arrest and he was simply waiting to return to London after being on bail for a charge that had been dropped. T. Dot was simply waiting for the police to tell him he can go home.

The police visited his 11th floor flat in a high rise block in Birmingham and what happened next was bizarre. The police version of events is that they knocked on his door and heard shuffling inside. They say they then went back downstairs and as they emerged on the ground floor they saw T. Dot prostrate on the ground.
Their version of events was that T. Dot killed himself and committed suicide.

The scene was not forensically examined. Despite strong evidence of a violent struggle having taken place at the entrance of T. Dot's 11th floor flat and on 8th floor where a women hearing commotion opened her front door only to be told to shut it immediately and stay in doors by a police officer. Broken glass everywhere and lots of blood that was later cleaned up within minutes of the T. Dot's death.

Nothing was done to interview neighbours who heard shouting “No no…they are trying to kill me”.
The IPCC have said they are not investigating and handed the case back to West Midlands Police despite the overwhelming potential evidence of fowl play.

Two cases handled completely differently, two men an upper middle class wealthy white man and the other a poor ghetto rug rat. One demands press attention and professional policing the other gets no press coverage and the forensic scene is immediately washed down with Dettol. It smacks of a whitewash.

This is despite the fact that the police are already in the dock over the suspicious deaths of Smiley Culture and Kingsley Burrell the later who died after coming into contact with the aforementioned West Midlands Police. Birmingham has become the black male deaths in custody capital of the UK.

There can be no starker illustration of the disparity between black and white rich and poor. Whatever the protestations of the police there is as I have written here before a strong whiff of apartheid like justice in the way the police treat black suspects and victims of crime.

Institutional racism of the police is reflected in the British press. Contrast the media coverage with Shale and T. Dot.

If that does not convince you then maybe the fact the death of two police dogs received more press coverage than the death of a young T. Dot will illustrate my point further.

Wall to wall coverage in the printed press, mainstream news coverage and blanket coverage on the radio was given to the death of these dogs. It seems as if the British press have no interest in the black community and that black life is considered cheap in newsrooms around the country. Put simply the death of police dogs are more important than that of a black youth from Peckham South East London.

This weekend Saturday 2nd July will see the second national demonstration against black men dying in custody. On Saturday we march in relation to the death of Kingsley Burrell. Sadly the march in Birmingham will now take place against the backdrop of the death of T.Dot.

Returning to my earlier nautical analogy according to the captain of the good ship Britannica Meritocracy all is well. There will be those who stroll around the top deck oblivious as to what happens in the bowel of the ship.

That’s where we sit in growing malevolence and anger; where we remain unseen, unheard and largely unnoticed by those above. When rebellion breaks out no doubt it will be surprise to all.

You have been warned. Our community is at boiling point and to calm down that heated sense of outrage we need the cooling balm of justice. The mantra in black communities all over the country is best represented by the quote from Rev Martin Luther King who said:

“Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.”

That’s why were marching again, that’s why we are asking people to sign our petition demanding a public inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody. That’s why we demand justice as a human right.
I will be marching on Saturday will you?

Lee Jasper

Campaign 4 Justice 4 Demetre Fraser

Campaign 4 Justice 4 Kingsley Burrell

Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Demetre Fraser: Outrage at new death in police custody

Mother reveals details: OBV Exclusive:
article from Operation Black Vote

Demetre Fraser: Outrage at new death in police custody [1.5217391304348]
Demetre Fraser, R.I.P.

A startling development: the tragedy of Black male deaths in police custody continues after yet another black man ends up dead after contact with the West Midlands Police.

Demetre Fraser a 21 year old black man is from Peckham south east London and represents the second highly suspicious death in the custody and care of West Midlands Police force following on from the controversial death of Kingsley Burrell. The recent deaths in police custody of Smiley Culture aka David Emmanuel, Kingsley Burrell and now Demetre will inflame police community tensions, already stretched to breaking point.

Demetre was temporarily staying in Birmingham's Druids Heath area. He was on bail as a result of a petty assault charge after a dispute with his girlfriend. That compliant was subsequently withdrawn. His bail conditions were that he was to reside outside of London and on the 31st May at around 9 am West Midlands Police visited Demetre for what should have been a simple routine tag check. He was outside of his curfew time and there was no requirement for him to be home at that time.

The official version of events is that during the visit from two West Midlands Police officers Demetre committed suicide by jumping from the 11th floor of the high-rise block where he was staying temporarily.
His mother Ms Jossette Fraser who says that neighbours reported to her that they heard a huge commotion on the morning Demetre died, and that there is clear evidence of a desperate struggle taking place on the 11th and 8th floor rubbishes that version of events.

Ms Fraser said; "I received the call from the Police that my son was in hospital and immediately rushed to Birmingham within the hour of my arrival my son had died in theatre. I am beside myself with grief and have had to have medication from my doctor to cope.

They are trying to tell me my son jumped off an 11th floor balcony and killed himself. Why? His girlfriend had withdrawn the charge against him and he knew that. He was waiting for the Crown Prosecution Service or the Police to formally tell him so he could come home to Peckham.
He was reunited with his girl and looking forward to coming home and his friends spoke to him every day. My boy was happy and was just waiting for the charges to be dropped so he could come home."

She added; "My family and Demetre's friends are all in a state of deep shock and disbelief. His girlfriend is beside herself and we are demanding that West Midlands Police immediately suspend the two officers concerned whilst we get to the bottom of what actually happened.

"The idea that my son committed suicide is some sort of sick joke. Black men are not safe in Police custody Demetre, Smiley Culture and Kingsley Burrell proves that.
My son was popular and well known in Peckham he was a very pleasant young man. Everybody who met him liked him. It is clear from what I have been told that the Police and my son were involved in a violent struggle that led to his death. His body shows no obvious signs of having dropped 11 floors and there are huge contradictions in what the police say happened and what local neighbours say they heard and saw."

The case had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who has bizarrely referred the matter back to West Midlands Police. That will result in the police investigating the police which is entirely unacceptable.

A national march organized by the family of Kingsley Burrell will take place in Birmingham on the 2nd of July, and the Demetre family will be in attendance and plan to speak at the demonstration.
Demetre's mother said; "I cannot rest until I get justice for my son and I appeal to everyone to support the demonstration and help us get justice for Demetre, Smiley Culture and Kingsley."

Maxi Hayles from Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit who recently lost all their funding and are running solely on volunteer effort expressed the outrage and frustration of the local community.
"The black community is outraged that yet another young black man has died at the hands of the West Midland Police force. They need to immediately suspend the officers involved in Demetre's case. We have just lost Smiley then Kingsley Burrell and now within weeks this young man.
How much more can we take? The West Midlands Police is out of control and we are reliving the worst days of the 1980's all over again."

Supportors for the family said;"We have a real problem with West Midlands Police force. Black men are not safe in their hands and what happened to Demetre follows a consistent pattern. Black man gets arrested in Birmingham, black men dies in suspicious circumstances, no one is held to account no one is found guilty. Black life seems cheap in Birmingham.

The IPCC have got this completely wrong and should not allow the West Midlands police to investigate themselves. The West Midlands Police Authority should insist on an IPCC supervised investigation.
In truth we need a public inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody as called for by the Smiley Culture and Kingsley Burrell campaigns. There is a real crisis of confidence and black community police relations are severely strained. No one believes the police, no one has any confidence in them, and no one trusts them.

Black deaths in custody has become a national scandal and the march on the 2nd July is our opportunity to demonstrate that we will not simply sit back and watch racist police officers act with impunity".
The family are asking for public support at the funeral of Demetre. The family plans to walk from the family home in Southwark to the cemetery.

Mourners are asked to gather at Barville Close, London SE4 at 9.00am on the 4th July to accompany the body of Demetre to his final resting place at Nunhead Cemetery.

Jossete appealed for the public to support her in this hour of grief. "I want the public to come and walk with us out of love and respect for my son and in pursuit of justice. I ask that you attend the march in Birmingham and support the call for an independent inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody. Enough is enough our boys are not safe in the hands of the police and justice must be done "


NB March transport details: Coach leaving Brixton at 7am July 2nd, call Bella Blake on 07789 685 208, a few places are available for £11 each.

Lee Jasper

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The dawning of a new approach - Black Men In the Community

The dawning of a new approach [1.5217391304348]

On a rainy Saturday morning I attended the Black Men In the Community Conference wondering what would be the focus of such an event and whether they could avoid the trap of yet another long discussion on the problems faced by black men with very little focus on practicable solutions. It's refreshing for me to attend events at which I have the opportunity to sit back relax and reflect.

The conference took place in a lovely church and 350 people attended the event. Organized by Paul Lawrence and Tony Harrison of the Life Skills Training Consultancy the event was extremely well managed and ran on time.

Reflecting the degree of general concern within black communities the event was standing room only. The debate focused on the empowerment of black men in a society where racism, poverty and disadvantage act as barriers to success.

I did not get the complete overarching narrative that I had hoped for. There was very little in the way of broad context setting and no real discussion on the impact of the economic downturn on communities or any detailed economic analysis of the situation faced by black men. None of that was really evident although one of the speakers Bishop Wayne Malcolm hit the nail on the head when he urged that ” If the man wont give you a job then create a job of your own”. For me the conference, despite the lack of clear political narrative. nevertheless was an overwhelming success.

Despite this I have to say I was very impressed by the all the speakers who referenced their contributions with power point slides quoting everyone from Malcolm X to Henry Highland Garnet
The presentations were excellent and on point all emphasized the need for collective action on the issues of the day and expressed a determination to work together to address the challenges faced by black men.

Matilda McCattram from the Black Mental Health UK gave a powerful tour de force of the issues facing black people within the field of mental health. Her presentation was one of the best I have seen in recent times. Concise to the point, packed full of information and a clear political agenda for change.

Bishop Wayne Malcolm was irrepressible and his dynamic presentation of his convictions and core beliefs was a joy to behold. The Bishop offered simple solutions of “do for self “ variety and personally challenged the audience to develop economic opportunity as means of addressing the serious challenges we face. He repeated the mantra that we need to move beyond rhetoric and adopt a paradigm shift ensuring we unlock the latent black entrepreneurship in the community.

Katherine Birbalsingh probably one of the most high profile speakers tapped into the audience concerns about the parlous state of some state schools and the miseducation of black children. Her delivery was crisp, she executed the delivery extremely well and the audience for the most part loved what she had to say about the necessity of parental responsibility and the need for a school that catered for the needs of black boys.

Sonia Brown was a revelation speaking directly to the brothers in the house she laid down a serious challenge for conscious black men to “ reclaim your mind, reclaim your dignity and your place in family”

Ray Lewis, Boris Johnson’s right hand man gave what has to be said a typical Boris type performance. He is a master communicator and effectively set out the challenges facing black men in a way that was both engaging and entertaining. His comments showed great insight , were erudite and very funny.

Viv Ahmun gave the conference clear direction outlining his belief about the necessity of building strong communities by ensuring that we work together to maximize economic opportunity and provide real leadership to our young people. He introduced Levi Blake a fabulous young man who had left the ‘road’ to change his life around and appealed for adults to positively support young people by providing them with more examples and opportunities of economic and political success.

Principally one of the core objectives focused on pulling together national consortium’s of organizations and individuals that will bid for public sector contracts. The rationale was that only by encouraging economic independence can the issues under discussion be sustainably addressed.

Announcing the formation of the “Black Men in the Community Group” the organizers want to champion collaborative working and promote the importance of ensuring communities play a key part in developing and delivering their own services. In short, the entrepreneurship of black communities, black organisations and black individuals, is central to the group’s collective vision of a healthier and safer environment for future generations.

Going forward the group hopes to provide a link between the commercial sector, third sector, grass roots organisations and large third sector providers. It further aims to play a leading role in enabling black communities to develop the hard and soft skills needed to successfully operate as a business collective.

Finally, it aims to challenge unemployment amongst black men by highlighting the key pitfalls for any entrepreneur and by encouraging fresh approaches to training and education within the family and community.

All in all a brilliant day. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and will be supporting the work of this important group going forward. Working in unity across party political boundaries is a real necessity and I have to say that the conference did much to dispel my concerns about being a black Tory event. What I found were people committed to the cause of raising up black men and in that regard these issues are too important to be caught in the cross fire of party politics. I will be supporting the work of the group going forward I hope you will too.

Lee Jasper

(First published at OBV - Operation Black Vote: the home of black politics)

Monday, 20 June 2011


BARAC: Black Activists Rising Against Cuts: join us here:!/group.php?gid=108132359239521

Thursday, June 30 · 7:00am - 11:00pm
Cuts to pensions, jobs and pay have a disproportionate impact on black workers, families and communities. BARAC is calling on everybody to come out and protest on 30th June and support the PCS, NUT, UCU and ATL unions taking strike action in defence of pensions, pay and jobs. Across the UK there will be picket lines, marches, rallies, picnics and festivals taking place for you to participate in or why not organise your own BARAC action on the day. It's essential for us as black people to be out on the streets expressing our anger at these ideological cuts that are driving us into deepening poverty. We need to fight for our futures and fight for the futures of the next generation. Forcing people to work longer for their pensions at a time of rising unemployment will further limit the options for employment for young people.

No To Cuts, No To Racism! Everybody Out on 30th June.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Deaths in custody: Huge rise in London

Deaths in custody: Huge rise in London  [2.7391304347826]
The number of people who have died in London after being either detained in police custody or who have had recent contact with the police has increased massively since 2008.

The figures published on the Metropolitan Police Authority web site are staggering. In 2007 the total number of such deaths was 15. But since Boris Johnson became Mayor and Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority Black and Asian deaths in custody has almost doubled to 28.  The figures have remained high each year, and since 1st April this year we have seen five more deaths, indicating that the figures are dramatically increasing.

This huge increase is deeply worrying, given the recent backdrop of police and community tensions in the wake of the suspicious deaths of Smiley Culture aka David Emmanuel and the tragic case of Ian Thompson; it is vital that the problem is tackled as a matter of urgency.

It is surprising that the media has remained entirely silent on this issue despite unprecedented rises. Other than coverage of Ian Tomlinson and David Emmanuel’s cases there has been very little coverage of these issues; this is why we need a public inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody.

The Metropolitan Police authority and the Mayor should support the call to Government by having a formal debate and voting to support the community demand for an inquiry. 

The Smiley Culture campaign have recently launched a public e-petition  in support of the call for an inquiry that has so far attracted over 1400 signatures including some high profile celebrities.

The huge increase in the number of deaths and the fact that Government is seeking to introduce new changes that will result in further pain and injustice for victim’s families mean the need for reform is now urgent.

The Government has announced that it is to abolish the recently created position of Chief Coroner. This is a disaster for the families of those who find themselves seeking justice after the tragedy of a death in custody.

The Chief Coroner’s office was created as part of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.  This legislation was introduced after significant lobbying by campaign organisations such as Inquest and supported by the families of the bereaved.

The Act established a legal framework for the wholesale reform of the process of judicial inquest.
The post of Chief Coroner was supposed to provide a single senior judicial authority with the power to introduce legal and policy reforms in an area that remains deeply controversial.

As part of the current Public Bodies Bill, a whole range of offices of state are being deleted. During a recent debate in the House of Lords serious concerns were expressed and as a consequence of lobbying 18 posts were saved and were taken out of the bill. Unfortunately the Chief Coroners office was not one of them.

The current Inquest process is not fit for purpose in relation to seeking the truth or delivering justice. The current lengthy legal process is stacked against the victim’s families, it’s both expensive and byzantine in terms of its complex procedural bureaucracy overseen by Coroners - an assortment of individuals with very little training or professional qualifications.

In 2001 an in-depth and fundamental review of the Coroners and deaths certification systems chaired by retired senior civil servant Tom Luce was undertaken as a result of serious issues that emerged in the wake of the Dr Harold Shipman mass murders.

The inquiry concluded that urgent reform was needed to ensure the rights of victims were placed at the centre of the judicial investigative process. The conclusions were damming and the subsequent recommendations led to the introduction of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The Office of Chief Coroner is central to this legislation providing clear judicial responsibility and accountability for the performance and reform of the Coroners inquest systems.

The inquiry concluded that: “There is a lack of supervisory structures within the coronial service and therefore no leadership, accountability or quality assurance.” Adding:
“There is a lack of clear participation rights for bereaved families, and of standards for their treatment and support. They are largely excluded from the death certification process – they do not have a right, for example, to see the medical certificate of the cause of death. They are not systematically or reliably given information and help concerning autopsy decisions, other processes and inquests. The evidence disclosure arrangements at inquests fall below modern judicial standards of openness, fairness and predictability”.

The need to support efforts to retain this important post is critical and Inquest will be leading efforts to lobby the House of Commons to listen to the concerns expressed by the Lords.

Failing that, Government looks set to abolish the post on the basis of saving money, despite the misery, tragedy and pain caused by the intrinsic injustice that has become institutional.

Against the backdrop of a the huge increases in the number of families who find themselves suffering a death in custody and the growing disproportionate numbers of Black and Asian victims the Mayors Office and the MPA need to take urgent action to support these families and restore public confidence.

Lee  Jasper

(First Published at Operation Black Vote:
The Home of Black Politics

Public Health and Violent Crime: An idea whose time has come

It’s almost three years since I wrote an article on the issue of youth violence for the Guardian newspaper. In July of 2008 I called for the adoption of a public health approach to tackling youth violence and its now five years since I embarked on a campaign to seek to convince Government, stakeholders and anyone else that would listen that this approach would be much more effective method in reducing youth violence.

Since then I have been banging on about this approach meeting after meeting convinced as I am that adopting an multi agency community led interventionist, prevention, education and enforcement public health approach to tackling violent crime was the only effective way forward.

In my original article I cited the injury surveillance projects based at Accident and Emergency units in Wales and Scotland as clear successful examples where a public health approach worked.

So it is with some sadness (given the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred in the last three years) tinged with relief that I read today in the Independent that the example cited by me three years ago is now to be rolled out across the country. The tragedy is that many lives could have been saved if this approach was adopted earlier.

The projected as cited in my original article is information sharing partnership between health services, police, and local government in Cardiff, Wales. Incidence of violence were captured and shared and then informed policing and other strategies to prevent violence based on information collected from patients treated in emergency departments. These were injuries that were not being reported to the police.

At that time I said “Research conducted in three Glasgow hospitals in March 2004 suggests that violent crimes are under-reported by at least 50%, possibly nearer 70%. And 55% of the individuals who came into accident and emergency departments during the period of another recent study stated they would not report their assault to the police. In order to get an accurate assessment of the level of community violence we must start where the action is: at the point of treatment, all violent injuries must be reported to the police. Schools must be champions of the violence-prevention agenda and both must work with community organisations.”

“ Injury surveillance pilot projects started by the government are now being run in Wales and Scotland and early indications are that even at the level of simply capturing and sharing data they are effective in reducing and preventing criminality. The government should build on this success.”

A lots of lives could have been saved had this approach been adopted earlier. Politicians have known about the effectiveness of this approach and yet have been reluctant to implement a public health programmed because of the cost implications. The cost to communities of inaction has left whole communities living with the bitter legacy of serious youth violence.

Thousands of young people are presenting themselves for treatment at hospital A&E departments having been involved in a fight or subject to a violent attack - some of them very serious indeed. The majority, and I choose my words carefully here; do not make complaints to the police.

The official figures on violent crime do not reflect the true extent of level of violence in our communities. The reality as all communities know is that violent crime is much, much worse than the official figures suggest. The data is known but not shared with the public for fear of what might happen if the true extent of violence was to become public knowledge.

This innovative public health approach over a three year period led to a significant reduction in violent injury in Cardiff compared with similar cities in England and Wales.

Information sharing on serious injuries and use were associated with a substantial and significant reduction in hospital admissions related to violence. In Cardiff rates fell from seven to five a month per 100 000 population compared with an increase from five to eight in comparison cities.

Average rate of woundings recorded by the police changed from 54 to 82 a month per 100 000 population in Cardiff compared with an increase from 54 to 114 in comparison cities There was a significant increase in less serious assaults recorded by the police, from 15 to 20 a month per 100 000 population in Cardiff

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, who led the Cardiff Violence Prevention Programme, said:

“All this work was built on the shock finding 15 years ago that all violent incidents are not known to the police, mainly because they aren’t reported.

“Even serious injuries, which lead to hospital admissions, such as knife wounds and even shootings in the US aren’t picked up on by the police.

“We’re recording, in A&E, where the violence takes place – the name of the nightclub or the street and where in the street; the name of the park or the school – what type of weapon was involved and the day and time it happened. This information, collected by the A&E receptionist once anonymised, can be shared with the police and is key to targeted prevention.”

The scheme in Cardiff has been developed over the past 15 years and is dependent on the partnerships between the lo0cal communities, the police, NHS and local council.

Prof Shepherd speaking to Walesonline said:

“This is very practical, straightforward and doable but it will only translate to other areas if it is well managed and it needs the local A&E consultant to get hold of it and work with the local police.
“It hasn’t always been easy setting this up but we now have these partnerships throughout Wales and several hospitals are doing this. The UK coalition Government is also committed to making hospitals share information for the purpose of violence reduction.”

A recent evaluation by the British Medical Journal found “information sharing and use were associated with a substantial and significant reduction in hospital admissions related to violence”.

The study added: “Our findings suggest that communities can achieve substantial reductions in the public health burden of violence through organised data driven partnerships between health, law enforcement agencies, and local government.

“The intervention was associated with an estimated 42% fewer woundings recorded by the police relative to comparison cities four years after implementation.”

Alexander Butchart, of the World Health Organisation (WHO), leading a global campaign on encouraging nations to adopt the public health approach to tackling violence said:
“In light of its large effect on preventing violence, this model will hopefully be emulated by other cities in developing and developed countries.”

Prof Shepherd added: “It’s particularly encouraging WHO has said it wants this model reproduced around the world.
“Because this is such a low-tech idea it means it can be done in those countries where violence levels are very much higher than here but police resources are limited.

Lets hope there is no further delay in implementing this approach by Government and local authorities. Every day loss comes at the enormous cost and personal tragedy to many communities whose lives are blighted with violence.

Lee Jasper

(First published at OBV: The Home of Black Politics

UPDATED: Mayor of London Boris Johnson and youth violence: It’s not a matter of commitment. It’s a matter of competence.

Day by day the body bags of those murdered mount up. In Lambeth we are in the grip of a small war among warring gangs.

With serious youth violence threatening to escalate out of control in certain areas of London I was reminded of the Mayor of London’s Boris Johnsons manifesto commitment to “end the scourge of youth violence “in the capital. I have to say that I was personally impressed by his vision. Boris was as usual eloquent on the issue and I sensed deep down he was both sincere and honourable in his concern and determination to make this a top priority. The Mayor launched his radical proposal in a policy document that set out his proposals entitled “Time for Action”

His vision delivered with much passion, vim and vigour outlined his commitment to get his wealthy chums in the city to contribute millions to his Mayoral Fund launched in April 2009. The fund stated that it:

“…aims to improve the life chances and aspirations of disadvantaged children, young people and their families in London.”

The Mayor was to use his influence with the city of London to secure sponsorship of boxing gyms and youth academies across the capital. That has not happened, the City has not responded to the Mayors invitation, as Boris has recently admitted speaking to the London Evening Standard. At the publication of his strategy in November 2008 he announced:

 "Tackling serious youth crime and the tragic murders of young people has been my most immediate priority since becoming Mayor.
"My action plan will provide the London-wide leadership and coordination that has so far been absent in tackling youth crime."
The Mayoral Fund has been a flop. No real appetite from the City other than a couple of major companies. Unbelievably the fund has spent huge sums of money on consultancies and administration in its first years of existence; far more than it did on funding youth initiatives. The projects that have been supported are quite small and not sufficiently funded to be rolled out across the most seriously affected boroughs in London.
Bizarrely all of the projects funded are in that well known gang hotspot Shoreditch! Over 80% of the Mayors Fund total budget in its first year of operation was spent on management consultants and administration.
I recently attended one of the Mayors Community Conversations in Peckham and there the Mayor publically admitted that  ‘we are not where we want to be in relation to the Mayors fund” and that “we are behind schedule but working hard to catch up”. The fact is the Mayor is so far behind on this issue he is out of sight.
As a result, other than tenuous claims to success gained by funding existing initiatives and badging them as Mayors fund deliverables, nothing much has been achieved. The Mayoral Fund remains one of the Mayors largest personal vanity projects.
The fund: “Time for Action" has been spectacularly unsuccessful of late in reducing the level of serious youth violence in the most affected London boroughs. No one really knows what “Time for Action” is really all about, what it involves or how successful it has been. Whatever the assessment there can be no doubt that however well intentioned the Mayor is, he has failed to deliver on his top line manifesto commitment.
Whilst he is not short on policy he is a day late and a dollar short on implementation. His Time for Action policy contains some excellent proposals, however the Mayor, having taken his eye off the ball now finds himself with one hell of a resurgent problem. The signature statement of his administration has been a distinct lack of policy innovation and one of the few policies that he can claim as his own has simply  not see the light of day. The Mayor seems to be incapable of implementing in any meaningful way his own flag ship policy.
Whilst the policy flounders in the doldrums, young people continue to die on the streets of London.
No doubt the Mayor will claim success in relation to the reduction in the official crime figure relating to levels of violence and youth murders. The problem for him is that in London there is no relationship between the official figures on gun and knife murders and how safe people feel on the streets. If one child gets shot or other innocent bystanders are killed in a drive by the whole capital feels unsafe regardless of the figures.

To be fair the massive increase in the police use of stop and search powers at the behest of Boris and delivered by the MPS as part of their anti knife strategy Blunt 2 coincided with a temporary reduction in these crimes. The problem with this approach is that it is not sustainable over the long term and there is little evidence that schemes like Blunt actually work.

Poor quality stops, incivility from aggressive and sometimes racist police officers have increased alienation among young black people; the very people they are trying to protect and youth violence is back on its remorseless rise.

In relation to the effectiveness of stop and search an in depth study by conducted by Professor Fitzgerald, of Kent University,
analysed Met stop and search statistics from April to October 2009 and concluded there was "no absolute proof that the tactic is of any use".

The statistics showed that during that period 13,247 stop and searches were carried out in Newham, east London, when knife crime fell by 7.7%.  In Islington, north London, 840 searches were carried out and knife crime fell by 24.8%.

But knife crime rose by 8.6% in Southwark despite 9,437 searches being carried out, and it rose by 6% in Waltham Forest, east London, despite 3,123 searches.

The same can be said for many other London boroughs such as Lambeth where we have seen a year on year increase in rates of serious youth violence.

Further more, whole communities in some areas, including young people and their parents, are now living in a climate of fear. Parents are terrified for their children and despite some falls in youth violence across the capital there remains a residual core of inner London boroughs where the problem continues to get worse. These areas feel abandoned and increasingly undermined in their desperate plight to create safer communities.

The overall murder rate can drop but if a small number of young people are spraying machine guns on the streets of London, if young children are getting shot and innocent teenagers are being murdered in the cross fire of warring gangs, then I’m afraid that such reductions are largely academic in terms of how safe Londoners feel.

These killings are stylised public executions designed to instil fear in the public. They are ritualised killings designed to send a message and that message is loud and clear: it is the gangs not the community or the police that run London’s streets. That’s the code on the road.

As if to dramatically reinforce that message those committing the murders show a dangerous and reckless disregard for public safety, the rule of law and Boris Johnson. Public executions, gang murder in broad daylight, witnesses killed and set alight in burning cars, children getting shot. It’s a 'fuck you' statement from the boys on the road.

Playgrounds are empty, children are escorted everywhere, teenagers stay indoors fearing to go out at night or even visit another area of London. The quality of life is desperately poor.

The fear of crime is not really influenced by the official crime statistics, all of which are viewed with great suspicion by the majority of the public. It is usually the nature of violent criminality that alarms. So whilst figures will be dropping in the official figures, a shooting of a child or the discharge in a public space of a Mac 10 machine gun will hugely increase the fear of crime whatever the official figures may say.

The other important aspect of assessing the reality of serious youth crime is the number of unreported serious violence injuries that are recorded by hospitals A&E departments, but are not reported as crimes. In London there are huge levels of underreporting of youth violence as it presents at local hospitals and this masks the extent of the true picture. There would of course be more deaths if not for the skill of surgeons. The conclusion is that the situation is much worse than the official figures suggest.

The combined effects of increased rates of serious wanton violence, high tech and apparently easily available weaponry, lived experience of violence by communities, disbelief in the official figures, rising unemployment, reductions in policing and cuts to youth services  are all combining to create an environment for the prefect political storm for a Mayor who talks a good talk but seems incapable of implementing his own policies. With a meagre budget of £4.5 million the message is clear and unambiguous. There is zero confidence or willingness in the City for the Mayors' programmes.

Even the Mayors' most welcomed mentor scheme seems unlikely to be able to deliver. The University of East London and London action Trust 2 organisations that were brought together as I understand by the Mayors' Office and offered the Mentors contacts even though they each bid separately. They are not a black led bid nor do these organisations appear to have the necessary experience or expertise.  I think that’s potentially illegal.

Black led bids to deliver this project were rejected in favour of these two white organisations one of which, London Action Trust, of which Boris Johnson is the patron. Both organisations lack the competence, the credibility and track record to work with the kind of ‘hard knock’ black boys that are members of gangs or at risk.

In any event given they are unlikely to start work until September, given the summer break and assuming that the Mayoral election purdah period will kick in early in the new year, the Mayor has left it too late to have much chance of achieving any degree of success before the 2012 Mayoral elections.

It does not take three years to determine that mentoring is a good idea and then completely mishandle the procurement process in such a cack handed manner. To complete the tragic picture there is prima facie evidence that the procurement process may well have been illegal and may yet be subject to legal challenge.

The Mayors failure is not one of commitment, I think that is genuinely accepted by most. The critical failure here is the area of competence. The Mayor failed in his attempt to get any traction with London wide implementation of his “Time for Action “policy. He has failed to any raise any substantial funds from the rich bankers and wealthy. He is cutting police officer numbers and lost hundreds of millions of pounds of LDA funding that was a source of regeneration funds.

His strategy is now left in tatters as local authorities decimate youth services and close down much needed voluntary sector community resources. Reductions in police officer numbers in the context of rising youth unemployment are likely to see increases in levels of violence not reductions. Communities are becoming increasingly angry and cynical as a result of the continued failures, despite the promise of the Mayor to tackle this issue. I said in the Mayoral elections of 2008 that the Mayor should avoid trying to make political capital out of the tragedy of youth violence; sadly he did not heed that advice. I stated that if he did then this issue would come back to haunt him and it looks like Boris is about to get hoisted with his own petard. The sky is dark with chickens coming home to roost.

(Updated 14th July 2011)
Boris Johnson visits Brixton Road Youth Centre in Lambeth
 Boris Johnson visits Brixton Road Youth Centre in Lambeth in 2008

Monday, 13 June 2011

United Families Network: get involved… supporting families & friends affected by deaths in custody

A message from Tippa Naphtali

 Family Campaigns United by Peter Marshall

Help us to build a national campaigners online community
Following a gathering of affected families in London 2009, all the families involved decided to pursue new campaign strategies to take action forward. 4WardEver UK has assisted in this aim by setting up the United Families & Friends Campaign Central, a dedicated social networking website with a focus on getting families, friends, their supporters and agencies working in the field to communicate, to share and organise more effectively.

Incorporating many of the interactive features of online resources such as Facebook, Bebo and Linkedin etc, UFFC Campaign Central seeks to grow this network to help in bridging the voids that exist in family-led national organising and campaigns.

Permanently sponsored by 4WardEver UK & First Stop Web Design.

Join-Up Today >

"A little action can make a little difference to achieve bigger goals"

History of UFFC:

In a church in Piccadilly last week, a small group of families and friends of those who have died in police custody gathered at a press conference, supported by the Bishop of Southwark, to speak about their experiences and to launch a new leaflet for the United Families and Friends Campaign.

The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody, supports others in similar situations. Established in 1997 initially as a network of Black families, over recent years the group has expanded and now includes the families and friends of White people who have also died in custody.

The network includes the families of: Leon Patterson (died in police custody in 1992), Roger Sylvester (died after being restrained by police in 1999), Rocky Bennett (died in psychiatric custody in 1998), Harry Stanley (shot dead by police officers in 1999) and Sarah Campbell (died in Styal prison in 2003) and many others.

Read more of this article:

Visit United Families & Friends Campaign Social Network >

The UFFC Campaign Central website is still quite new but we are encouraging families, supporters and friends to sign up and use the network to share details about individual campaigns, events, updates and links etc.

This is an initiative started by affected families themselves.

We do hope that you can assist spread the word.

In Struggle!

Tippa Naphtali

put a stop to deaths in custody

Contact tel no: 0843 289 8535 (ansaphone service provided)
Main Email:

Black men in the community on 18th June - a conference that is long overdue?

Black men living in Britain are under acute social and economic pressure. The evidence of that is replete and is for all intents and purposes self evident. That’s why I am particularly pleased to attend this much needed conference.

I hope that as well as facilitating a dialogue among black men about how best to respond to the crisis we face as a community, the conference could also offer the opportunity to produce an overarching narrative of how we arrived at this point and the lessons we need to learn to move forward.

My concern here is that the structural nature of the social and economic challenges we face will be sidelined in favour of what I have termed an approach that can be best described as “projectitis”.

This is a reactionary trend, a policy disease that seeks to reduce responses
to profound structural economic and acute social problems to the level of a
project. What we need is legislative and policy changes at the highest level not a plethora of projects.

Any real attempt to tackle the huge problems we face as black men
has to be premised on a correct understanding of history and the dynamics that
inform where we as a black community are today and how we arrived at this point.

I have to say that I am impressed by the ambitious aims of the conference described
as the birth of a new movement. One of its primary objectives is economic empowerment and it promises to explore and create new partnership opportunities with the aim of creating an entrepreneurial base within black communities. The organisers also wish to establish a clear leadership platform for black men to offer a
positive counter narrative to the constant commercial and news led demonization of black men in British society.

The black man in British society is theoretically and notionally accepted as a British citizen. Britain the beacon of modern democracy offers the promise of a society where all citizens, regardless of race, are considered equal under the law.

A Britain where he could rely on robust protection under the law for those who face the misery of race discrimination.  A country where his children would not suffer the depredations and humiliation of racism. Britain offered that dream the enticing opportunity to live in a country where the colour of his skin was insignificant. It was the UK version of the American dream stripped of its Hollywood hyperbole this was the vision the hope the aspiration.

This was always going to be a tall order for a nation born of wave after wave of
war, invasion, integration and assimilation. A nation whose history is one of brutal
imperial expansion, neo liberal democracy, unregulated consumer capitalism and multiculturalism.

Here he lives, a black man in Great Britain, the mother of all democracies whose institutions have lasted a thousand years and whose political economic and military advances were secured and paid for with the blood of millions of his enslaved African ancestors.  A debt that remains unacknowledged and for which no reparations have been paid despite the legacy of racism we live with today that blights our lives.

A nation, one of whose many gifts to the world was the concept of theological, scientific, economic racism. A rabid virulent social disease that has infected the human race and killed more people than any other single political philosophy in human history.

Britain was the crucible for the development of the politically enduring concept of white supremacy whose legacy can be detected in situation he now finds himself.

500 years of brutal slavery and colonialism. A country who when facing the treat of Nazi Germany called on its colonial subjects to lay down their lives to defend the mother county. A call that saw hundreds of thousands of black people from across the British Empire respond willing lay down their lives for the promise of freedom, equality and a better tomorrow.

A black man whose parents struggled to breathe the air of equality so heavily contaminated by the rancid stench of racism. 'No Dogs No Irish No Blacks' was the welcome offered to his parents. They struggled against the odds to survive and offer a lifeline to their children.

At a time of economic prosperity finding work became easier for the luck few. As the economy waxed and waned black people fared only marginally better in the good times and whole lot worse in the bad. Those in work endured low wages, long periods of unemployment that became a permanent feature of most family’s lives.
As he asses the post war period he sees the grim reality of long term generational unemployment creating a cess pool’s of cynicism, ignorance, poverty poor health and criminality. Moreover he says the poverty of ambition the denigration of education and the collapse of his family structure that results from emersion in long term poverty. He can’t lead or feed his family. He can’t get the break he needs or the opportunity his talent deserves and as a result the very fabric of his
community is ripped apart.

He surveys the acute social problems of mental ill health, infant mortality, lack of good housing and schools and an institutionally racist criminal justice system that targets him and his children. He watches as black unemployment continues its remorseless increase and bears witness to the fact there are no jobs for the majority of black young people another generation laid to waste waiting quietly in the vain hope of the benevolent fulfilment of the promise of British society.

And now in 2011 living in Britain being black and disadvantaged as a consequence of the bitter legacy of systemic racism, malign neglect and generational poverty, society now demands that in spite of his history which he must now forget, that he must step up and be a man. 

He is called upon to educate his children, to end crime in his community and to be a stand up role model for the nation.  The arrogant assumption of a nation in denial about the reality of racism results in the victims of racism being pathologised; blamed for their own inadequacies and failures. He endures the moral lectures of
those who pathologise black communities supported by a minority of educated elite blacks who have bought the dream of British meritocracy translating their own modest success into a conceited mantra that says that “If I can do it anybody can do it”.
At a time of austerity, racism invariably worsens and in doing so reveals and exacerbates the brutal reality of racism, poverty and economic exclusion.

He watches the mouths of politicians moving proclaiming their commitment to equality whilst enacting policies that are tearing the very fabric of his already fragile community apart.

He seen no meritocracy in the UK just hypocrisy, he sees no real equality for him or his children despite the promise of British democracy. The evidence of his inferior status as a citizen is all around him and reinforced ever day.

A society that refuses to acknowledge the existence of systemic institutional racism that imprisons black communities that suffer acute social problems driven by criminal levels of poverty and the apartheid like culture of a private sector that in the main
refuses to employ black people as anything other than shop assistants cleaners, cooks and security guards.

He sees his children attend poor schools taught by a succession of supply
teachers that don’t believe in his children’s ability to learn. He sees his children excluded from school and condemned as failures before they sit down to take an exam. He weeps at the rate at which black women are being made redundant and critically important vital services are being cut. His observes his communities flooded by drugs and guns become killing fields and he feels disempowered and deeply alienated. His children leave school barely literate with a jail cell already built in advance by a government planning for his predictable failure.

The housing estate where he lives acts as a historical time capsule freezing the culture of poverty  ensuring that the majority of each successive generation is inducted into
culture of failure. Thus his powerlessness is reinforced by a daily reminder that he is a third rate citizen in a supposed fist rate democracy. He lives in fear that things are about to get a much worse.

These are big themes which most people would run away from focussing
on the project response promoting this or some other localised initiative. That would be a mistake our problems are indeed deeply political and require an over arching explanatory analysis that informs and underpins a plan for the future.  The reactionary emotionalism of the instant off the shelf project solution is a product of a consumer led democracy. We need more than that: I hope we get it.

Lee Jasper

Thursday, 9 June 2011

British Justice?

British Justice? [1.5217391304348]

The tragic death of Kingsley Burrell a young black man a father, brother and son at the hands of West Midlands Police is profoundly resonant in some ways of the policing style of South African apartheid regime, the epitome of a racist police state.

The Boer police were notorious for the brutal way they killed innocent black South Africans in their droves. Under apartheid South Africa there was a formal process of police accountability and judicial inquiry into such deaths. Mired in racist practice, the police would usually provide an account stating that the detainee had " jumped out of a fifth storey window " or " fell down four flights of stairs". The judgement was always the same no one was ever held to account and most of those involved would be praised and promoted.

Of course we have never had that level of racist oppression here in the UK. However when it comes to black deaths in custody there remains a whiff of apartheid like racism and injustice to the routine explanations of the black deaths in custody. We no longer hear of the police excuse that "he banged his head in the van "or the classic "he tripped and fell Sarge"

Things have moved and now we see police brutality explained in medical terms such as suggesting that the suspect "superhuman", "suffering from a cannabis psychosis" requiring the use of overwhelming and deadly force. My own personal favourite is the clinically cleaned "positional asphyxia" which is a non existent medical condition that means you died as a consequence of being violently restrained leaving you unable to breathe. Roughly translated that means you had five police officers kneeling on your back forcing the air out of you lungs to the point where were unable to breath and you died.

Kingsley's death on the 27th March shook Birmingham and London to its core. Communities were brutally reminded that, when it comes to any form of statutory detention, as black people we are still not safe and secure either as suspects, victims or patients. Kingsley had called the police whilst out with his son. He took refuge in a shop after he recognised a local gang that was stalking him. Knowing the violent reputation of this gang Kingsley did what we would all do in those circumstances he rang the police. As he waited and he saw what he believed to be the gang "tooling up "and rang other emergency services in the hope that someone anyone would arrive quickly and deter the gang.

When the West Midlands Police arrived what then transpired was a travesty and a nightmare. Instead of assisting Kingsley and his son the Police forcibly arrested him and his child. He is alleged to have been beaten by the police in full view of his son an experience that will now leave that little boy with the kind of deep emotional and psychological scar that will last a life time. Along with his daughter, these children are now deprived of a loving father.

The Police then took Kingsley to a local mental health unit and three days later, after being transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kingsley Burrell was dead.

What is known is that Kingsley had no history of mental illness. What is known is Kingsley was not a violent man. What is known is that British Police officers are predisposed as a result of deeply held racial prejudices to treat black men in a much more violent and aggressive manner than white Britons.

So far there have been two initial coroners' hearings to try and identify the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding his arrest and subsequent treatment. The West Midlands Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospital, Birmingham are all in the dock. Meanwhile the Police Complaints Commission conducts an independent investigation.

The problem with these institutions that much like those of the apartheid era they do not enjoy the confidence of black and poor communities. Like them they can quote theoretical law and practice, point to a lack of evidence and arrive at similar conclusions. The Crown Prosecution Service has a blind spot for justice when the accused is a police officer and the victim is black.

They are disbelieved in their ability to do anything other than cover their own backs. These institutions lack credibility among black and poor communities and this is informed by numerous examples of where compelling evidence exists (of criminality or culpability) they refuse to charge..

In this society at this time we need to maintain the maximum public pressure on these organisations ensuring opaque levels accountability , adherence to the rule of law and prevention of systemic abuses of power and corruption.

The current administration of criminal justice system is infected at its core with systemic institutional racism.

The excuses have become much more sophisticated and racism in the system in much more nuanced but the judicial outcomes are entirely consistent. No one is ever held to account and that is why we need a public inquiry into suspicious deaths in custody. The restoration of public confidence in the fair administration of justice and the demand for justice for the victim's families
requires fundamental judicial reform.

The Justice 4 Smiley Culture Campaign, who are supporting the Burrell family have set up an e-petition that calls for a public inquiry into all deaths in custody and is attracting hundreds of signatures in support of the call for a public inquiry.

We must shine the bright light of public accountability on these institutions and that why the forthcoming national march highlighting suspicious deaths in custody and entitled the March for Truth and Justice for Kingsley Burrell due to take place on the 2nd July 2011 in Birmingham. It is vital if we are to ensure that Kingsley's children and wider family are afforded justice that we mobilise, promote and attend this march when such deeply troubling cases arise.

That why it is critically important that the wider public and campaigning groups keep the pressure on such institutions to maintain the highest standards. Maxi Hayles, head of Birmingham's Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit, said: "I call upon all people who believe in the principles of open and transparent justice to join with us and support this march. It is vital we find out what happened to our brother Kingsley and we will not rest until we find the truth."

Calling on the public to support the planned march he added, "We need your support to build this march and that requires you all to become cyber warriors for justice and take to the internet in your thousands to highlight this huge injustice and promote the march in support of the Burrell Brown family."

The plan is to assemble in Abbey Road Birmingham for 12 noon and then walk on past the Mary Seacole mental health unit in Winson Green, where Kingsley was taken. We then take the demonstration on to Bolton Road, Soho Road. Finally we head into the city centre to Lloyd House, the headquarters of West Midlands Police Service. There we will rally, chant and let Birmingham and the rest of the country know we are united in our quest for justice"

Lee Jasper a supporter of the campaign said: " First I would like to publicly thank the Voice Newspaper for its steadfast coverage of this tragic story at a time when most mainstream media are trying to sweep this issue under the carpet.

Their coverage has been first class and reminds us of the campaigning history of the Voice in its early days. Second to overcome this media reluctance we need people use social networks to spread the story far and wide eventually we will force them to give this story the coverage it deserves.

Finally we must promote the march ensuring that the Burrell family gets the support they deserve. This means we have to take the issue seriously and I would ask that every single day people dedicate some time to supporting this campaign. We are on the road to justice and the momentum must be increase. We must not predictably fade away once the heat of our emotion and outrage has gone. They expect us to run out of steam and we must now increase the pressure. No Justice No Peace !"

Speakers at the march will include campaigners and activists from around the country including Friends of Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice
fighting for justice for Powell who died in police custody in Birmingham more than six years ago. Merlin Emmanuel from the Smiley Culture Campaign, the Birmingham-based Julian Webster, who died under controversial circumstances outside the Pitcher and Piano nightclub and bar in Manchester in 2009 along with many others.

We must remove the stench of racism and injustice from the British system of justice. There can be no greater injustice than to call the Police for help and then being forcibly arrested and as a result of brutality end up dying in police custody.

Campaign for Justice for Kingsley Burrell: Contact:


Twitter: Follow @March4Justice


Lee Jasper

First Published at OBV Operation Black Vote: The home of Black Politics