Today the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, shot by police marksmen in the summer of 2011, begins at the Royal Courts of Justice. DtRtP is proud to stand with the Mark’s family and friends, and encourage everybody to do the same by joining us in the public gallery throughout the inquest. We demand justice for all those killed in custody, and for those who have been injured or killed following an encounter with the police.
The inquest will continue for 10 weeks, and we encourage everyone to come and sit in the public gallery to show support.
Carole Duggan, Mark Duggans’s aunt will also be speaking at our conference, alongside other families fighting for justice. More details below
Deaths in custody – who polices the police?
Since 1990 alone, 1468 people have died in police custody or following contact with the police and yet still not a single officer has faced charges. From the Hillsborough disaster to the role of undercover police in undermining the Stephen Lawrence campaign, we see an ongoing pattern of cover-ups, victim-blaming, intimidation tactics towards those seeking justice. Family members and loved ones of those who die in police custody are faced with the same tactics when they seek justice, whether it’s the police surveillance of Janet Alder campaigning for the truth about her brother Christopher’s murder or theshameful depiction of Mark Duggan as a violent and armed gangster to justify shooting him dead in broad daylight. The IPCC, which has proved time and time again incapable of delivering any form of justice, exists effectively as a body of ex-police investigating police. And even when an inquest delivers a damning verdict of unlawful behavior as in the case of Azelle Rodney, Scotland Yard continues tosupport the police gunman in fighting that finding.
Only through the tireless campaigning of the families of the victims and activists have we seen any of the truth of these deaths come out. Justice campaigns have to fight the police, the media and the IPCC to get any form of justice. We have seen some important victories recently with the reports of unlawful killings in the cases of Jimmy Mubenga and Azelle Rodney. As the inquest into Mark Duggan’s death begins on 16th September and United Friends and Family Campaign prepares for its 15th annual march on 26th October, come discuss who polices the police? How can we fight for justice for those who are killed in the hands of those who “serve and protect”?
Marcia and Sam Rigg, sisters of Sean Rigg who died in police custody at Brixton Police Station in 2008. The Sean Rigg Justice and Change campaign, set up by the Rigg family, has campaigned relentlessly for truth and justice.
An initial “investigation” by the IPCC ruled the police had done nothing wrong in Sean’s case but an inquest jury concluded that officers used unsuitable and unnecessary force on Sean, with officers failing to uphold his basic rights, and police actions contributing to his death. In May, an independent review of the IPCC’s initial investigation (first review of its kind) found that the IPCC had made a string of errors, as had the police and “inappropriate conduct” by the Police Federation.
Carole Duggan, aunt of Mark Duggan who was shot by the police in Tottenham in August 2011. Carole has been a tireless voice in the face of the police and the media, who have tried to paint Mark as a dangerous man – far from the reality of Mark’s reputation within his community as a “peace-keeper”.
A year on and the IPCC still hasn’t released the results from their own inquiry but have said they have “found no evidence of criminality” without even interviewing the any of the officers under caution of potential offences. All 11 police officers refused to orally answer questions, submitting written answers instead – their statements were written over eight hours while sitting in a room together three days after having killed Mark! Mark’s death was felt all over the country, with the anger of yet another black man being killed by the police becoming the spark to set off the riots. On Monday 16th September, the inquest into Mark’s death begins at the Royal Courts of Justice and we encourage people to support the Duggan family and friends by attending in the public gallery.
Susan Alexander, mother of Azelle Rodney who was shot six times at point-blank range by the police in April 2005. Susan has been the driving force in fighting for the truth despite every attempt by the state to undermine her fight for justice. In May 2009, Susan filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that her human rights were breached by the failure to hold a “reasonably prompt” and public investigation into her son’s death.
After seven years of campaigning, the public inquiry in October 2012, which finally forced the Met to make public all the evidence in Azelle’s death, concluded that the police had unlawfully killed him thus overturning the initial IPCC “investigation”. In the course of the inquiry, the officer E7 who shot Azelle was allowed to keep his anonymity, giving evidence from behind a screen, and admitting to having killed two other men in the 1980s.
The report found that E7’s claim that he fired in fear that Azelle Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to fire was not credible, and “he could not rationally have believed that”, that it was not a proportionate response to “open fire with a lethal weapon” and that even if E7 had held a mistaken belief that Rodney had an automatic weapon, “there would have been no basis for firing the fatal fifth to eight shots”, which struck him in the head. As if this wasn’t enough, E7 is now challenging the outcome of the inquiry, and is supported by the police in his attempt to do so.
Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder who died in custody in a Hull police station in April 1998. Janet’s ongoing fight for justice has been an inspiration, despite every attempt from the police to block her along the way. It has recently been revealed that much like the Lawrence family, the police spied on Janet in the hope of damaging the campaign – “As soon as I walked out of the station after Christopher died, I was followed by a police officer.”
Christopher was taken to the hospital after having been the victim of an assault. His behaviour there, likely to be caused by the head injury, meant he was arrested and taken to the station. Handcuffed and unconscious, he was “partially dragged and partially carried” from a police van and then placed on the floor of the custody suite while officers chatted and speculated that he was faking illness. He could be heard making “gurgling” noises as he breathed in and out through the pool of blood around his face. One policeman said that although he was aware of the gurgling he ignored it, believing Christopher was deliberately blowing through the blood to “try and upset” them. As the young black man lay dying on the floor, officers made monkey noises. After 12 minutes one noticed that Christopher was not making any breathing noises and although resuscitation was then attempted he was pronounced dead at the scene.
An inquest in 2000 returned a verdict of unlawful killing. The five police officers who were present in the custody suite at the time refused on more than 150 occasions during the hearing to answer questions. Although the CPS initially said there was not enough evidence, they were charged in 2002 of manslaughter but the trial collapsed when the judge ordered the jury to find the officers not guilty on all charges! An internal police disciplinary inquiry also cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. In 2006 an IPCC report found that four of the officers guilty of the “most serious neglect of duty”. Christopher’s body was discovered in the mortuary, eleven years after his family believed they had buried him. An exhumation of his grave found that a 77 year old woman had been buried in his place. In November 2011 the government formally apologised to Alder’s family, admitting that it had breached its obligations in regard to preserving life and ensuring no one is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. They also admitted that they had failed to carry out an effective and independent inquiry into the case.