At this year’s NUS Black Students’ Conference, Adam Elliott-Cooper spoke to Peter Herbert, one of the UK’s most senior human rights barristers on his thoughts on recent police scandals, protest and the state of civil liberties in Britain today.

1,433 people in England and Wales have died either in police custody or following other police contact since 1990, according to data compiled by Inquest, a charity specialising in the investigation of contentious deaths.

The author examines, inter alia, reports from the Metropolitan Police Service, academics Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott, Tottenham MP David Lammy, the Guardian/London School of Economics, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Ministry of Justice to analyse the riots in London and other cities.

As the UK celebrates the conviction of two men for the racist murder nineteen years ago of Stephen Lawrence, the author draws on research into racial violence being carried out by the Institute of Race Relations to show that violence is still at very high levels and is becoming dispersed to new areas.

Police forces are up to 28 times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people and may be breaking the law, new research from the official human rights body reveals. The research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) looked at police stop powers where officers do not require suspicion of involvement in crime, known as section 60 stops.

Gang culture is a phenomenon that dominates headlines and election campaigns, yet whose historical and political context is almost always absent or ignored. To address the issue, Dom Anderson argues, we must begin by understanding the critical role social structures and institutions play.

A familiar narrative has once again been thrust into the public theatre. The year began with the conviction of two of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers, an event that some would quite happily revere as a moment of burial for institutional racism. Inevitably, police brutality hasn’t been able to stay off the radar for too long. Race is creeping back on to the agenda at a time when the shooting of Mark Duggan is in danger of becoming clouded by other noise; and for those that denied even the possibility that institutional racism might have something to do with last year’s riots, questions about the police and its sister institutions are beginning to resurface.

There have been a number of inquiries into the causes of the riots that took place last August […] How different the IPPC investigation into the initial incident that led to these disturbances, the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on 4 August 2011. Nine months into the investigation the Independent Police Complaints Commission has still not been able to interview the officers involved in the operation that led to the shooting. None of the 31 have agreed to talk to the IPCC over their role. Each officer has, apparently, given a statement but has declined to be interviewed by the very body charged with carrying out a full and robust investigation into their actions

 Police cannot restore trust over racism on their own, says chairman of Black Police Association, Bevan Powell

Scotland Yard veterans claim spiralling crisis triggered by recording of racial abuse was ‘accident waiting to happen’

Terelle Ferguson alleges that Metropolitan police officers strangled, kicked and dragged him onto the floor while he was in police custody in August last year, causing him long term injury. In this interview he gives a first-hand account of his allegations against the officers involved

At the heart of the rioters’ complaints was a pervasive sense of injustice. For Fahim Alam, an Oxford and LSE graduate, that sense of injustice has deep resonance. At the height of the riots, Fahim was arrested and falsely accused of ‘violent disorder’. He spent six weeks in jail before being acquitted in under half an hour.

Police considered firing plastic bullets at rioters but could not get specialist unit to the scene in time, Met report reveals

Campaigners in Tottenham have criticised the Metropoiltan Police’s (MPS) ‘Four days in August’ report, which scrutinises the role of the MPS in lead up to and during last summers disturbances, as a ‘whitewash’.
Speaking on behalf of the Tottenham Defence Campaign, community activist Stafford Scott said today:
“After a long delay in publication, the MPS report does little to build the community trust it speaks of wishing to develop. The police made a series of mistakes in ignoring a specific warning of growing tensions and advice from people in the community around communicating with those gathered outside Tottenham police station and most importantly Mark Duggan’s family. This report evades taking full responsibility for these errors, whitewashes events and instead seeks to push blame onto the community. Until the MPS fully accept their failings they will be unable to truly learn the lessons that they claim were the purpose of this report’s investigation”

This Police Foundation Briefing looks at the changing legislation on stop and
search and identifies some of the key issues that arise from its use.

Mark Duggan was killed twice: first, when police officers shot him dead as he emerged from a taxi. Second, when the IPCC, Police and media all colluded in covering up the real circumstances of his death. As Adam Elliott-Cooper argues, this is merely the latest example of the institutional injustice and systemic abuses at the heart of our law enforcement establishment.
Local authority and police decisions to seize the homes of family members of those charged in connection with the riots or convicted of terrorist offences punish whole families for one member’s wrongdoing.
All too often Young people in the UK are spoken too instead of spoken with. This is especially true when it comes to matters of policing. Profiles of the profiled is an attempt to address this imbalance.
When the Independent Police Complaints Commission set up a community reference group (CRG) to oversee the investigation into the shooting of Mark Duggan I put myself forward. I believed that my background not only gave me credibility within the community, but would also ensure that the IPCC would do all it could to carry out a rigorous, transparent investigation. I signed a confidentiality agreement that I have honoured up until now. However, I have been compelled to resign from the CRG as the IPCC’s investigation into the shooting of Duggan is unlikely to meet any of the criteria I set out.
Criminologist Jon Burnett is concerned about the long-term impact on policing and criminal justice of the government’s response to the riots and its use of ‘underclass’ theories.
  • FILM 2001, Ken Fero & Tariq Mehmood, 98 mins : Injustice
In 1969 David Oluwale became the first black person to die in police custody in Britain. Many others have died since then. None of the police officers involved have been convicted of these deaths. In this documentary, the families of these victims ask “Why not?”

Over the last seven years, I have been working with young people to empower them to have a voice about issues that affect them. Youth violence is never far from their minds. Primary school children have talked about feeling unsafe on their estates and feeling paranoid about groups of teenagers hanging around.


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