Slaughter of the Innocents -That kind of thing can’t happen here . . .
Slaughter of the Innocents: That kind of thing can’t happen here . . .
By Trevor Grundy
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock is thankful that Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests are in response to events in America and not in Britain.
“I think, thankfully, this is all based in response to events in America rather than here, but we must also continue the drive here for tolerance and genuine equality of opportunity,” he is quoted saying in the 12th June edition of New Statesman magazine.
The leftwards leaning weekly says under a heading A World in Revolt that there is a growing temptation for British politicians to contrast favourably the United Kingdom with the USA.
“Yet, “says the NS”the British protests were not just in response to Mr Floyd’s death. They were a demonstration against entrenched socio-economic inequality and pervasive racism in the UK, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Naturally, every politician and hopefully policeman in the UK hopes the killer of George Floyd will be brought to justice in America.
But it’s hard to avoid the fact that so many prominent English politicians do enjoy sniffing the rubbish in other people’s dustbins while ignoring the stench in their own backyards.
And many, rather like Matt Hancock, are blessed with short, highly selective memories.
Think Jean Charles de Menezes (below) the 27 -year old electrician from Brazil, who was killed by an officer of the London Metropolitan Police on an underground railway station in South London on July 22, 2005.
Police stalked him from his hone to an underground station, chased him down an escalator, followed him onto a tube train, spread eagled him on the floor, rendered him immobile and then pumped in not one . . . not two . . . not three . . . .but seven bullets into his head.
And he was perfectly innocent of any crime or connection to any terrorist organization in Britain or anywhere else in the world.
He was a young man on his way to work who was at the wrong place at the wrong time when police struck, wrongly believing he might be connected to an organization that set off bombs across London on July 7 that year.
Fifty two UK residents from 18 nationalities were killed and more than 700 injured that terrible day.
But the Brazilian had nothing to do with any of act of violence that shook the world.
So, surely someone would face justice after the Police admitted they’d killed the wrong man?
Sadly, none of the CCTV was working at the underground station where the man was shot dead.
The decision not to prosecute individuals was taken on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
At a court hearing, the man who killed the innocent Brazilian sat behind a screen weeping.
The Metropolitan Police were corporately found guilty and fined £175,000.
There was public anger, of course there was, but it was minute compared with what’s happening now because of the murder in the USA of George Floyd and now another Afro-American man in Atlanta.
The British were shocked for a little while about the death of the Brazilian. But, as so many journalists pointed out, these things happen when terrorist are on the loose.
Concluding lines from a poem called ‘Summertime’ by Sean O’Brien say it all –
You have to take a balanced view.
That kind of thing can’t happen here,
And when it does it isn’t true.
On March 30 2016 the family of Jean Charles de Menezes lost a human rights challenge over the decision not to charge any UK police officer for the fatal shooting.
British authorities had thoroughly investigated the shooting and concluded there was not sufficient evidence for a realistic chance of conviction of any one officer over the shooting, said a court in Strasbourg.
A cousin of the dead man, Patricia da Silva Armani told the BBC on March 30, 2016: “We find it unbelievable that our innocent cousin could be shot seven times in the heads by the Metropolitan Police when he had done nothing wrong. And yet the police have not had to account for their actions.
“As we have always maintained, we feel that the decisions about guilt and innocence should be made by juries, not by faceless bureaucrats and we are deeply saddened that we have been denied that opportunity yet again.”
No-one asked him how he felt when the senior officer who directed this appalling miscarriage of justice by remote control from Scotland Yard – egging her men on to get that man – was promoted to the rank of assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 2009 and then Police Commissioner in 2016.
Cressida Dick pictured below) is the first woman to hold that position.
Mr Floyd’s violent death and his terrible last words “I can’t breathe” echo around the world.
The final gasps of others are un-recorded.
The tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes is not the only stepping-stone on the way to meaningful change.
Jimmy Mubenga (below) a 46 -year old Angolan, died on board a plane at Heathrow Airport bound for his home country.
Three security guards who restrained him on an Angolan-bound plane were cleared of manslaughter by a jury at the Old Bailey.
He died after being restrained by the G4S Guards on a British Airways flight on 12 October, 2010.
Three men were accused of manslaughter by forcing Mubenga’s head down, restricting his breathing as the flight prepared to take off.
A court heard how his fellow passengers testified that they heard Mubenga cry out – ‘I can’t breathe’ and he was pinned down in his seat, despite already being handcuffed from behind with his seatbelt on.
Mubenga came to the UK with his wife, Adrienne Makenda Kambana in 1996.
He was jailed in 2006 for actual bodily harm following a fight in a nightclub. He faced extradition to Angola which he fought until 2010.
Then came deportation followed by death.
In Scotland, a public inquiry is to be held (when the Covid-19 pandemic eases) into the death of a man in custody after prosecutors decided not to charge any police officers involved.
The Scottish government’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, announced that there would be an independent public inquiry the death of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy five years ago after the 31- year old from Sierra Leone was restrained by nine police officers using batons, CS spray and pepper spray.
Sheku Batoh with his partner Collette Bell
Public inquiries are set up by the government under the Inquiries Act 2005, to investigate events which could cause public concern.
They can be led by one person or a panel, who take evidence in the form of documents and oral testimony regarding the events in question.
On June 11, 2020 The Guardian reported that black people account for three percent of the British population but eight percent of deaths in custody.
In a prominent article, the former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal OBE (pictured above left) drew attention to the death in Queens Gardens Police Station in Hull of a former British army paratrooper, Christopher Adler, who was arrested for a breach of the peace.
CCTV footage showed him lying face down on the floor of the station, motionless, with his trousers round his ankles.
The Guardian report said that police stood around the dying man for ten minutes, laughing.
Three years later, an inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing – because the officers did nothing while, for three minutes of that time, Adler was unable to breath.
A year later, five police officers were prosecuted for manslaughter and misconduct in public office.
All were acquitted on the direction of the judge.
Since 1969, just one police officer has been convicted for a role in the death of someone in their care.
Afzal asked the question everyone who supports Black Lives Matter in Britain is asking –
”Why is this? Well, invariably, in such cases the only witnesses are other police officers; there may also be CCTV and some medical or forensic evidence. In the civilian world, friends will give evidence against friends in the most serious of crimes, but after three decades working in criminal law I cannot recall a death -in – custody case where a police officer has given evidence against another police officer. Juries are loath to convict police officers generally. One successful prosecution of an individual in 50 years tells its own story.”
And there are so many other cases.
But if you’re British, stand back a while and say a prayer or write to your local MP. You will be encouraged to understand and take ‘the balanced view’ that the police are only doing their duty . . . men in uniform, guarding us while we sleep.
Never question their integrity.
As for the sort of police brutality the American cops deal out to black people . . .
That kind of thing can’t happen here,
And when it does it isn’t true.