by Lee Pinkerton

On Wednesday 8th January 2013 the jury at the High Court in London found the Police officer who shot Mark Duggan dead in the streets of Tottenham in 2011, not guilty of unlawful killing. How, they asked, could the Police shoot an unarmed man and it be considered lawful?  Some commentators described the verdict as ‘strange’ or ‘surprising’, but I for one wasn’t surprised.  This is business as usual for the Criminal Justice system in Britain.  The Police are NEVER convicted of unlawful killing, unless there is video evidence which can prove it – and even then, it’s an uphill struggle.

The presumption of the Great-British-Public and the Main-Stream-Media is that if the Police use force, then that force must be warranted.  If the Police use deadly force, then they must have considered themselves or the public to be in mortal danger.  In this case the deadly force was justified because the Police THOUGHT that Duggan had a gun and was aiming to shoot.

Lots of black, brown and white people have written about the Duggan Inquiry verdict, Stafford Scott, Harry Stopes and Hugh Muir to name a few, what I want to do is give it context.

Let’s take you through a quick reminder of the Police’s treatment of Black Britons over the last 30 years.

In 1985 Cherry Groce was hit by a police bullet (an injury which left her paralysed from the waist down) when the police conducted an armed search of her home seeking her son. The police officer who shot Mrs. Groce, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, was prosecuted but eventually acquitted of malicious wounding.

In 1993 Joy Gardner fell into a coma after struggling with Police when they and an immigration officer arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. She later died in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995.

A similar fate befell Roger Sylvester when he was taken into Police custody in 1999.  He sustained numerous injuries in his struggle with the officers and remained in a coma at the Whittington hospital for seven days until his life support machine was switched off.

Or there’s Frank Ogboru who was arrested in 2006.  Eye-witnesses saw a struggle between the officers and Frank which resulted in him being sprayed with CS Gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. CCTV footage captured several more officers joining in the restraint and striking Frank to subdue him. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”.

More recently in 2011 we are meant to believe that David Emmanuel, aka reggae artist Smiley Culture stabbed himself in the chest whilst Police conducted a search of his house. An investigation into the Police operation conducted by the IPCC found no evidence that a crime had been committed, and no misconduct by Police officers.

I bring up these historical cases to illustrate that the Police have form when it comes to killing Black people and getting away with it. So no, I was not surprised at the Duggan verdict. I gave up being surprised after the four police officers involved in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King were found not guilty, despite being caught on camera.

Police Cover-Up in Deaths of 96 Fans at Hillsborough
Police Cover-Up in Deaths of 96 Fans at Hillsborough

But that was the past.  This is the present and as we all know, since Obama became President, things are so much better.  We now live in a post racial society where racism is illegal.  But even if that were true, guess what?  Sometimes the Police fit up white people too! Look at the behaviour of Police during the Hillsborough disaster.

It has long been known by those in the Black community that the Police sometimes lie in court and fabricate evidence in order to get a conviction.  That is a fact that the majority of the UK’s citizens were unwilling to believe.  That was until in the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012.

In this political scandal Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, then the government’s chief whip, has a row with police officers who would not let him cycle through Downing Street’s main gate.

The Officers in question reported that he swore at them and called them “plebs” who should learn their place. Mr Mitchell denied using the word “plebs” but apologised for being disrespectful. But members of the Police Federation waged a campaign against him, wearing “PC Pleb” T-shirts at demonstrations against police funding cuts at the Conservative Party conference. Three local representatives of the Police Federation met Mr Mitchell at his office, telling reporters afterwards that he had still not disclosed the precise words he used in the incident and criticising him for implying that the Downing Street officers’ accounts were not accurate. Mitchell alleged that he was the victim of a ‘stich up’ but was still forced to resign from his cabinet post. But evidence later released revealed that Mitchell’s version of events was true and the Police had been involved in a co-ordinated lie, in an attempt to discredit an MP as part of their campaign against government cuts.  If they can lie to discredit a respected member of the Government, how much more likely that they will do so to cover their own crimes and discredit a convicted criminal?

And most importantly, how much more likely that a jury will believe them?

I don’t know exactly what happened on that day in 2011.  I wasn’t there.  I don’t know what was in that Police officer’s mind as he pulled the trigger – twice, but I know my history.  I know that when Black people die in Police custody nobody is ever held accountable.  I also know that sometimes the Police kill people unlawfully and lie and collude and fabricate evidence to cover it up. I know that sometimes innocent people go to jail because of a forced Police confession (Cardiff Three); and sometimes guilty people get away scot-free because the Police aren’t motivated to pursue them thoroughly. (The Killers of Stephen Lawrence)

And what I also know is that it’s as hard for a Black man to get justice in this country today, as it’s always been.

[1]  Background to the police shooting of Mark Duggan can be found here

[2] There have been 54 police shooting deaths since 1990, 21 involving the Metropolitan police.  9 of the 54 deaths have been of people from BAME communities.

[3] There have been 10 unlawful killing verdicts at inquests or inquiries involving deaths in police custody or following police contact since 1990.  There have been eight attempts to prosecute police following a death in police custody or following contact in the same period, none of which have been successful.

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lee pinkerton-hoodysmallLee Pinkerton was born in London, the child of Jamaican and Guyanese immigrants. After studying Sociology and Psychology at University he spent the 90s as a music journalist, first as a freelancer for magazines such as Mix Mag, Echoes, and Hip-Hop Connection and then as the Arts Editor for ‘Britain’s Best Black newspaper’- The Voice.
In addition to this he also wrote a book the Many Faces of Michael Jackson published in 1997. His latest book The Problem With Black Men examines the causes of the social problems facing Black men in Britain and America today. Buy books
He can currently be heard as a regular on-air contributor to the ‘ACE show’ on BBC Radio Derby and his political polemics and cultural criticism can be read on the blog-site The Black Watch and his daily musings on Twitter @_Runawayslave.

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3 thoughts on “Business As Usual

  1. Business as usual indeed, Lee. We’re now at the stage where so many have died in recent years, it’s impossible to discuss all victims in one article. We actually need a tribunal. One issue (of many) worth investigating would be why nearly a third of all deaths in custody within London since 1990 have been black victims.

    Also, the point about Plebgate is very important. Racial prejudice is so ingrained in this country, many were actually shocked at the extent of police lies. But as a minority community in Britain, I doubt many black people were surprised. “Incidents” like Hillsborough, Ian Tomlinson, Blair Peach and many more should remind the real “underclass” (aka plebs) where the real problems within the British police force lie.


  2. I am currently reading Untouchables by Michael Gillard. As well as the Stephen Lawrence case which it reports on in some detail, there is also the still unprosecuted Daniel Morgan murder from 1987. A culture of impunity has hold of state institutions, glued together by the freemasons, which is, to a point up to them…however that society continues to pay rather than prosecute corrupt officers is just another outrageous aspect of what is wrong. Thank you for this article, we must not forget our shared histories.


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