Category Archives: Justice

The truth untold about a summer of unrest

Why Britain suffered a long hot summer has resulted in acres of print and endless meetings why there was a contagious unrest. One common view held was that it was sparked by the death of a black man at the hands of the police. This was one attack on a black person too many. The effect was quite incredible. The incompetent police handling of the aftermath when the family responded asking questions was damped down by assertions that Mark Duggan was armed. The Guardian now reports otherwise.
In Birmingham it has taken years to find out how Mikey Powell met his death while being taken into custody. He was rammed by a police car, hit by police batons, sprayed with gas and sat on. This was after his mother had requested help because of Mikey’s mental illness. Justification was given for violence on this vulnerable person because it was “believed he was armed”.
In Wolverhampton Jenny Cooper was badly beaten by police in the course of being arrested for a trumped up charge for which she has been cleared by a jury. It was so arranged that she was convicted of resisting arrest in the magistrate’s court before standing trial for the substantive charge. So she still has a record because the police are keen to protect themselves from any charges against themselves for thuggery.
Will the “landmark report” report in the Guardian shed light, heat or both on the matter?

The thin veneer of civilisation

Just scratch the surface of what we fondly think of as civilisation and we get this. Go a little deeper and you’ll find this.
Another extra judicial killing and not just the Sun but a good deal of the rest of the UK media crow about Britain’s role in Libya. It is claimed it was not the same as Iraq and that there was a UN mandate for this. As I remember it the agreement was to “protect civilians”. Wasn’t “regime change” ruled out? The execution of Saddam Hussein was a political act of revenge by his enemies, that of Osama bin Laden (if it was him – I have my doubts, especially when Benazir Bhutto claimed he had been dead for some time. as has she herself) and now Gaddafi. Who is next. Well not the tyrants in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, made rich, powerful and untouchable by the same bunch glowing with pride at this barbarism. Is this supporting terrorism? No it asking for people to act like the civilised individuals they claim to be. It is they who are recruiting sergeants for terrorism. They are also the friends of the arms dealers who want bigger and better wars, and increasing markets for death and destruction. Their operators won’t get hurt when they drop their illegal cluster bombs for little children to handle as toys, or play their computer games as they operate drones from their armchairs thousands of miles distant on real people.
The scene of Gaddafi’s end did look like the climax of the fox hunt where the baying hounds close in and tear their quarry to pieces. Oh no Gaddafi “was caught in cross fire” as the kindly, humane rebels ferried him to hospital in an ambulance. Didn’t look like that to me on the Russia Today video.
What’s next in Libya no one knows. Will they get the standard of housing, health and education that was once reported? Will they get the “democracy” promised by the likes of Cameron, bursting with pride at what has been done, while at the same time consigning his own people to savage cuts with many forced to the point of going without food, energy or essential services. Even Libya was better than that!

Fear of racial divide in Birmingham

Tension has been heightened in Birmingham after the deaths of three young men out to protect businesses and property from looting that has been rife in Birmingham for two nights. It appears a car was driven deliberately into a crowd standing on the pavement on Dudley Road in Winson Green.
In a television report on Midlands today a father said “they will be forgotten in a few day’s time”. That will not happen, and moving tributes were given by members of the community, including an African-Caribbean neighbour who said she was “deeply distressed”. She had lived next door to one of the young people killed for years and had developed good relations with the family.
That there are inter-community tensions cannot be denied, but they can be fuelled by politicians, police and others or they can be recognised and prevented. The closing down of community resources which addressed problems of alienation and gave something to poorer members of the community is having a significant effect on worsening community relations. The dispossessed are dispossessed further by an elite and uncaring government and local council.

Shock and Awe? Mr Cameron it’s back-fired on you this time

I got home at 6.00 this morning. I was in a friend’s shop and she closed it early as there were messages that unrest had begun in Birmingham.The news was mainly about London burning but then there were shots of Brum City Centre followed by Liverpool. And then the noise started as we saw a dozen or so hooded youth outside the shop we thought trying to break in. I noticed they were further down with their attention on the chippy. They succeeded in tearing gown the shutter and breaking the windows. Not clear why this was their target though. They then had a go at the cash machine installed next door trying to rip it out of the wall. The police arrived by the van load very quickly. There were more riot police in this part of Handsworth than there appeared to be in Liverpool where rioters were driving the police back. It was a great relief since if the mob had gained entry to the shop, looted and torched it escape would have been difficult. The new owner of the fish shop was not so happy berating the police for not preventing the disorder. One office retorted that he’d been on duty for 17 hours.
The television coverage continued to replay Croydon, then Ealing, Clapham and other parts of London, some places will alight but no sign of a significant police presence or fire brigade. They would not attend without protection.
The “Shock Doctrine” brought into play by the British government unleashing an economic form of “Shock and Awe”, formulated by Naomi Klein’s view of “Disaster Capitalism, on us has back-fired. Members of the community are also capable of “shock and awe” tactics which has backfired seriously against the Cameron/Clegg partnership of barren politics. To further dispossess the already economically and socially dispossessed was a recipe for a backlash, which started with a student protest against exorbitant cost of higher education. To recognise this is not to condone the violence unleashed. Much of this has a disproportionate effect on others struggling to live in adversity while those who unleashed it inhabit ivory towers. There’s hardly a squeak from Labour in opposition about the effects of “cuts’. Cuts was always a euphemism of pulling the rug of public services from under the feet of the poor whose lifeline it was.

Wolverhampton. Don’t try and get justice here.

Justice for Jenny Cooper
We turned up at Wolverhampton Crown Court at 10.00 expecting at last to hear the second part of the charges the police in Wolverhampton have thrown at Jenny Cooper. No such luck. The court case was last Friday and so over the weekend some police officers turned up to arrest her and take her into custody. Luckily Jenny has the letter from the solicitor saying 11th April. It was the solicitor who contacted the police to arrest Jenny for non-attendance! She has been trying to change the solicitor but because it is funded by legal aid she can’t do that. She will have to pay to go elsewhere, but if your representative prefers to support the police what can you do?
Back in February there was a hearing in the Magistrates’ Court about Jenny resisting arrest on June 30th 2010. The magistrate obviously wasn’t in a good mood to start with. As I tried to put in my hearing aid it started to ring. “Turn off you mobile phone now” was the angry response glancing in my direction. Jenny fared no better. He told her she hadn’t been hurt – although she was still using crutches more than 6 months later. Her representative failed to say even that she was taken to New Cross Hospital by the police. Although they thought she may have broken bones and wanted to put plaster on her the police insisted that they needed to question her and needed to take her back to Bilston Street Police Station. A woman ambulance driver had warned her to get further help elsewhere as she believed the hospital and police worked together. A Wolverhampton Mafia indeed! Jenny went to Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley and then to her own GP. None of this was reported to the court with the result that the Malevolent Magistrate told her she was lying. (Her GP had likened her injuries to someone involved in a car crash.)

A day out in Cradley Heath

A group of Socialist Labour Party members and supporters trekked off to Cradley Heath to celebrate the centenary of the Chain Maker’s strike when women workers achieved a magnificent victory in substantially improving pay and conditions for working people. The leader was not a local woman at all as we heard from one of the speakers at the Salvation Army Hall. Former MP Sylvia Heal told the 200 or so assembled about the story of Mary McArthur who had come from a privileged background in Scotland where her father was an anti-trades union Tory.
It transpired that McArthur’s stay in Cradley Heath was just one episode in a life which had achieved a number of notable landmarks for working people and for women. While she supported the campaign for votes for women she was less happy with the suffragette movement who wanted votes for women with property. Her outspoken criticism didn’t make her popular with them but when voting rights came it was universal. Mary MacArthur was influential and her stand with the women of Cradley Heath gained the notice and support of the likes of Winston Churchill, then a Liberal MP, Ramsey MacDonald and Keir Hardy. George Cadbury donated funds to her cause. She stood for parliament as a member of the Independent Labour Party in which her husband had been an MP. As a socialist she was an internationalist and a founder of the International Labour Organisation. She died from cancer at the age of only 40.
Earlier Tony Barnsley, author of “Breaking their Chains” spoke about his book and film was shown of interviews with strikers, something which has been lying in BBC archives for years. How much more working class history lies untouched? I have come across such invaluable material before when viewing the work of Phillip Donellan whose subjects were also connected with the Midlands.

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Police above the law

Jennifer Cooper arrest
Jennifer Cooper lies still on the ground after a savage beating from two police officers seen standing over her. They are not tending to her multiple injuries they have just inflicted one is about to put handcuffs on her. She was taken to the police station for questioning about serious allegations about her, apparently from a totally unreliable source.
We continue to believe that the police force is a service intended to protect us from harm, that is unless the law is broken, If, however, members of the police force act unlawfully harming members of the public, us, what redress is there? The answer time after time is there is none as the case of the striking to the ground of a man on his way home from work, The video shows him to be struck with considerable force. Why? Was the officer wound up. By him? By someone else? The Crown Prosecution Service says there would be little prospect of a prosecution succeeding. Is this just an opinion, an informed opinion or what? How do we know unless it is put to the test? That is of course if members of the CPS like the rest of us believe the police are untouchable.
Time after time it is agreed that mistakes are made as the Met said after Jean Charles de Menezes was unlawfully killed at Stockwell tube station five years ago today. Has anyone been held to account for this horrific act? Just read the link. Here’s a message from one family to another.
Last year the cause of the death of Mikey Powell in police custody in Birmingham found after 5 years that the cause of death was the way Mikey was placed in the police van. Any one prosecuted? No. Anyone likely to be prosecuted? Refer to the CPS statement above.
On 30th June Jennifer Cooper was forcibly kicked to the ground so that she had injuries said to resemble a car accident. More than by luck than judgement she didn’t die. While the police took her to the police station and then because of her injuries to hospital, they have not recorded the incident as a crime against her. It appears that the police were tipped off, by someone they know to be totally unreliable, that she was dangerous. If you know Jenny that is laughable. The police will merely say that they are continuing investigations into allegations against her. Not a word of concern has been expressed about her injuries. No crime number has been issued to her so anyone trying to investigate what happened gets nowhere with the police. She cannot apply for compensation from Criminal Injuries. She appears to have no rights.
Jennifer Cooper injuries
Jenny was kicked forcibly in the back so was unprepared for the attack by a male officer of large build. She was then kicked in the most vulnerable parts of her body with the officer standing on her throat. A woman police officer was said to have joined in and they were heard to be laughing as they carried out the assault.

Serious assault by police on Wolverhampton woman

On 30th June, 2010 Jennifer Cooper of Wolverhampton, was walking down the street outside her home taking some food to her diabetic mother who lives just a few doors away. Without any warning she received a forceful kick in the back so that she fell forward sustaining injuries,
This is her account to us. As she lay curled trying to protect herself she was repeatedly kicked by her attacker, a well built Asian male. She was struck on the head, the genitals and other parts of her body. He put his boot on her neck and applied his full weight making it difficult for her to breathe. A white woman joined in the kicking as Ms Cooper lay on the ground, and both were laughing while they carried out their brutal assault. Ms Cooper tells us she was terrified and screamed out for help. She felt that her attackers intended to kill her. The male attacker was heard to say “you can’t win” and “it’s not going to go anywhere. No one is going to take it to anyone”. The two attackers were not wearing uniform but were seen to use radios to call for support as a number of onlookers had assembled. One witness took a picture on their mobile phone. Ms Cooper said that another witness tried to intervene, protesting at the violence. He was punched by the male attacker. The police were also called by onlookers who dialled 999.
When two armed police officers arrived the attackers went to their separate cars and left the scene hastily after having spoken to the officers. They then took Ms Cooper to Bilston Road Police Station. Ms Cooper was taken to New Cross Hospital because of her injuries. She says that one of the officers who took her told her that her attackers were police officers from Stafford/Brownhills. After treatment returned to Bilston Street where she was questioned about a woman she knew of. She understood that the woman was alleging that Jennifer Cooper “was a dangerous woman” and intended killing police officers, herself and Jenny’s own grandchildren.
Ms Cooper told us about an earlier incident on 24th June when she was at KFC in Wolverhampton, By chance she met her housing manager who took a contact card out of his brief case and handed it to Ms Cooper. While she was waiting in the queue to be served a white woman with two children approached her calling her name. Ms Cooper identified her as the woman making allegations about her. This was not the first occasion when she had tried to contact Ms Cooper. On this occasion she was expressing remorse about being party to the arrest and imprisonment of Ms Cooper’s son because of allegations she made against him. Ms Cooper told her she should tell this to the police or to a solicitor. It appears that the woman did phone the police but to tell them of a man taking a gun from his brief case in KFC and handing it to Ms Cooper. It is our understanding that the woman was put under police protection and taken away from the Wolverhanpton area because she is at risk. Ms Cooper also told us that the woman was requesting money from her. She also seems to know about Ms Cooper’s son’s current circumstances. Who has informed her?
Ms Cooper can only walk with crutches and is experiencing considerable pain as a result of the assault on her. She subsequently went to Russell Hall Hospital and to her own GP. Her GP has made a detailed note of her injuries and has expressed grave concern at how she came to be in this state.
Ms Cooper continues to be in considerable pain due to the multiple injuries. One of those who examined her said that it looked as if she had been in a car crash. Her GP has recorded the injuries in detail. When she went to Russells Hall Hospital her left leg was encased in plaster from her thigh to her ankle. It appears that there are fractures to the ankle and the knee. Her ribs are hurting. She can only walk with the aid of crutches.
To date the police have not taken a statement from Ms Cooper nor from any of the many witnesses who were horrified and shocked by what they saw. a complaint has been made to the Chief Constable of West Midlands police about their inaction in following up such a serious incident.

Cause of Mikey Powell’s death established at last

I was unable to get back to the Mikey Powell inquest at Sutton Town Hall due to illness so I was anxious to hear if there was a verdict of the cause of his death after a long 6 year wait. This has left his family in considerable distress and leaves not a little lack of confidence in the community. The hearing at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall which had run through November had delivered an outcome. The well-known poet and cousin of Mikey, Benjamin Zephaniah, attended the hearing and said that while they were relieved to know the cause of death they would be taking legal advice on further action.
We were used to getting overtly racist jokey notices that it is said were pinned to the notice boards at Thornhill Road Police Station, right in the centre of Handsworth, an area well connected with African Caribbean settlement. We believed that these days were long gone and that associated attitudes to the welfare of people in the community had changed alongside. Mikey it emerged died from “positional asphyxia” lying on his side in the police van. He, along with a friend who was trying to restrain him, got an overdose of CS gas fired into their faces, batons were used as well as considerable force including sitting on him. He had already been hit by a police car. Mikey Powell’ sister Sieta Lambrias made the following observation:
“A chilling feature of this Inquest is that Mikey died in police hands. Officer after officer told the Court that they would do the same thing again. Most expressed no regret for Mikey’s death. We are alarmed about this, and think the community should be too. We will continue to fight to secure police accountability and stop future custody deaths.”

Mikey Powell hearing starts at Sutton Town Hall

Friends and family assembled at Sutton Town Hall for the inquest on the death of Mikey Powell. Mikey died in 2003 while being detained by police after his mother had sent for them because MIkey was suffering from mental illness. When they arrived the police drove their car at Mikey and then used CS gas, batons and considerable force to restrain him. The more force used it seems the more Mikey resisted. He was a live while lying in the road and called for his mother on being put into a police van. By the time he reached Thornhill Road Police Station in Handsworth he had died. To date no one has taken responsibility for the death and once more family are having to relive the trauma.
Clearly the inquest, which is expected to last for 6 weeks, is not going to be easy. It was pointed out that if the detail of the criminal trial, which lasted 13 weeks, was replicated 6 weeks would not suffice.
I went along with Raghib Ahsan and Bhagwant Singh and we stayed only until an early adjournment to deal with a late witness statement. The jury were still to be sworn in. They will have a lot of detail to take in and finally decide how Mikey died. There are several competing medical theories and the truth could be with any of them, a combination of factors or something else. After 6 years and I numerous other attempts to come to a conclusion one can only hope that there will be a clear verdict. What is clear is that considerable and prolonged force was used: we are now hearing that such investigations may be held behind closed doors. Already in the numerous cases of people dying in custody it is rare, if ever, for blame to be apportioned to those in authority. We watch this with deep interest. Any one wanting to support Mikey’s family should try and attend during the next 6 weeks. You can follow progress here:

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