Custom Search 1

MPs 'stand up' for victims of Black Deaths in Custody

HISTORY MAKING DEBATE: MP Charles Walker

A POLITICIAN who made history by bringing the debate on black deaths in custody to the houses of parliament has urged fellow MPs to act decisively to address the issue.

In a heartfelt speech, Charles Walker, the Conservative MP for Broxbourne, in Hertfordshire, described how he was moved to act by the grief and anger of the mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and family of those who died while in the care of the state.

He said: "For the past 30 years since I became an adult I have been aware of grieving black families on the steps of courts or inquests flashing across my TV screens.

"I’ve seen the faces of the young men flash across my TV screen; and up until this point I have chosen to do nothing.

“Now I am standing up to do something. So I ask myself the question that I may want to ask others, why is it that for 25, 30 years I did nothing.

"Until I answer that question satisfactorily I will not cast aspersions on others.”

Despite the fact that African Caribbean only account for three per cent of the population they make up more than 20 per cent of those who died in custody.

Walker suggested a number of reforms including insuring that affected families do not have to jump through hoops to get legal aid, stopping face-down restraint and decreasing the time it takes for inquests to occur.

The MP also addressed "unauthorised briefing of the press", which he said "trashes" the reputation of young men who have died in custody and can impact on the outcome of inquests.

He said: “Can you imagine how that affects a grieving family, the weaker party in all this, to see the reputation of their son or grandson, their cousin or nephew destroyed and they have no right of reply?”

Walker also told MPs in parliament about his own mental health issues in a bid to break the taboo of discussing such problems.

Describing his struggle living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), he said: "I am delighted to say that I have been a practising fruitcake for 31 years.

"I operate by the rule of four. So I have to do everything in evens… I have to wash my hands four times. I have to go in and out of a room four times. My wife and children often say I resemble an extra from Riverdance as I bounce in and out of a room."

Tottenham MP David Lammy highlighted the inefficiencies of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) as “police continue, effectively, to investigate themselves”, he said.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said black deaths in custody is an issue “for the political class as a whole”.

She added: “There is no sadder thing, and I have had to do it more times than I care to remember, than to sit with a woman who in the mourning said goodbye to her son and later that night had a call from the police to say he had died in their care.”

BMH UK director Matilda MacAttram has referred to the debate as "historic".

She said: “We have seen the issue of black deaths in custody consistently sidelined over past 30 years under the guise of mainstreaming an issue.

"This has meant that the disproportionate numbers of people from the UK's African Caribbean communities who continue to lose their lives while in the care of the state, remains unaddressed."

She added: “I personally welcome this move as it is part of the work that BMH UK has been doing for a number of years in this arena.

"Given the track record we have seen on this issue we are clear that unless there is a specific focus on the way black Britons are treated when detained in custody, it is unlikely to change in the next 30 years.”

The latest black man to die in police custody came on November 4 when Leon Briggs, a 39-year-old father-of-two, died after being detained and arrested by police under mental health laws.

Subscribe to The Voice database!

We'd like to keep in touch with you regarding our daily newsletter, Voice competitions, promotions and marketing material and to further increase our reach with The Voice readers.

If interested, please click the below button to complete the subscription form.

We will never sell your data and will keep it safe and secure.

For further details visit our privacy policy.

You have the right to withdraw at any time, by clicking 'Unsubscribe'.

Facebook Comments