On 22nd September 1999, Harry Stanley was fatally shot by police in South Hackney. A short film about his death has just been made available on Youtube:
Harry Stanley’s widow Irene and other friends and family organised as the Justice for Harry Stanley campaign.
The campaign succeeded in getting the initial inquest’s “open verdict” overturned. In November 2004 a new jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”.
The two officers who shot Harry Stanley were then suspended from duty. This resulted in a protest from fellow armed Metropolitan Police officers, 120 of whom handed in their gun permits. This lead to a “a review of procedures for suspending officers” concluding that the two officers could return to work, although on for “non-operational duties”.
In May 2005 the verdict of “unlawful killing” was itself overturned in the High Court, reinstating the original “open verdict”.
The two officers were arrested and interviewed, but in October 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges because there was insufficient evidence to contradict the officers’ claims that they were acting in self-defence.
The investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission also recommended that no further disciplinary action be taken against the two officers, but was critical of the way that they had conferred in the process of making their notes about the shooting. Indeed the IPCC recommended that police officers should give video recorded statements immediately after events rather than making their own notes in collaboration with others.
Interview from Class War issue 81, Summer 2001:
JUSTICE FOR HARRY STANLEY
On 22 September 1999 a middle-aged Scottish man, Harry Stanley, was shot dead by the police in east London, a short distance from his home. He was unarmed, and his shooting caused considerable anger locally. Class War spoke to a friend of Harry’s who has been involved in the campaign to obtain justice for both Harry and the Stanley family.
Can you tell us the circumstances of how Harry Stanley died?
Harry, not long out of hospital after having a tumour removed was returning from his brother’s house with the now famous table leg. He stopped for a drink in the Alexandra pub. When he left somebody phoned the police to say an Irish man had left the pub with a sawn off shot gun. Harry is then challenged by the cops and shot once in the hand and once in the head.
Although this took place less than 100 yards from his home it took 18 hours for the police to inform his family, even though he had clear identification on him. A postmortem was carried out without the consent of the family, which is illegal.
What have your relations been like with the Metropolitan Police since the shooting? Have they offered an apology and compensation?
Our relations have been hostile. No apology or compensation has been offered, whilst the officers concerned remain unnamed and on the beat.
At one stage letters strongly criticising the campaign started appearing in the local media. What was all that about?
A bloke called Yasmin Fyas had been slagging off the campaign in the Hackney Gazette letters page. No one called Yasmin Fyas lives at the address given – the campaign believes the police were using this as an alias to slag us off.
Has there been a lot of support from local people?
Yes all the demonstrations we have organised have been well attended and with ‘real people’ from Hackney, not just the usual leftie types.
What are your objectives? What can be achieved in that for any conviction to occur the police will not only have to investigate but charge and then get a conviction of fellow officers?
We have three main demands:
- A fully independent public enquiry
- The police officers responsible sacked and charged with murder
- Armed Response Units taken off the streets of Britain
If the campaign is strong enough it is possible to get charges laid – other campaigns like the Jim Ashley campaign show this.
Twenty years ago if something like this had happened there would have been a riot. Do you think the working class has now accepted police violence to a certain extent?
The police had phoned Diane Abbot MP before they even told the family. That shows they were scared of the community response. People think everybody kicked off all the time in the 1980s but that was not always the case.
Given that this is one case amongst many historically – is it worth putting pressure on people with power because they have never shown any indication of changing for the better? Don’t you think an eye for an eye is a principle response?
We need to fight for justice and to expose the system like the Stephen Lawrence case did. Revenge would not work – if they lose one cop they just replace them with another.
Are there any similarities between the police’s role in say industrial disputes and their wider role in working class areas of the big cities?
Yes there is. If you look at the way drugs raids are used to put on a show of the police’s force in working class areas. They could easily go off to rich areas and arrest people with cocaine, instead of teenagers with a bit of dope.
If what the police are about is discipline and oppression, surely we should be opposing their very existence?
Yeah, but not everybody in the campaign would agree – especially the Vicar from Bethnal Green!
What support have you had from the families of other people killed or framed by the police?
Loads! I can list the names Paddy Hill, Delroy Lindo, the [Roger] Sylvester family, Christopher Alder. The list could go on and on.
What advice would you give to other families who go through this type of terrible trauma?
The best way to get over it is to fight and organise. Link with other campaigns but make sure you involve the unions to get money!
Nearly two years down the line – where does the campaign go next?
Legally a Judicial Review of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute the officers concerned. Harry’s family are going on a national speaking tour with with other families campaigning for justice. This will lead up to a huge demonstration in October/November time. We don’t want to give too many details away right now but it will be lively!