Published by Hackney Community Defence Association, November 1991
Hackney Community Defence Association (HCDA) was formed at a conference in Hackney Town Hall on July 23rd 1988. It is a voluntary self-help organisation which consists of people who have been subjected to police malpractice. The principle objective of HCDA is to campaign against such police malpractice in the London Borough of Hackney. A major part of HCDA’s work consists of taking up individual cases and assisting lawyers in a para-legal capacity.
The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice was set up following the release of the Birmingham Six from prison on March 14th 1991. On November 4th 1991, HCDA picketed the offices of the Royal Commission calling on its members to attend a meeting of HCDA and meet people who have suffered police injustice.
On Thursday November 28th, 1991, two members of the Royal Commission, Mrs Yve Newbold and Professor Michael Zander, attended an HCDA meeting at the Family Centre in Stoke Newington. This report was given to them to be submitted to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice.
The report concentrates on cases where members of the public have suffered unwarranted and unprovoked assaults by police officers. The majority of those assaulted have then been charged with a criminal offence. HCDA is concerned with the particular injustices suffered by the victims of these crimes and the inadequacies of the present criminal justice system in dealing with the criminals who perpetrate them.
It is important to note that all the cases referred to in this report post-date the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). PACE had its origins in the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, which presented its findings in January 1981. It was intended to introduce safeguards into the criminal justice system for suspects and detainees in police stations. However, many of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission were rejected by the government of the day. PACE, instead of addressing the problem of police injustice, merely served to legitimise existing police practices and further eroded civil rights in Britain.
I. The London Borough of Hackney is a multi-racial inner city area of London which is recognised to be one of the poorest local authorities in Europe. It suffers from high unemployment, homelessness and bad housing (1).
II. The London Borough of Hackney falls within Area Two of the Metropolitan Police. Two police divisions cover the borough – Hackney Division and ‘ON’ Stoke Newington Division. Hackney Division has two police stations – Hackney, Lower Clapton Road, E5, and City Road, Shepherdess Walk, N1 – and Stoke Newington has the one police station in Stoke Newington High Street, N16.
III. Policing is a highly charged political issue in Hackney. There is a long history of poor police community relations, with police racism being a major cause for concern (2). In the 1970s and 1980s particular attention was focussed on Stoke Newington police station following the deaths of Aseta Simms (1971), Michael Ferrera (1978), Colin Roach (1983) and Tunay Hassan (in Daiston police station in 1987 when Stoke Newington police station was being rebuilt). (Note: following the opening of the new Stoke Newington police station in 1990, Daiston police station, which used to be the second station in the division, was closed.)
IV. Hackney Council, following the lead of the Greater London Council, was the first London borough to set up its own Police Committee in 1982. Before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) made it a statutory requirement for London police divisions to set up police community consultative groups, Hackney Council attempted to form a police community consultative group in the borough. The move foundered on the Metropolitan Police and Home Office’s opposition to the group being chaired by the Council. Hackney Council abolished its Police Committee in 1989, and resources to its Police Committee Support Unit were drastically reduced.
V. The Hackney Police Community Consultative Group was set up by the Hackney and Stoke Newington police divisions in 1987. The group was boycotted by Hackney Council and many community organisations on the grounds that it was unrepresentative, undemocratic and powerless. Following a thaw in police/council relations, Hackney Council formally joined the group in 1991.
VI. 1987 proved to be a crucial year for police community relations in Hackney. Three major incidents attracted national media attention. On January 8th, a young black man, Trevor Monerville, had emergency brain surgery after he had been detained at Stoke Newington police station. On June 25th, Tunay Hassan died in Daiston police station, after witnesses had seen him being assaulted by police officers during his arrest. On November 5th, Gary Stretch was violently assaulted by seven off duty City Road police officers. The seven officers are currently waiting to hear from the Home Office for the outcome of their appeal against dismissal from the Metropolitan Police.
1. Research in Hackney; Borough profiles regularly produced by Research and Intelligence Section, Chief Executive’s Office, London Borough of Hackney, The Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8.
2. Policing in Hackney 1945 – 1984; a report commissioned by the Roach Family Support Committee and produced by an Independent Committee of Inquiry; Karia Press; 1989.
I. Hackney Community Defence Association (HCDA) was set up on July 23rd 1988. HCDA commenced monitoring cases of police injustice in the Hackney and Stoke Newington divisions of the Metropolitan Police on January 1st 1989.
II. Out of a total of 29 cases of police malpractice reported to HCDA in 1989, HCDA took up 13.
I. Police Assaults
All of the 57 cases of unprovoked police violence taken up by HCDA since January 1st 1989 have been followed by the arrest of the victim. In only 3 of the 52 charged cases, was there any independent evidence of a criminal offence.
All of the people who approached HCDA after having been assaulted by police officers feel a deep sense of injustice. This is largely due to the fact that as the victims of criminal assaults they themselves have been arrested, and most have consequently had to defend themselves against criminal charges in court.
HCDA believes that in all the above cases police officers have attempted to justify violence against members of the public who have been going about their business in a lawful manner, by arresting them.
II. Assaulted & charged with assault
40 of the cases taken up by HCDA involve incidents where police officers have assaulted members of the public, and the victim has then been charged with the criminal offence of assaulting a police officer or obstructing a police officer in the course of his/her duty (see Gordon, Appendix A; George and George, Appendix B; Lavery and Eaton, Appendix C; Nelson, Appendix D).
People who have been charged with offences against police officers after having been assaulted find themselves in a perversely unjust situation. They have to defend themselves against criminal charges that directly arise out of the fact that they themselves were a victim of crime in the first instance.
III. Locations of Assaults
Prior to the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), a great deal of public concern was expressed about police brutality inside police stations. PACE was intended to deal with this problem by making the custody officer, usually a sergeant, responsible for the welfare of detainees and the keeping of a separate custody record for each detainee.
HCDA believes that it is significant that the majority of police violence cases reported to HCDA since 1989 involve assaults on people in their homes, on the streets or while being transported in police vehicles (see Gordon; George and George; Joseph, Appendix E; Moore, below; Hawkins, below).
However, cases of excessive police violence have more recently also involved assaults in police stations (see Lavery and Eaton; Nelson).
HCDA believes that PACE has tightened up police station procedures. But all this has achieved is to take routine police violence out of the station and onto the streets where individual officers are still unaccountable. However, in cases where officers might feel morally justified in assaulting a suspect, for example if they believe a colleague has been assaulted and seriously injured (Lavery and Eaton), or they claim that the suspect is particularly violent (Nelson), then further assaults are still likely to take place in the police station.
IV. Police Sentencing
Many of the people who have been assaulted by police officers have then been charged with indictable offences. Victims have consequently been remanded in custody, or have had severe conditions imposed if bail has been granted (see Nelson; Lewis, Appendix F; Moore).
For victims of police violence who are then remanded in custody, this amounts to extreme injustice. At a time when they might be suffering from injuries and require medical treatment and the comfort of family and friends, they find themselves criminalised and in police or prison custody.
Although arresting officers do not decide which charges are to be brought against their victims, charges are based on their versions of the events. HCDA believes that by charging victims with indictable offences, which subsequently cause them to be remanded in custody, arresting officers effectively act as judge and jury by forcing their victims to serve prison sentences.
V. Avoiding the Jury
In the period pending committal of a case to crown court, indictable charges have often been reduced to summary charges, particularly where charges of violence and/or public order are concerned (see Nelson; Moore).
Such gerrymandering of the law means that these victims of police violence automatically lose their right to a trial by jury, and the prosecution has a lesser case to prove before a magistrate. For victims who have been remanded in custody, the reduction of criminal charges represents one more level of injustice to be endured.
HCDA believes that due to the close working relationship between magistrates and police officers, magistrates are more ready to believe police officers than are juries. By reducing the charges in these cases, police officers seek to use magistrates to cover up their crimes by convicting the victim.
VI. Samuel Moore
15 of the police violence cases taken up by HCDA have resulted in the victims being convicted of criminal offences. In the majority of these cases this ends any hope the victim might have of gaining legal redress for the initial assault. These people are the anonymous victims of police injustice; the only people to know that they have suffered are their families and close friends.
On June 21st 1990, at about 6.00am, Samuel Moore, his partner and their 10 day old daughter were asleep in bed. They were awaken by police officers running up the stairs, shouting and banging. A fire extinguisher was used against the family dog and Mr Moore was punched in his right eye. He was arrested under a warrant for suspected violent disorder at Trafalgar Square on the March 31st 1990 anti-poll tax demonstration, and he was also charged with assaulting a police officer during the raid on his home.
Mr. Moore was initially denied bail on the grounds that, being charged with a serious offence of violence on March 30th, and another charge of violence on June 21st, he was likely to re-offend. He was remanded in custody for five days before a judge sitting in chambers granted him bail. The violent disorder charge was dropped prior to trial and Mr Moore faced the assault police charge in a magistrates court. The police case against Mr Moore was that he had violently assaulted the arresting officers, and that Mr Moore’s injury was caused while he was being restrained. Mr Moore was convicted at well Street Magistrates Court, and his appeal against conviction was dismissed at Knightsbridge Crown Court on February 15th 1991.
Because the courts believed that the police officer who assaulted Mr Moore had acted in self defence, and only used a reasonable amount of force in restraining him, Mr Moore is unable to gain redress for the assault he suffered.
VII. Rudolf Hawkins
Others have been convicted of criminal offences but are still attempting to seek redress.
On February 2nd 1990, Rudolf Hawkins, was arrested at his home by Stoke Newington police officers.
They informed him that there was a warrant out for his arrest, but refused to say what it was for. When Mr Hawkins was standing outside his front door he was struck several times with a truncheon. He suffered several broken bones in his right hand and a head wound which required stitches. Mr Hawkins was convicted on the matter for which he was arrested at Haringay Magistrates Court, and his appeal against conviction was dismissed at Wood Green Crown Court on February 15th 1991.
Regardless of his conviction, and the failure of the court to uphold his appeal, Mr Hawkins has been advised that he can take out a civil action for damages against the Metropolitan Police.
There are two possible means of redress which are readily available to the victims of police malpractice,
i) a complaint can be made against the police officer responsible or
ii) a civil action for damages can be taken out against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
IX. Police Complaints
HCDA advises the victims of police malpractice not to make complaints against the police for several reasons:
i) because police officers investigate complaints
ii) because the police have been known to use information gained during a complaints investigation against the complainant in other legal matters
iii) because complainants have been charged with criminal offences as a result of making complaints, and in a few cases complainants have been sued for libel by named police officers
iv) because the police complaints procedure has been shown to be heavily weighted in favour of police officers, and very few complaints result in criminal charges being brought against offending officers.
X. Civil Actions
HCDA advises the victims of police malpractice to take out civil actions for damages against the Metropolitan Police. In 26 of the police violence cases taken up by HCDA, the victims have been charged with criminal offences and acquitted. Many of these victims are now at various stages of civil action proceedings for assault, unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution (see Gordon; George and George; Lavery and Eaton; Nelson; Lewis).
All the people who have approached HCDA after having been subjected to police violence, have a desire to see that justice is done, and that it is seen to be done. They are the victims of crime and expect to be treated as such. They believe that any person alleged to have committed a crime should be charged with a criminal offence, investigated and tried in court whether or not they are police officers.
If a person makes an official complaint against the police it is possible, but unlikely, that a police officer might be charged with a criminal offence (see Stretch, Appendix G).
If a person proceeds with a civil action for damages, their action is against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Individual police officers alleged to have committed crimes are not personally held legally or financially accountable for their actions.
XII.Gary Stretch & The Burkes
Gary Stretch was assaulted by seven off duty police officers on November 5th 1987. An official complaint was made to the Metropolitan Police. The disciplinary hearing against the men was heard in October 1990 and they were formally dismissed from the Metropolitan Police on December 7th 1990 (the men are at present waiting to hear from the Home Secretary to discover whether their appeal against dismissal has been allowed).
The first case of police criminal violence taken up by HCDA (for legal reasons the people cannot be named at this present time) arose out of an incident on January 15th 1989. Civil action proceedings were taken out against the Metropolitan Police almost immediately. The action is expected to be heard at Croydon County Court in March 1992, over three years after the incident.*
The injustices suffered in these two cases are self evident. Firstly, there is the length of time it takes for a complaint or a civil action to reach its conclusion. Secondly, none of the police officers involved in either of these incidents were charged with criminal offences. None of the civil actions supported by HCDA since 1989 have yet been settled. And, as far as HCDA is aware, no police officers have been charged as a result of these misdemeanors.
XIII. Political Police
Out of the 130 cases taken up by HCDA, 67 (51.5%) have involved black people. Out of the 57 cases of police violence taken up by HCDA, 33 (57.9%) have involved black people.
Out of the 130 cases taken up by HCDA, 60 (46.2%) have involved people engaged in making political protests.
Black people and people involved in political protests are more likely to suffer police injustice in Hackney. HCDA believes that individual police officers, and the police as an institution, discriminate against members of the public along the lines of race and their willingness to engage in political protests. In this regard, police officers act as agents of political control as well as officers of law enforcement.
*At Croydon County Court, on March 19th 1992, Mrs. Burke was awarded £50,000 damages against the Metropolitan Police. (Appendix I &J)
I. Legal and political conclusions can be drawn from the evidence on police violence collected by HCDA.
II. A large amount of HCDA’s casework consists of incidents in which people have been subjected to minor criminal assaults by police officers and have then been charged with criminal offences. It is widely accepted that such incidents take place, and the public consciousness has internalised police malpractice of this kind as the acceptable level of police violence and corruption. It is HCDA’s view that toleration of these minor cases of injustice allows more serious miscarriages of justice to take place.
III. As a matter of law it is of serious concern that police criminality is not dealt with in the same manner as criminal offences committed by civilians. The British criminal justice system makes unfair and exceptional provisions for police officers who commit criminal offences. They are dealt with by investigations through the separate police complaints procedure, legislated for in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984). The fact that police crime is not considered as crime lies at the heart of the deep sense of injustice felt by the victims.
IV. Police officers have responsibility for arresting suspects, charging suspects and conducting investigations against suspects. Police officers are therefore in an extremely powerful position to intervene and exploit the criminal justice system. HCDA believes that during the course of the last 60 years the powers of the police have increased to such a degree that they are now more powerful than the courts which they are supposed to serve.
V. HCDA believes that police officers who commit criminal offences are able to ‘get away with it’ as a direct consequence of their powerful position within the juridical system. Serious political conflicts arise when the powers of individuals, and groups of police officers are used unaccountably against powerless working class people who might be unemployed, live in run down housing conditions and suffer from institutionalised racism.
VI. It is common knowledge in inner city communities that police officers routinely assault members of the public. As well as being a cause of injustice to the victims, police violence acts as a threat to the whole community. It is not necessary for every member of a community to be assaulted, for police officers to subject a community to their control, it is enough that the threat of violence exists.
VII. In this report we have specifically dealt with the way in which individual police officers criminalise the victims of their violent crimes. On a general level, criminalisation interacts with the economic and social conditions experienced in inner city areas to justify and rationalise the existence of these circumstances. It is through the process of criminalisation that the police justify their actions and deflect public criticism away from themselves.
VIII. Miscarriages of justice commence with police officers making arrests and conclude with the courts supporting the evidence presented by police officers. HCDA believes that the root cause of problems within the British criminal justice system lies in the immense powers available to police officers. The powers of the police have steadily increased since the Metropolitan Police Act (1829) established Britain’s first police force, to a degree that they now represent a serious threat to the criminal justice system. Police officers who are alleged to have committed crimes, however, are able to sidestep the criminal justice system altogether because an independent body with legal authority to investigate the police does not exist.
IX. HCDA questions whether it is in the best interests of justice that the police should have responsibility for arresting suspects, charging suspects and conducting criminal investigations. HCDA believes that the police’s influence over the criminal prosecution process should be constrained.
X. As a voluntary self help group representing the needs of people who have suffered police injustice, HCDA does not wish to make specific recommendations for legislative change. HCDA considers police injustice and excessive police powers to be an inevitable consequence of the economic, social and political suffering visited upon working class inner city communities.
XI. It is HCDA’s view that any changes to the criminal justice system, which do not address the central issue of community control of the police, will do little to improve police practices. It is one of the objectives of HCDA to build a community organisation which can defend people against police abuses of power. HCDA believes that such a strong and empowered community is the only real safeguard people have against oppression and exploitation.
City Limits 8/2/90
Hackney police branded ‘liars’
Three men who claim they were assaulted by police in East London, are planning to sue. QUENTIN McDERMOTT reports.
A magistrate inferred last week that two young officers from Hackney police station had brought false evidence to court. The constables appeared to explain why they had arrested part-time mini-cab driver William Gordon last November. Gordon, who is 51, stood accused of assaulting one of the officers, by punching him in the jaw and pushing him into the road, of possessing an offensive weapon – a pen-knife – and of failing to stop his car on police instructions.
No witnesses were called by the police, but Gordon, who protested that he had been assaulted by one of the officers , called three witnesses to back up his version of events.
Gordon told the court that he was arrested after tooting his horn at a van which was making an illegal right turn at a junction on Mare Street. Instead of stopping the van, the officers pulled him in. He stopped as soon as he could. Gordon says one of the officers called him ‘a lying black cunt’, after searching his car, and pushed him on to the bonnet, before both Pcs dragged him on to a grass verge.
Gordon was pulled to the ground, and one of the officers sat on the small of his back. He was screaming in pain. ‘I felt as if I was going to die,’ he recalled. Gordon says he was thrown on the floor of a police van, and slapped in the face. The officer Gordon accused of pushing and racially abusing him, Pc McGowan, claimed Gordon had puched him into the road, into the path of an oncoming bus. Both officers denied abusing Gordon, or over-reacting when they arrested him. Both claimed only to have used ‘authorised police holds’ in restraining him.
But at the end of the case, the magistrate dismissed the charges. He accepted that the pen-knife was not an offensive weapon, and said he had found William Gordon a ‘truthful’ witness.
The magistrate said that, in his judgement, the bus referred to by Pc McGowan ‘did not exist’. He added: ‘It is quite clear that there was a scuffle which was started by a push by the officer.’ Gordon had been justified in responding, and the officers had then ‘over-reacted.’
After the hearing Gordon accused the officers of lying, and said he is planning to sue. In doing so, he joins an increasingly long list of aggrieved men who have been charged by east London police after claiming to have been maltreated. In recent weeks, serious charges against two other men – Raphael Joseph and Glenford Lewis – have been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. Joseph had been charged with assault after officers were called to a fight in Stamford Hill at the end of August. A month earlier he had been arrested and charged with several driving offences. Joseph was convicted of those offences, but is now suing the police for assault and battery and false imprisonment, relating to this earlier arrest. The officers who arrested him deny they beat him up.
Glenford Lewis is also suing for damages, after the CPS offered no evidence against him, on serious drugs charges, at Snaresbrook Crown Court. The main prosecution witness, an officer who, Lewis alleges, planted a matchbox containing containing cocaine, during a search of his car, was ‘too ill’ to attend court. The officer suffers from a back problem, and was ‘not physically capable of attending court,’ Superintendent Roy Clark, from Dalston, told ‘City Limits’. Lewis’ fingerprints were never found on the box, and he claims he was punched in the face, and threatened by officers.
The Hackney Community Defence Association, which has campaigned for all three men, says the Lewis and Gordon cases raise ‘extremely serious questions’ about the policing of black communities. It is calling for officers who harass members of the public in this way to be dismissed.
Said a spokesperson: ‘The police repeatedly claim they are concerned about their image in the community, but in reality, they do not take notice of the community’s concern at police racism and violence, and continue to bring unwarranted charges against people as they go about their daily business.’
Time Out 16/8/89
A 50-year-old Hackney man is sueing the police after being injured so badly that officers rushed him to hospital thinking he was dead. Rapheal Joseph claims he was attacked by police after making off on his motorbike from officers who had seen him driving the wrong way down a one-way street. A high-speed chase ended in Stoke Newington when the motorbike collided with one of three pursuing police cars. Mr Joseph claims he was beaten, arrested, and thrown head-first into a police van where he was beaten again, this time so badly that blood in his throat stopped him breathing. He says he was taken by police to London Hospital in Whitechapel after desperate attempts to revive him failed. Hackney Community Defence Association has called on Stoke Newington police chief, Chief Superintendent Peter Twist, to resign and for an independent inquiry to be held into the incident. CS Twist denied Mr Joseph was assaulted and said he was not aware of any injuries he suffered until contacted by Time Out, except those he sustained when he fell from his motorbike. ‘I’m dismayed to learn of injuries alleged to have been caused by my officers, in this unusual manner.’
City Limits 27/9/90
`They were out to beat someone up’
Stoke Newington and Hackney police are under renewed attack from black families in the borough.
JUDY HIRST reports
A north London family will be leading a protest demonstration outside Stoke Newington police station at 4 pm this Saturday, after allegations that two of their members were manhandled and beaten up by the police.
Earl Samuel and Ezechiel Hippolyte were driving home in the early hours of September 15, after a snooker game in the West End, when they were pulled up by the police in Green Lanes, Stoke Newington. ‘We were cruising along behind this panda car, at well under 30 mph, when it suddenly braked in front of us.’ Hippolyte told CL. When we asked why we’d been stopped, the officer claimed I’d been driving carelessly and called for reinforcements. Before we knew it, three of them were throwing us into the back of a police van.’
The two men, who are brothers-in-law, allege that Samuel was punched in the stomach and mouth in the ensuing fracas, subsequently needing six stitches to the face and dental treatment. The ligaments in a previously broken ankle, that had just begun to mend, were torn again when he was thrown into the van. The brothers-in-law, who are both building workers in their early 30s, have never been in trouble with the police before. ‘We couldn’t believe what was happening to us. They just laughed at us and told us to shut up when we complained, boasting “We’re the Stoke Newington police’,’ said Hippolyte. ‘They were out to beat someone up that night. There was definitely some racism involved,’ he alleged.
The two men’s families approached the Hackney Community Defence Association for help after the incident, and have now lodged a formal complaint against the police and intend to sue them. ‘We’ve got a very big family,’ said Samuels. ‘And they’re all going to be there outside Stoke Newington police station this weekend , demanding something is done.’
Another black family in Hackney who are planning to sue the police are the Georges. Charges of obstructing the police – made against Brenda George, and her 17 year old daughter Natasha, when police raided their South Hackney home in July – were thrown out by Old Street Magistrate’s Court last week, after Hackney police failed to produce sufficient evidence.
‘They couldn’t produce a warrant in court,’ said Mrs George. ‘Which isn’t surprising because they never had one. My daughter used to work in a solicitor’s office, and she challenged them when they waved a bit of photocopied paper in our faces.’
Mrs George claims that she was thrown onto a bed by police officers, who said they were searching for her son Valentine, and ‘nearly suffocated’ as her arms were wrenched behind her back. She has since had to give up her job as a nurse, and look for clerical work, because of the damage she claims was done to her shoulder. Scotland Yard would not comment on either case, except to say that a complaint had been received from Samuel and Hippolyte, and would be investigated.
Time Out 2/10/91
Hackney cops sued over ‘GBH’ acquittal
RELATIONS between the police and people in Hackney have worsened following the acquittal of two local men accused of attacking five police constables.
Michael Lavery and Jeffrey Eaton were cleared at Inner London Crown Court of causing actual and grievous bodily harm to the five officers after their arrest for being drunk and disorderly on New Years Day this year.
The officers, all from City Road Station, claimed the men had become violent in the back of a police van when they were forbidden to smoke. They alleged that Lavery ‘bounced up and down’ on a woman PC, fracturing her pelvis while Eaton ‘lashed out madly’ with his feet and fists, fracturing the knuckles of another officer.
Defence counsel told the court, however, that the WPC sustained her injury when the police van screeched to a halt, throwing Eaton and a PC Underhill on top of her.
Two bystanders told the jury that police had repeatedly beaten both men while they lay handcuffed and face down in the road. Doctors who examined them later found almost 40 injuries including head wounds apparently caused-by a truncheon. The men claimed they were assaulted at the scene of their arrest, in the van, in the custody suite at City Road station and later in the cells.
The jury took just 15 minutes to acquit the men of all charges.
PC Moles, the arresting officer, denied in court that he had a grudge against Lavery following an argument a month earlier in a pub about Gary Stretch, the Hackney man who was attacked by seven City Road PCs with bottles and almost had his ear severed. The officers responsible for this incident were all dismissed from the Metropolitan Police.
At Lavery and Eaton’s trial, one policeman told the court that he was ‘100% behind’ his sacked colleagues, and that most officers at City Road also supported them.
Following the verdict, the Hackney Community Defence Association, a police watchdog group, called for the resignation of Hackney’s commanding’ officer, Chief Superintendent Bernard Taffs. ‘The issue isn’t a few rogue, officers out of control; there’s something desperately wrong at City Road .station and there should be a. public inquiry,’ said spokesman Graham Smith. ‘Taffs has to take responsibility for his officers.’
Lavery and Eaton now plan to sue the police for assault and wrongful arrest.
Time Out 6/11/91
Hackney police ‘assault’ storm
Hackney and Stoke Newington police face over 25 claims for damages.
Denis Campbell and Catherine Pepinster report.
CLINT NELSON is an unlikely thug. He stands 5’6” tall, weighs eight stone and has a club foot. Yet in March, Highbury Corner Magistrates Court accepted police evidence that he had viciously assaulted two officers. The prosecution alleged that, in the back of a police minibus Nelson had headbutted one 6’3″ tall policeman, and had to be restrained by another who was two inches smaller. Despite his protestations of innocence, Nelson was convicted of threatening behaviour and assaulting the two officers; he was fined £50 and ordered to do 75 hours’ community service.
But on October 25 at Knightsbridge Crown Court, Nelson’s appeal against his conviction was upheld. It was the latest setback for the police of Hackney and Stoke Newington division, who have been accused of racism, assaulting suspects and widespread malpractice because of their involvement in a recent series of controversial cases.
The judge at Knightsbridge heard the Nelsons’ version of what happened the day police stopped the family’s BMW. Lilian Nelson, Clint’s mother, told the court that she had been flagged down by a police minibus containing Territorial Support Group officers from Stoke Newington station. When she was grabbed by a woman PC, 19-year-old Clint jumped out of the car and was grabbed by two officers who dragged him to their minibus.
Lilian Nelson told the court how she saw the minibus rocking back and forth. Then she found her son on the floor of the van with blood pouring from his face and officers standing on his club foot. Clint was taken to Stoke Newington station where, he alleged, he was strip-searched, left half-naked and then assaulted by two officers who held him against a cell door. He was charged with causing actual bodily harm to the two officers in the minibus and with possessing an offensive weapon. Police said they had found a knife on the dashboard of the car; this was a vegetable knife, kept in the glove compartment for use as a makeshift screwdriver.
After Clint Nelson had spent six weeks in Feltham Young Offenders’ Remand Centre, the offensive knife charge was dropped, and the ABH charge replaced with the lesser charge of assault. Kate Akester, Nelson’s solicitor, says this is typical of the increasing use by police of ‘this technique of charging a suspect with serious offences so that he is remanded in custody, then reducing the charges so he can get bail. The problem for defendants is that it is more difficult to get acquitted in a magistrates court, which is a much less sympathetic court than a crown court, where there is a jury. So the police frequently make a higher charge, then reduce it so that it is heard by a magistrate.’ Nelson told Time Out that he now plans to sue Stoke Newington police for malicious prosecution and unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and assault. Graham Smith of the Hackney Community Defence Association, a police watchdog group says that the HCDA is helping about 25 other people with similar claims for civil damages against the police for alleged wrongdoing.
Smith said: ‘We have dealt with 150 cases so far-this year of people who claim they have been assaulted by the local police. Often they have been assaulted and then themselves charged with assaulting the police like Clint Nelson. There’s a routine level of violence against suspects by police. It’s maybe a punch that causes a broken nose. That’s serious for the individual but it’s not considered serious in the police force. If you don’t stop that level of violence then it allows the more serious cases to happen; if officers believe they can get away with a little malpractice, then it escalates.’
On Monday of this week, the HCDA and alleged victims of Hackney policing picketed a meeting in central London of Lord Runciman’s Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, set up in the wake of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases. The protesters’ message was that the police in Hackney have learned nothing from these miscarriages of justice, and continue to use violence and false evidence against suspects.
Jeffrey Eaton experienced the rough side of policing in Hackney too. In September he and his friend Michael Lavery were acquitted at Inner London Crown Court on charges of causing actual and grievous bodily harm against five PCs from City Road station, the third police station in Hackney and Stoke Newington division. Although the two men had sustained almost 40 injuries between them, they had been accused of attacking five officers in the back of a police Transit. The jury took just 15 minutes to clear them.
Eaton told Time Out ‘The whole experience with the police was terrifying’ and that even though he was cleared, ‘I didn’t feel that justice has been done after what he [Lavery] and my family went through.’
The Eaton and Lavery court case in September also revealed that the seven City Road PCs sacked for brutally assaulting Cary Stretch in a Hackney pub in 1987, enjoyed much support among their former colleagues. There were gasps of amazement in the public gallery at Inner London Crown Court when one officer said, for example, that he was ‘100 per cent behind’ the seven who last week appealed to Keneth Baker, the Home Secretary, to overturn their sacking.
The Stretch case brought the Metropolitan Police its worst publicity for many years. Now it appears that it was not an isolated incident. The sheer volume of complaints and actions for damages against the police in Hackney and Stoke Newington division is seriously undermining Commissioner Sir Peter Imbert’s bid to encourage the Met to see Londoners as ‘customers’ of a new, much more sensitive police ‘service’.
Hackney Gazette 26/1/90
Man says police tried to frame him
Wrongful arrest threat as drug charge is dropped
A MAN who claims Dalston policemen beat him up and tried to frame him is planning to sue them for wrongful and malicious arrest.
Charges against Dalston’s Glenford Lewis of possessing and intending to supply a proscribed drug were dropped at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday.
The prosecution said a police officer offering crucial evidence was too ill to turn up – the same officer Mr. Lewis claims planted drugs in his car.
But Mr Lewis, who has protested his innocence since his arrest last May, claims police were afraid the court would realise the evidence was fabricated.
Now he is consulting his solicitors over plans to take out a civil action against the police. Hackney Community Defence Association are supporting his case.
Mr Lewis, 33, of Dalston’s Holly Street Estate, told the Gazette: “I feel really bad about this whole thing. I’ve twice lost a job over this -it has cost me alot.”
“The police were saying I was using my car for dealing in drugs. But I haven’t been near it for a year, it just simply can’t be driven. At the end of the day I’m free which is good, but its only because of luck.”
Mr Lewis, who was jailed after a first offence of possession of drugs in 1988, had been out of prison for three months when he was arrested in May. He was thrown in the back of a van in Dalston’s Sandringham Road and beaten up by about six plain-clothes policemen, he claims.
The men said he “had not got a long enough sentence last time,” he says, and he was taken to Dalston police station and accused of drug dealing.
A strip-search found no drugs and detectives took Mr Lewis to his car, parked near his home on the Holly Street Estate. He claims a detective planted a matchbox containing cocaine in the car, along with a current newspaper to prove that it had been used recently.
But Mr Lewis says he hadn’t seen the car since it was confiscated by the police on his arrest for the previous offence 12 months before. It had been picked up from the police compound by his girlfriend a month before he was released from prison, he claims, and the only set of keys were with his mother.
The car had a flat battery, no MOT, insurance or road tax and the tag from the police compound was still tied to the front windscreen wiper, he said. Forensic tests on the newspaper and the matchbox later found no fingerprints belonging to Mr Lewis.
Martin Walker of Hackney Community Defence Association said: “The police realised that because there were none of Glenford’s fingerprints on the newspaper or the matchbox, there would have been serious repercussions if they had gone ahead with this.”
Dalston’s top cop, Chief Superintendent Peter Twist said: “The officer in question is seriously ill with a long-term back problem which meant for the foreseeable future his attendance at court is medically out of the question.”
“If Mr Lewis, or his solicitor would care to contact me personally, I will arrange for a formal complaint against police to be recorded, and their allegations will be
The Guardian 10/11/90
One night in a pub, seven off-duty policemen beat up Gary Stretch. Three years passed before a tribunal found the officers guilty. The case has left bad feelings all round, write Duncan Campbell and Martin J Walker
THE Limes was one of those very Eighties East End pubs. Flash and glitzy, with loud music and “entertainers” – disc jockeys and strippers – aimed at the young men of Hackney with a few bob to spend.
On Guy Fawkes Night 1987, there were two groups at the pub. The first was part of an unofficial wake. They had been to the funeral of Elaina Dimitri, a young woman stabbed to death three months earlier whose burial had been held up by an inquest. Her brother, Nikki, and a group of his friends were in one part of the bar.
The other group was also young and all male: seven off-duty police constables from nearby City Road police station.
Also in the pub that night was Gary Stretch, a 24-year-old from Hoxton. He would pop into The Limes about once a week and on this occasion was with an old friend. Gary knew Nikki Dimitri but had not been to the funeral and felt awkward about joining the wake. The barmaid that night was Joanne Legg; with two groups buying from whip-rounds she was run off her feet.
Outside the pub, listening to his car radio and waiting for his wife to finish work, sat the husband of one of the pub strippers. He did not, as a rule, go into the pubs where she was working.
Gary Stretch was “known to the police”. He had two previous convictions for actual bodily harm – one during a football match against a police team – and had served a prison sentence. His photograph was up in the police station across the road. But he had not been in trouble for three years and was now working regularly as a window cleaner. He got chatting to one of the funeral party. Coincidentally, one of the young officers had been to school with one of the funeral party. When he spotted him drinking with Gary he asked: “What are you doing drinking with that flash thieving cunt?” This was reported back to the funeral party.
One of Stretch’s friends could see trouble coming. He suggested that Gary head into the toilet to avoid it. One of the police officers had apparently issued a warning that Stretch and anyone he was with had 30 seconds to get out of the pub or “get a booting”. Stretch was puzzled. He went and sat down at a table with his friend.
“I was just sitting down when I got hit from behind. I didn’t know what was happening,” says Stretch. He had been hit with a pint glass, which partially severed his ear. He was punched to the floor and then dragged outside into the street. Then the boot went in.
“I was lying there, my shirt and my jeans had been pulled off, I was just in my underpants and it was really cold, it was November. I couldn’t understand what was happening.”
The savagery of the beating Stretch was given shocked the stripper’s husband. watching from his car. The crowd finally dispersed and Gary Stretch was carried back inside the pub. His attackers moved off.
“People in the pub tried to mop up the blood with a bar towel.” says Stretch.
Uniformed police from Bethnal Green arrived. Stretch was put in a police van. The stripper asked: “What are you doing to him? He hasn’t caused any trouble.” She jumped into the van too.
“I said, ‘Don’t hit me, don’t hit me,’ and a sergeant put his arm around me and said, ‘Don’t worry, no one is going to hit you.”‘ He was driven to the London Hospital. By now, Stretch had lost consciousness.
Stretch spent five days in hospital during which time his ear was stitched up and his neck put ins brace.
Meanwhile, his father Eddie had been phoned by a friend who suggested he find their GP because they thought Gary was being held in a police station. Eddie Stretch phoned a policeman friend at Scotland Yard who advised him to make a complaint, advice he followed immediately. He was joined in the complaint by Joanne Legg, the barmaid, whose father was a policeman.
“My parents were thrown by it,” says Gary. “My mother, who works for BP, had always supported the police. When I was in trouble in the past with them she would say, ‘You’ve been in trouble and now you’ve got to pay for it’. When this happened It was almost as if she was ashamed. There was my picture in the papers for having been beaten up and it was almost as though it was my fault. She felt embarrassed at work about it.”
For the next three years the incident became the main talking point in the Stretch household.
“My father was very upset about it. It had an effect on the whole house. It became an angry house.” So angry that Cary Stretch moved out for a while to Bournemouth.
The Metropolitan Police’s complaints investigation branch force was called in. One of the investigating officers came round to see Gary and showed him a small silver knife. Was it his?
“I had never seen it before. Now they were saying that the police had had to take it off me because I went for them with a knife. It was unbelievable.” Gary Stretch now feared that he might face a charge for assaulting the police. But the investigating officers appeared to believe him. The investigation continued.
In January 1989, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that there would be no charges as there was insufficient evidence. The papers were returned to the police who decided to conduct an internal disciplinary hearing.
“I was disappointed. In fact, I wanted them to charge me because at least that meant that it would come out in court,” says Stretch. But his father & Joanne Legg wanted the complaint to be pursued.
By May of this year the complaint had still not run its course. The officers, who were all still suspended on full pay, instructed counsel to ask for the disciplinary charges against them to be thrown out – on the grounds that so much time had elapsed between the incident and the convening of the tribunal and that this amounted to “abuse of process”. The case, backed by the Police Federation, went to the High Court. The plea was rejected. The police officers’ legal team then obtained an ex parte injunction to halt proceedings pending a judicial review. Mr Justice Popplewell however turned down their application for a review on the grounds that there were “no exceptional circumstances”.
By this time Gary Stretch was also becoming frustrated. “I felt like ‘wiping my mouth’ and forgetting about it,” says Stretch. But the tribunal did finally go ahead. It was held in Tintagel House in south London, headquarters of the police internal investigation unit, CIB 2.
Stretch, his father and Joanne Legg attended. Worried that he might be subject to libel proceedings if the case against the police was not proved, Stretch asked if he could have a lawyer present. This was turned down. The hearings are private and cannot be reported. Stretch was worried that any notes he took could be taken off him.
“The first day I went in, there were these seven officers in uniform glaring at me,” says Stretch. “You would see them in the gents and pass them in the corridor and I felt very vulnerable.” The evidence went on with some interruptions, for four weeks.
At last the day when the verdicts were due arrived.
“They looked really confident,” says Stretch. “They were throwing sweets to each other and talking and laughing. I don’t think they could believe they would be found guilty.”
“One of them got up and slung his jacket off and stormed out. He was in bits. I could hear one of them shouting and being quietened down by another officer. They couldn’t believe it.”
Gary, now working as a driver, did not feel like celebrating. “I feel cheated in a way in that it went to an internal inquiry and not to court. And that it took so long. If the same thing happened to someone else I would tell them to bring a private prosecution.”
His father, Eddie, says now that he would not do the same again: “I wouldn’t go through the same procedure again. The pressure on the family has been interminable. The police go on about the pressure on them but it was self-inflicted.”
Joanne Legg agrees: “I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it. I was cross examined for a whole day, they spat me out for breakfast. They asked a lot of horrible, irrelevant things.”
The case is an example of what in some ways is a “successful” complaint. Seven police officers who misbehaved in a pub have been dismissed. It is the largest such dismissal and the most significant incident of its kind since the Holloway Road case ended in 1987 with officers guilty of assaulting four young men on their way back from a north London carnival.
But as far as the complainants are concerned, they feel there were many errors in the way the process operates: they would have liked to have a legal representation throughout the hearing; they felt that the case could have been better presented – Gary Stretch did not brief the prosecuting counsel who was working for the Metropolitan Police and had to interrupt to add details to the case, the press was not able to report the proceedings; the three-year delay meant that a cloud hung over the case.
The police officers might also argue that the delay did them no favours, they were in limbo for three years with a cloud of suspicion over them. Now they seem certain to lose their careers.
The total cost will not be less than £500 000. Quite an expensive night out in the pub.
The Police Complaints Authority which was set up in 1985, recognise criticisms of the way they operate but argue that it is not up to them to make the decision to make changes. They processed a total of 11,155 complaints in 1989. most of them minor. They find themselves between the police ranks who feel they are hypercritical – “PCA” is sometimes said to stand for “Prosecute Coppers Always”— and the public who are unaware of their work or its difficulties.
On the secrecy of the process, the PCA position is that “it gives the appearance of being clouded in mystery which detracts from the credibility of the system”. The police defend the proceedings, saying that few professions punish their offenders more seriously. Those officers who lose their jobs, as the seven seem likely to, have that stigma hanging over them. On secrecy of hearings, they acknowledge that there may be a case to examine public hearings.
The Director of Public Prosecutions decided officers should not face a criminal trial. So we are left with dissatisfied complainants, angry police, uneasy Police Complaints Authority.
And how was it at The Limes this Guy Fawkes night? Very quiet. It has closed down. Something to do with the atmosphere?
The Independent 20/03/92
Grandmother awarded £50,000 for police assault
By Adam Sage
Legal Affairs Reporter
A GREAT grandmother yesterday won £50,000 damages from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner after a jury found that she had been assaulted, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted following a minor traffic accident.
Croydon County Court was told that Marie Burke, 73, had been pulled to the ground by a woman police constable and held down in front of her home in Hackney, east London, after she went to help her disabled husband. Her counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, said the police conduct had been calculated to “humiliate and distress”. “These officers behaved in an arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional way,” he said.
In one of the highest damages awards against the police, the jury decided that Mrs Burke should be paid £20,000 in compensation for the assault, £15,000 for false imprisonment and another £15,000 for the malicious prosecution.
However, the jurors dismissed a civil action by Mrs Burke’s husband, Edgar, 79, who said he too had been falsely imprisoned and assaulted. The jury also rejected a claim by Mr and Mrs Burke that police officers had entered their home without permission.
Afterwards, the Burkes’ solicitor, Raju Bhatt, said in a statement: “It has become clear that a 70-year-old woman was maliciously accused of an offence which she had not committed. This was done to cover up for an unlawful and brutal assault on her by officers in Hackney.”
Mr Bhatt said the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police against whom the action had been brought, had given no cause for any confi-dence to be shown “in his ability or willingness to deal with police misconduct”:
Those officers responsible for the “wrongdoing” were “serving police officers on our streets to this day. One hopes that the Commissioner will not now leave those officers as they are”. The court heard that in January 1989, Mrs Burke and a family friend, George Edwards, were involved in an accident in the Burkes’ car. No one was injured and they returned home to report the incident.
The plaintiff claimed that when police arrived, they pushed past Mrs Burke and then wrongly arrested her husband, dragging him outside in only his longjohns, vest and socks. However, the jury accepted police arguments that they had acted correctly towards Mr Burke.
The decision was altogether different in respect of Mrs Burke. She had gone outside with a jug and diabetes pill for her husband, only to be wrestled to the ground by an officer, WPC Tina Martin, the court was told.
“A lot of people held me down -my dress was over my head,” Mrs Burke had told the court.
A passer-by supported Mrs Burke’s story, saying she had been pinned to the edge of the pavement by three officers who “deliberately tried to inflict as much pain as possible”. Mrs Burke was taken to I fackney police station, searched and then prosecuted for assault. But this charge, which was dropped two days later had been brought maliciously by WPC Tina Martin, the jury decided by a majority of seven to one.
Further cases in area dogged by brutality
By Heather Mills
Home Affairs Correspondent
AT THE back of Croydon County Court, Jeffrey Eaton had a special interest in what befell Edgar and Marie Burke after they alerted police to a minor road accident.
For he too alleges he has been the victim of injustice at the hands of the police in the deprived inner city Hackney area of London. Mr Eaton, 30, claims “the shit was literally kicked out of me” after he and a friend Michael Lavery, 31, were originally arrested for being drunk and disorderly.
Rafael Joseph, from Aden, was also present during the nine-day case. Caught after failing to stop for driving the wrong way down a one-way system, he alleges he was so badly beaten up by officers, that he was taken to hospital with serious head injuries which tendered him unconscious. Alongside him in the public gallery was Rudolf Hawkins, a 36 year-old bricklayer. He claims to have suffered a broken hand and head injuries when officers truncheoned him.
Encouraged by the £50,000 award to Mrs Burke, they are suing the Metropolitan Police Commissioner over the alleged actions of his officers. The damages have rekindled demands for a judicial inquiry into policing in the area of north London which incorporates Hackney, Stoke Newington and City Road stations.
Payments in civil claims from the area have already totalled more than £100,000 so far this year. Last month, as part of a major investigation into police corruption, eight officers were moved amid allegations of involvement in drug deals, prompting Brian Sedgemore, the defending Labour candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch, to raise the issue in the House of Commons. The murder of Vandana Patel by her husband in the domestic violence unit at Stoke Newington police station, where she had sought a safe place to meet him, did nothing to bolster confidence in the force.
The area has long been dogged by allegations from certain sections of the community of police brutality, oppression, indifference to the welfare of prisoners, and racism. There are currently 26 civil cases involving officers in the area and a report by the Hackney Community Defence Committee, a local legal campaigning group, details 143 cases it has taken up in the last three years. Forty allegations have been brought to its attention in the last four weeks.
Graham Smith, the committee’s secretary, alleges that these are not isolated cases. He claims that policing in the area is “violent and oppressive”. The committee’s report, A Crime is a Crime is a Crime, has been submitted to the Royal Commission investigating the criminal justice system. Two of the commission members have met the defence committee. However, Supt Douglas West deputy in charge at Stoke Newington, said he believed that officers were “more sinned against than sinning”.
He rejected calls for an inquiry, pointing out that at Stoke Newington alone, officers carry out between 7,000 and 8,000 arrests every year and very few result in allegations against the police. Even fewer are substantiated. The burden of proof in civil claims is less than in criminal trials or in police disciplinary actions, he said.
Neither did he accept that there was widespread concern about policing in the area. He said most residents were content and most of the cases raised by the defence committee remained unproven allegations.
Mr West added: “But we do not condone wrongdoing. Any criminal activity on the part of any officers will be pursued within the full rigours of the law.” However, he agreed that the stations had had perhaps more than their share of cause celebres.
The Guardian 20/02/92
Woman, 73 wins £50,000 against Met
Paul Myers and Duncan Campbell
A WOMAN of 73 who was assaulted by police, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted was yesterday awarded a total of £50,000 damages.
Marie Burke was pulled to the ground and held there by three police officers after she tried to give her disabled husband his diabetes tablets when he was arrested following a minor traffic accident.
Mrs Burke, who suffers from arthritis, was taken to Hackney police station, searched and charged with assaulting a woman police constable.
Although the charges against her were dropped two days after the incident in January 1989, she decided to sue the police. Her award, made up of £15,000 for false imprisonment, £20,000 for assault and £15,000 for malicious prosecution, is one of the highest against the Metropolitan Police. Courtenay Griffiths representing Mrs Burke, told Croydon county court she had suffered “humiliation and distress”.
The Burkes’ car with Mrs Burke in it was being driven by a family friend, George Edwards, when it veered off the road, crashed through railings and ended in a pond. No one was hurt. They returned to the Burkes’ home in Hackney, from where Mr Edwards phoned the police.
When the police arrived, the Burkes claimed, the officers accused Mr Burke, who was ill in bed, of being the driver. They arrested him in his vest and long johns.
When Mrs Burke intervened, she was assaulted by PC Tina, the court was told, and manhandled to the ground in front of her neighbours. At the police station, Mrs
Burke was charged with assault. Mr Burke was not charged.
Mr Griffiths told the court this was a clear case of assault, wrongful arrest, trespass and malicious prosecution.
The police claimed the events were completely different. They had had a report of an accident in which the driver had left the scene. They had been called to the Burkes’ home and believed Mr Burke had been driving the crashed car. He was suspected of drink-driving and was asked to take a test.
He refused to take a test and was “gently” persuaded to go to the police station, police said. Mrs Burke assaulted PC Martin by smashing a jug over her, the court was told.
The case became a cause celebre in Hackney, where there has been antagonism between the police and parts of the black community for several years.
The Burkes are the grandparents of Trevor Monerville, who was arrested by Stoke Newington police in 198— and only traced four days later, to Brixton prison, where he was found to have a blood clot on his brain.
He had to undergo surgery, which has left him with loss of memory and vision and with fits. On his release, he was arrested on a series of occasions in controversial circumstances. In 1988, he was cleared at Snaresbrook crown court of attempted robbery and assault on a police officer. Nine other charges against him were dropped.
The Hackney Community Defence Association took up the Burkes’ case and has campaigned over it for three years.
The result of the case is un likely to ease relations in Hackney. A number of other civil actions against police in the area are pending.