Rev Jesse Jackson to call for reform on handling of deaths in custody

Rev Jessie Jackson, an American civil rights campaigner will on Thursday publicly back the growing number of calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the current handling of deaths in police custody.

The conference will take place in east London on Thursday 15th December 2011 from 1.30 to 2.45 pm at Operation Black Vote’s offices.

The meeting is backed by a consortia of agencies who have come together to stand with the families who have been affected by these tragedies.

This meeting will highlight the widespread distrust that the recent spate of deaths of Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell Brown, Demetre Faser and Jacob Michael, at the hands of the police has caused.

It will also focus on the urgent need for the establishment of an independent judicial public inquiry to ensure there is accountability when deaths in custody occur.

Rev Jackson will call for an independent public inquiry leading to wholesale reform of the way these deaths are currently investigated and for officers responsible in such cases to be held to account.

Apart from Rev Jackson, speakers at the press conference will include: United Friends and Families Campaign, Merlin Emmanuel Campaign 4 Justice, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign, Mark Duggan family, Stafford Scott  – Tottenham Defence Campaign, Matilda MacAttram, Director of Black Mental Health UK, Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST and Rev Wayne Malcolm – Operation Hope and Recovery.  

Lee Jasper, Chair of London Race & Criminal Justice Consortium & Executive member of Operation Hope and Recovery will chair the press conference.

In the UK last year there was a 164% increase in the rate of stop and searches targeting back people. This helps explain why fatalities are disproportionately higher among the UK’s African Caribbean communities.

Government data shows that in the past 12 months alone black men have made up 20% of the deaths in police custody, despite coming from a community that are just 2% of the population.

Disturbingly mental health service users make up 61% of all deaths in custody and more work also needs to prevent further fatalities amongst this vulnerable group.

Mr. Jasper said: “Suspicious deaths in police custody represent the critical fault line in police and community relationships. This past year has seen a disturbing increase in the number of black men who have lost their lives whilst in police custody. Had the Government heeded the warning signs about this issue, the August riots could have been avoided.

“In the wake of this summer’s unrest, the controversy over the Independent Police Complaints Commissions (IPCC) investigations has destroyed the community’s confidence in the current investigative process. The families of those who have died whilst in custody deserve a public inquiry and the nation’s best interests would be best served by such an inquiry.”

Ms. MacAttram said: “Government figures show that black men and people who use mental health services are the most likely to lose their lives while in custody. The tragic cases of Kingsley Burrell-Brown, Smiley Culture and Mark Duggan make it clear that this problem will not go away by itself. This press conference with Rev Jackson aims to put this issue back on the political agenda in order to bring about reform on this issue so that there is both accountability and transparency in the way these cases are dealt with.”

Time: 1.30 – 2.45 pm
Date: Thursday 14th December 2011
Venue: Operation Black Vote, 18a Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PB.  
Nearest tube: Bethnal Green on the Central Line