The Mark Duggan inquest verdict has stoked deep seated anger about the now familiar pattern of no criminal prosecutions being brought against those responsible for the deaths of black people while in the custody of the state.
The first and last such prosecution was of Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and Sergeant Kenneth Kitching in Leeds in 1971 on charges of manslaughter, perjury and grievous bodily harm for the hounding and killing of David Oluwale, a harmless vagrant whom the trial judge referred to as a ‘dirty, filthy, violent vagrant’. That same judge directed that the manslaughter charges be dropped. Both defendants were cleared of grievous bodily harm and convicted of assault and received jail terms of 3 years and 27 months respectively.
In the 25 years after Oluwale’s brutal murder, the trial presided over by a decidedly biased judge and the shocking verdict, African and Asian communities up and down the land were preoccupied with the growing number of racist murders perpetrated by neo-fascists and racists, most of which remained unsolved. It was then more typical than not for the police to deny the existence of any racist motive for such murders. By the middle 1990s, however, in cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, the communities’ focus shifted to the growing incidence of gun and knife-enabled murders involving black young men as perpetrators and victims.
But, community experience in the intervening 25 years had included not just unsolved racist murders but the incremental extension of police powers for the containment and control of a burgeoning population of unemployed black youths, the majority of whom had been failed by the schooling system. The police, the courts and leading politicians sent out powerful messages that that section of the mainly urban population was surplus to requirements and a real and ever present threat to ‘law and order’. Read the rest of this entry →