Blog Archive

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Press Release: Rashan Charles

Press  Release                Press Release

Rashan Charles Not In Possession of Illegal Drugs

The announcement by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that 20 year old Rashan Charles, who died after being arrested by a Metropolitan police officer in Dalston, Hackney, did not swallow illegal substances will come as a shock to many.

The rationale for the arrest and use of a neck hold restraint, as explained by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), was suspicion of possession of drugs and that Mr Charles had swallowed illegal substances.

The fact that no illegal drugs were found on Rashan Charles and that the item removed from his throat during his autopsy has proven not to be an illegal substance, throws into doubt not only the rationale for the stranglehold, but also  the legal basis of his arrest.

Public anxiety and concern will be heightened as a consequence of this new information as Rashan Charles joins the list of people who did not have to die as a result of police arrest or custody.

We call upon the MPS Commissioner, Cressida Dick to urgently review operational policing guidance to Metropolitan police officers, in relation to the arrest of citizens suspected of swallowing illegal substances.

In the light of the report published today by the MPS demonstrating the disproportional application of force used by officers when in contact with black Londoners, it is vital that the new Commissioner investigates the circumstances leading to Rashan Charles' death as a matter of urgency.


For further information please contact:
 Info@blaksox.com

Lee Jasper-07984 181 797

The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL)
The Association of Muslim Lawyers (AML)
BLAKSOX
The Society of Asian Lawyers
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts
Operation Black Vote

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Press Release: Failures of Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry consultation and lack of diversity






PRESS RELEASE       PRESS RELEASE     PRESS RELEASE      PRESS RELEASE         PRESS RELEASE

************************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE************************

BMELAWYERS4GREENFELL & OTHERS TO CONSIDER JUDICIAL REVIEW (JR) AS A RESPONSE TO LACK OF CONSULTATION RE INQUIRY CHAIR & PANEL, LACK OF DIVERSITY OF BOTH & THEIR CHAOTIC & INSENSITIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT MEETINGS ON TERMS OF REFERENCE


BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL, survivors, residents, community members and other groups remain extremely concerned about the lack of the promised consultation on the appointment of the Inquiry Chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick.  This has been compounded by the complete lack of openness surrounding the appointment of his Inquiry Team. It has been further compounded by the lack of diversity – until last Thursday, the Team was all white with one female, when an Asian female barrister appeared to have been appointed. We do not challenge the ability of the Inquiry Team and Chair.  We do challenge their appropriateness for this phenomenally important Inquiry. This, and other concerns, have been repeatedly raised since 19 June 2017, via written communications and broadcast and print media but continues to be ignored. 

This is further compounded by the Team’s attempts at ‘community engagement’ designed to involve the community in the Terms of Reference and take note of community concerns.

Community consultation should be an effective mechanism for the survivors, their families, local residents and the community, to ensure that the Public Inquiry is both credible and that it inspires confidence. The huge loss of life means that a whole community has been devastated and traumatised. This process ought to have begun the process of healing and recovery for the community. Instead, they are being re-traumatised. 

3 meetings: 19 July, 20 July and 25 July 2017.  The first two held outside of the community. None properly advertised. Community members and groups had to fill this void to ensure that people attended. The meetings were extremely poorly designed and managed and without any agenda, resulting in chaos - which will no doubt be blamed on those attending. No interpreters were provided for survivors and their families and no counsellors arranged to support them during and after the meeting. 

A more disorganised and incompetent consultation process could not have been devised if they had planned to do so and further shines a light on the need for diversity. At each of the meetings, one attendee after another expressed their distress about this and their lack of confidence, calling for the Chair and Team to resign or, at the very least, appoint, on their merits, a panel of suitably qualified BME professionals, of whom there are many.

At the final meeting, 25 July 2017, approximately 150 people were forced to share one microphone. The panel did not introduce themselves properly or explain the format of the meeting. Those who shouted the loudest were heard, more than once. No consideration was given to the survivors and survivor’s families in attendance, some of whom were clearly traumatised and crying during the meeting. They and the vast majority of attendees left traumatised and distressed. They felt patronised. They felt they were not listened to.  The little confidence they had was shattered. They were left deeply concerned that justice would not be seen to be done. Again, it was left to the community to support the survivors.

BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL have attended all the meetings. Its members have significant experience of community engagement and Inquiries. The Public Inquiry consultation process is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons:-

  1. It has failed to properly advertise meetings, despite ample contact sources, including the “Gold” group command;
  2. There has been complete disregard as to how people will attend these meetings and failure to provide any transport from hotels for survivors and families to attend. In contrast, this group provided transport 29 June 2017 for the local community to attend the meeting at the House of Commons, Chaired by Diane Abbott MP;
  3. It has failed to provide any mental health trauma counsellors to prepare survivors and families for the meetings or to be on standby during and after the meetings to cope with the extremely distressing and triggering content of these meetings. The impact on mental illness and exacerbation of trauma has been negligently ignored;
  4. It has failed to provide for any silence for reflection or spiritual space at the start of the meeting given the significant proportion of survivors who hold to a religious faith;
  5. It has failed to provide any leaflets, or agendas for the meetings to enable a structured approach to be followed;
  6. It has failed to provide any leaflets or website in any language but English despite being aware of the diversity of the community; Farsi, Arabic, Pashtu, and Amharic are the first languages of some 50% of survivors. It had failed to offer or provide interpreters to make meetings more inclusive.
  7. It has failed to provide any questionnaires available on line in a multi lingual format for people who could not access the meetings to comment on the Terms of Reference, composition of the panel and the format of the Inquiry;
  8. The Chair and Inquiry team have repeatedly refused to answer key questions asked by the community, including how they were appointed and what qualifications they possess to justify their appointments;
  9. The Chair and Inquiry team have failed to conduct the meetings with any apparent sense of empathy for the survivors and local community, or their cultural needs. This has been noted and commented upon by attendees who were visibly distressed by this.

D Peter Herbert O.B.E., barrister and Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers commented:

“AS BME Lawyers and community engagement experts we were appalled at the amateurish approach of the Inquiry team and Chair who did not appear to have a clue as to how to engage with such a diverse multi faith community. The audience were in turn patronised, and treated with thinly disguised disdain or pity that did little to engender any trust & confidence. The failure to reach out in a meaningful manner undermines the Inquiry from the outset, as many voices were simply not heard in the chaos that ensued. The responsibility for this mess lies with the Public Inquiry team and not with this traumatised community which deserves far better than this after such a horrific event.”

Ismet Rawat, barrister & President of the Association of Muslim Lawyers commented:

“Anyone who still questions the need for diversity should take a long hard look at how this process has been conducted to date and the repeated failures to acknowledge or respond to the concerns that have been very clearly conveyed. The survivors, their families and the community are being repeatedly re-victimised and re-traumatised.  The negligence in the handling of this process and abrogation of any duty of care is deeply worrying. Furthermore, the cries for the Chair and the Inquiry Team to stand down are a direct consequence of their continuing failure to inspire trust and confidence in the local community due to their insensitive handling of this key process. A real opportunity has been lost by the Chair and the Inquiry team to show that they can deliver justice for the people of Grenfell. Judicial Review was always going to be the last step.  It may now be the only step which will be listened to.”

Zita Holbourne,Chair BARAC UK commented: 

"There were many people attending who were visibly traumatised but there was nothing put in place to help people through the meeting, as has become a pattern it was left to the community to support each other. The panel did not set out clearly the remit or format for the meeting & it became evident during the course of it that this was much needed. The panel were reluctant to answer questions with Sir Martin Moore-Bick stating that they were only prepared to listen not respond, within minutes of him saying this, appallingly another panel member ordered the attendees to be quiet. There was a complete lack of sympathy, empathy or humanity demonstrated by the Inquiry panel which is quite unacceptable given what survivors, families, residents and the community and going through. It's no wonder that there is zero confidence."

Lee Jasper, former Race Adviser to the Mayor of London commented:

“This chaotic and mismanaged community consultation led by the Chair & his Team makes a mockery of the good practice developed over the last thirty years and is an insult to those that have died and suffered so much in this atrocity. A consultation that makes no attempt to communicate with the survivors, in a manner that is sensitive to their religious, language and cultural needs, with no logistical assistance to attend meetings or a questionnaire only permits for the loudest voices to be heard. That is a fundamentally flawed consultation that flies in the face of the lessons learnt from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. These failures are all the more astonishing as they have occurred with the close involvement of the Prime Ministers Cabinet office at the highest levels of the civil service.”

For further information please contact:

Ismet.rawat@gmail.com
Barac.info@gmail.com


D Peter Herbert – SBL: 07973 794 946;
Ismet Rawat - A.M.L: 07852 146 056;
Zita Holbourne – BARAC UK: 07711 861660
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166;









Thursday, 20 July 2017

Press Release: Sarah Reed Inquest Verdict




Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice

20.7.17

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Justice for Sarah Reed begins with health and prison services being held accountable for deaths in custody.

Background

Sarah Reed, a young black woman with a history of mental illness, detained on remand in a single occupancy cell in the healthcare unit of Holloway Women's Prison, was found dead on 11th January 2016. The prison has since been closed. Sarah’s illness was precipitated by the premature death of her six-month-old daughter in 2003, when she and her partner were dispatched from a children's hospice with their deceased baby wrapped in a quilt to find an undertaker. Sarah's mental health deteriorated as a consequence of this trauma. She was also the victim of a vicious assault by a Metropolitan Police Officer, PC James Kiddie in 2012. He was subsequently charged, convicted and dismissed from the police force. This incident further exacerbated Sarah's condition, as did her arrest for an alleged assault whilst defending herself against a sexual attacker in a secure mental health unit.

The inquest into Sarah Reed’s sudden death was held at City of London Coroners Court. It started on Tuesday, 4th July and concluded on Thursday, 20th July 2017. The jury's verdict found that The Inner London Crown Court’s processes of obtaining psychiatric medical reports were not sufficiently timely. The jury found the delay “particularly difficult to understand”. If a timely Fitness to Plead Assessment had been performed as requested by the court, then Sarah Reed would not have suffered a mental health crisis in HMP Holloway and would have received appropriate treatment within a mental health hospital. The jury concluded this delay significantly contributed to her subsequent death. The jury also found that the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) review delays and failures were contributory factors to Sarah’s death, in particular the reduction of observations despite her worsening psychotic condition. They found the reduction of Sarah’s anti-psychotic medication to have been appropriate initially, but strongly criticised the subsequent failure to consider safer alternatives. The jury also found that HMP Holloway staff failed to respond to a request from Dr Timms to review Sarah’s anti-psychotic medication in a timely manner. These failures left Sarah in a distressed state without appropriate treatment. Finally, the jury considered HMP Holloway’s inexplicable decision to cancel Sarah’s visits with family and friends especially detrimental.

Sarah’s legal team was exceptional, however the search for the truth is often frustrated by a lack of resources for families in terms of legal and evidential expertise. We believe the inquest evidence presented, outlining the ways in which Sarah’s behaviour was assessed and managed, the withdrawing of her medication, and the punishments and segregation to which she was subjected are highly disturbing. It paints a distressing picture of the inhumane way a Black woman with mental illness was treated in prison. Sarah’s case, like the cases of Dean Saunders and David 'Rocky' Bennett before her, have highlighted systemic failings of care for people with mental illness and institutional racism within prisons.

The Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice has been supported by a number of individuals, groups and organisations, in particular the social movement Blaksox, Women In Prison, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, and Gender, Education and Enterprise Development for Africa (GEEDA). As far as the Campaign and Sarah’s family are concerned, the facts relating to Sarah’s death remain largely unexplained.

We make the following urgent demands:

1. The Government should commit to ensuring nobody with severe mental illness should be placed in a police or prison cells.
2. Urgent modernisation and reform of the Coroners’ inquest courts processes to give greater equity and justice to victims’ relatives.
3. That Coroners’ inquests recommendations need to be mandatory and enforced by law.
4. In the event a prisoner is identified as having a mental health crisis requiring transfer to hospital, that this takes place within two (2) hours and treated as an emergency, as is the case with a physical medical crisis.
5. That no prisoner identified as mentally ill and/or on suicide watch is screened off as punishment, isolating them from human contact and cutting off visibility when they most need it.

This inquest has left serious questions unanswered:

1. How did Sarah, a woman in poor physical health commit suicide by strangling herself and maintain the pressure past the point of unconsciousness whilst lying face up on a bed, within a ten-minute window?

2. Why were key reports such as Fitness to Plead and important psychiatric assessment reports delayed, causing significant harm to Sarah?

3. Why did Holloway Prison psychiatrist, Dr Darren Bull determine that Sarah was not psychotic, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

4. Why was there a substantive and critical delay in transferring Sarah from Holloway to hospital once a decision was made that she was in need of urgent medical treatment?

Donna McKoy, Chair of the Sarah Reed Campaign for Justice said, “Sarah would be alive today had the Coroners' inquest recommendations been considered mandatory and been backed by the force of law.”

Kate Paradine, CEO of Women in Prison asked, “’What was she even doing in prison in the first place?’ This is the question we at the charity Women in Prison hear most often whenever a woman dies in prison. In 2016, 22 women died in prison with 12 of these taking their own lives. Tragically, their stories are remarkably similar - histories of trauma, abuse, mental ill health and self-harm; often in prison on remand or sentenced for non-violent crimes (84% of all prison sentences for women) – mostly for theft like shoplifting. …The inquest into [Sarah’s] death tells the story of a completely broken system.”

Patricia Lamour MBE of GEEDA pointed out that “Sarah Reed was remanded in custody for the sole purpose of a psychiatric report to assess her fitness to plea. The inordinate delay in processing these reports was a material factor in the circumstances surrounding Sarah's death. No woman, no mother, in fact nobody suffering from mental illness should be detained in either a prison or a police cell.”

Sarah Reed Campaign member Claudia Manchanda said, "I sat through the inquest and heard several examples of what appeared to be evidence of perjury and poor practice by a range of statutory agencies. I think that the evidence given to this inquest should be the basis of charges of perjury, internal disciplinary measures and dismissals, where appropriate."

Zita Holbourne, Sarah Reed Campaign Trade Union liaison officer and Chair of BARAC UK, said that "the gross injustices Sarah experienced, leading to her unexpected death have been of great concern to the trade union movement and, in recognition of the fact that Sarah died because she was black, a woman and disabled due to her mental ill-health, four emergency motions have been carried at the TUC Black Workers, Women & Disabled Workers conferences. The evidence heard at the inquest leaves more questions unanswered. Sarah's family deserves to know the truth."

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST stated: “Sarah Reed was an extremely vulnerable black woman with a long history of mental ill health. …. The state’s responsibility for deaths goes beyond the prison walls and extends to failures in mental health and substance abuse provision, sentencing policies and the failure to implement the Corston report and invest in alternatives to custody.”

Viv Ahmun of Blaksox called on the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to publish the long overdue report into Black deaths in custody saying, "It's high time the Home Secretary addressed the deepening anxieties of victims and the wider public about the growing number of controversial black deaths in custody. Sarah Reed is just one of many and it is vital that lessons are learned and urgent reform implemented as a matter of priority."

Lee Jasper said, “The horrific treatment of Sarah Reed whilst on remand in HMP Holloway constitutes cruel and unusual punishment of a young black woman suffering mental ill health. The jury’s findings identified critical failures by prison and mental health staff that substantively contributed towards the death of Sarah Reed.”


Contact Details:
Lee Jasper 07984 181 797
Zita Holbourne 07711 861 660
Patricia Lamour 07508 950 589
Claudia Manchanda 07947 306609


Links to articles:

  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/23/sarah-reed-death-custody-paradigm-shift-black-women-blaksox-campaign

 https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-0bf3-Sarah-Reed-was-a-woman,-a-mother-and-a-daughter#.WW90aoHTXqA   http://thejusticegap.com/2016/02/sarah-reed-she-needed-care-not-punishment/

  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/17/sarah-reeds-mother-deaths-in-custody-holloway-prison-mental-health



Monday, 3 July 2017

Grenfell Tower Press Release by leading BME organisations, lawyers & residents




PRESS RELEASE                   PRESS RELEASE                         PRESS RELEASE

EMBARGO: Monday, 3rd July 2017 00.01 AM

BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL, an umbrella action group incorporating leading BME Organisations and residents challenge the appointment Sir Martin Moore-Bick as the Chair of the Grenfell Fire Inquiry; the failure to consult survivors and residents on the appointment, the terms of reference, and the members of the advisory panel.

BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL has already highlighted, on numerous occasions, the invidious nature and consequences of the failures to respond to survivors' and residents' concerns, to acknowledge their concerns, to answer their questions and to consult with them. The government cannot repeatedly acknowledge its failures in its handling of this wholly avoidably tragedy but continue to act in a wholly cavalier manner toward survivors and residents.  Having previously insisted that Grenfell Tower residents will be given a say over the direction of the investigation, the Prime Minister has ridden roughshod over their concerns in her appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL do not question Sir Martin Moore-Bick's vast experience but do question the appropriateness of his appointment given his commercial background and publicised decision-making. Furthermore, his public statements following the announcement of his appointment caused considerable dismay in the community.  Residents and survivors of the  Grenfell Tower fire  had already made it clear that they are unhappy with its narrow remit and want a broader investigation into the causes and aftermath of the disaster that killed at least 80 people. However, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, has already commenced his role with extreme caution, stating, inter alia:

"I've been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development, in order to make recommendations as to how this sort of thing can be prevented in the future,"

"I would hope to be able to answer basic factual questions such as: how did the fire start, how did it spread, how was it able to engulf the whole of the building at such speed? And also questions such as what internal precautions there were, what steps were available for alerting residents and for allowing them to escape."
BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL urge the Prime Minister to withdraw this appointment given its lack of credibility and appoint a Chair with a professional history and experience of appreciating the needs of social housing in this diverse community all too often ignored by the wealthiest Borough in the country.

Ghino Parker, Resident and community representative said:

The tragedy that has unfolded in our community is unprecedented. This is only the beginning and we must insure that we support those who seek a voice within our systems of justice and equally we keep a dialogue on behalf of those who have lost their lives and are unable to speak. The continued failure by the local authorities in the aftermath is unacceptable. The community around Grenfell and those around our community are mobilising. There is an awaking and need for answers that must be met with respect and taken seriously not with tokenism.  The people who I have met through various BME law associations have had a direct impact on the daily issues that some survivors have faced, for that, as a community we are grateful. We must keep working together with those who can keep on shining a light on the mechanics of change.

Zita Holbourne, National Chair of BARAC UK said:
What survivors and families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower have been through is unimaginable. They deserve dignity and respect going forward and to be acknowledged and have their articulate voices heard.  In contrast to the community response, the official response has been woefully inadequate and the reality that we have heard first hand from survivors and the families of those who died, at the Houses of Parliament a few days ago is very different from what we are being told by Government is occurring.

Ismet Rawat, President Association of Muslim Lawyers said:
It is not just the survivors, residents and their families and supporters but the community at large, who are very clear that this tragedy is not just about the limited ‘factual' issues that Sir Martin Moore-Bick referred to (and may well have been imposed upon him) but that it raises extremely important questions about our society as a whole and the manner in which those who hold power deal with discrimination and deprivation. The Macpherson Inquiry was ultimately about more than the tragic murder of a young black man and, similarly, this inquiry will be about more than the events of one fateful night.

The Grenfell community cannot begin to process its huge trauma or even countenance healing when it is being repeatedly lied to, misrepresented, and treated abhorrently. There must be accountability.  Any inquiry must have legitimacy and must be honest, open and accountable. The survivors and residents do not demand the right to choose the Inquiry Chair.  They were promised input and were and remain entitled to it. It is not just sufficient that justice is done, but that it is SEEN to be done. Similarly, justice delayed is justice denied therefore expediency is also key. There cannot be another 4 years before a report as there was with the Lakanal fire.

Peter Herbert, Chair, Society of Black Lawyers said:
This government is well aware that the Grenfell community has lost confidence in the white male middle class model but continues to impose this in appointing a Chair who has little or no personal or professional insight into the cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity represented by the Grenfell community and, indeed, has been overturned upon appeal for failing to have that insight in a specific case centered on social housing.

Ranjit Sond, President, Society of Asian Lawyers said:

It must be noted that the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the Scarman Report only managed to build the confidence of the local community by conducting a detailed consultation sitting as they did with a diverse panel of advisers who helped them develop the trust of the victims and survivors.  The appointment of a diverse panel of experts that understands not only the surrounding technical matters, but the need of the local community is essential to the success of this Inquiry.

If the terms of reference remain as they are, BMELAWERS4GRENFELL will consider commencing Judicial Review proceedings. The Inquiry must be capable of guaranteeing answers that honour the memory of all those who have lost their lives and those that remain.

Note to editors and other interested parties:

For further information please contact:

 Info@societyofblacklawyers.co.uk
 Info@blaksox.com ;
Ismet.rawat@gmail.com
ashlee@. bpa@outlook.com

Zita Holbourne -  BARAC UK; 07711 861660;
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox; 07985 395 166;
D Peter Herbert - SBL;  07973 794 946
Ismet Rawat - AML: 07852 146 056
Ranjit Sond - SAL: 07725 523186

Note to editors 2:
BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL were instrumental in arranging the Grenfell Tower meeting called by Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott M.P. 29 June 2017.  The meeting was also addressed by the Shadow Justice Minister, Richard Burgon MP, Emma Dent Coad MP and David Lammy M.P. Over 150 survivors, residents, family members and supporters denounced the abject failure of the Government and the local authority to provide answers, their repeated misinformation regarding rehousing of residents and the alleged support provided, and discussed a list of demands that remain unmet. These were later reflected in the letter written by the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

The demands survivors and families reiterated at the meeting at the House of Commons 29 June 2017 are as follows:
1. The TMO to be dissolved and responsibility moved to the LB Southwark or other competent London Borough;

2. The Government Coordinated response team to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and accessible in person, by telephone and email so that people are not greeted by answerphone messages and that interpretation services and emergency contacts are accessible;

3. That family liaison officers reach out to the survivors and residents to provide full assistance and to publicise the contact details of family liaison officers involved currently;

4. That HMG to offer full counselling services to all survivors, family members of survivors, volunteers, eye witnesses and local residents / community and mental health support provided for those who require it;

5. To direct that survivors are not identified by wristbands but by photographic ID;

6. To provide a comprehensive undertaking not to house people outside the Borough or in temporary housing for longer than three months, keeping moves to an absolute minimum;

7. Charitable donations be collected by one central charity with a full record of money provided and access to an interim payment to all survivors and families of the victims being provided as was done following the Manchester Arena bombing;

8. The Home Secretary & Lord Chief Justice to state immediately why the Grenfell community was not consulted prior to the appointment of the retired Court of Appeal Judge;

9. The Home Secretary to explain what consultation is to occur before the terms of Reference are finalised and to invite the Judge to attend a meeting on 19th July of BME Lawyers4 Grenfell to be held at the BBC to explain to survivors how they can influence the scope of the Inquiry;

10. The Home Secretary to confirm in writing within 28 days that undocumented survivors are given full UK citizenship forthwith; (No assurance in writing to date);

11. To provide regular updates directly to a Grenfell website that is accessible to survivors, local residents and their families;

12. To provide a team of appropriately diverse social workers who can liaise with children, the elderly and the disabled;

13. To give assurances in writing that anyone provided with negligent advice by the RBKC must not be disadvantaged in their right to social housing in the future;

14. The release the total numbers of survivors as opposed to the numbers believed to be dead and missing within 14 days;

15. A guarantee that the Inquiry Chair will adopt a wide term of reference that goes beyond the narrow one he has outlined in his recent statement;

16. To guarantee the interim findings of the Inquiry will be made public within four months of the Inquiry commencing;

17. To ensure a properly diverse expert panel to sit alongside the Inquiry Judge on Housing needs, Fire and Safety Construction, with suitable experience of Equality, Diversity & Social Welfare considerations;

18. To provide all written communications, whether in print or online in a broad range of languages responding to the needs of the diverse group of people concerned.  In addition, interpretation services to be made available, for example through the use of Language Line;

19. Assurances to be given that no interim relief provided to survivors and families will be subject to deductions from future compensation or any benefits they are entitled to, with the same principles being applied to Grenfell survivors and families of those who died as that which was applied to victims and families of the Manchester arena bombing where Government made a rule change which ensured that survivors and families of victims would not see any benefits cut if they received financial support from the We Love Manchester emergency fund. At the very least, there must be parity of treatment.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Grenfell Tower: Press Release by Leading Black Race Equality Orgs





PRESS RELEASE                   PRESS RELEASE                         PRESS RELEASE

EMBARGO: FRIDAY, 16TH JUNE 11.00 PM

Leading Black and minority organisations express their sorrow, shock, horror and outrage at the appalling tragedy of the wholly unnecessary loss of life and suffering at Grenfell Tower.

The organisations are deeply concerned with the failure of the Prime Minister to meet residents or victims and the position of the former Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell that is now untenable. We also call for the urgent assessment of all 4,000 tower blocks in the UK that are in a similar state of design and age as a matter of urgency.

The bravery of fire-fighters and local residents is to be applauded and stands in stark contrast to the failure of leadership in central and local Government who are more concerned with damage limitation with their lawyers.

We urgently make the following demands: -

1. An apology by the Prime Minister, whose Government bears the full responsibility of failing to act since 2013 and the failure to implement the Coroner’s report of 2013 on the Lakanal fire in the London Borough of Southwark;
2. The resignation of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell, the former Minister of Housing who on 16th October 2016, said, “we have not set out any formal plans to review the buildings regulations as a whole”;
3. The immediate fire safety assessment of all 4,000 similar tower blocks in the UK;
4. An urgent corporate manslaughter investigation by the Metropolitan Police into Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO); Harley Facades, Rydon and all other contractors that bear responsibility for the renovation work;
5. An Independent  Public Inquiry called by the Prime Minister, to be  chaired by a High Court Judge and address how poverty, austerity, cuts, local private property interests and unlawful discrimination affected the delivery of housing services and safety of people in  Grenfell Tower;
6. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the UK’s wealthiest, be directed to rehouse all the affected families and provide emergency disaster relief to those directly affected, including trauma counselling.
7. There be immediate special measures imposed on KCTMO who have had two enforcement notices served on them in recent years, following a fire in a 14 storey block of 78 flats they own in October 2015;
8. The implementation of the Hillsborough Rule (proposed by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester), where families receive legal aid to be represented after such a tragedy in any Inquest or Public Inquiry.

This tragedy appears to be the perfect storm of poor housing, cuts in local authority spending and a complete failure by the Government to implement any of the Coroners recommendations in the tragic case of the blaze in Southwark that resulted in the loss of six lives in 2011. The history of fires in UK tower blocks is nothing new with Ronan Point in May 1968, where four died; Lakanal House, July 2009 where six people died; Shirley Towers, April 2010, where two people died, with other major fires of tower blocks, as recently as last December 2016 in Dubai.

Questions must be asked as to;

1. Why the Government failed to implement the Housing safety review recommended in 2013;
2. Why the former Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell failed again to commence the fire safety review in October 2016;
3. Why RBKC failed to heed the warnings issued by Grenfell Action Group which highlighted the dangers as recently as November 2016 in reviewing the 10.8 million refurbishments to Grenfell Tower;
4. Why the RBKC failed to coordinate the volunteers and charities in the aftermath of the tragedy and solely concentrated on re-housing given their significant resources;
5. Why a disproportionate number of children and babies were allocated the top floors together with BME tenants;
6. Why Coroners Courts do not have the power to bring expedited Judicial Review proceedings to enforce compliance with their recommendations that are not carried out by Government or local authorities and others within 12 months.
These and many other questions need to be answered. Public inquiries often take years to be set up and hear evidence during which time the truth can be obscured and disappear, whilst memories can fade.
Successive Housing Ministers from 2011 onwards failed to prioritise the needs of the poor and needy who occupy social housing. The responsibility for this tragedy lies at the heart of Government in Downing Street, due to the neglect and austerity of successive Housing Ministers.

Lee Jasper, former Race Equality adviser to the Mayor of London commented,
“Whilst we grieve for the families and those missing and injured, we urge the Metropolitan Police to urgently arrest those responsible at the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organisation (KCTMO) and the relevant contractors for possible manslaughter charges and to seize all available evidence before it is destroyed. This is not only a continuing danger to the public but a crime scene. We remember all too well that when the victims are poor, black and minority people, money is saved, corners cut and investigations fail, as with the Deptford Fire.”


      Zita Holbourne, National Chair of BARAC UK stated,

     “My thoughts are with all the tenants impacted, particularly those who have lost loved ones, those who have been injured and those who have lost their homes. The effects of austerity and cuts have impacted adversely on the poorest communities, disproportionately black and minority ethnic, with those local authorities officially declared deprived facing the deepest cuts.  There also needs to be proper investment in affordable and social housing.”

D Peter Herbert O.B.E., Chair of the SBL, and former Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority commented,
“Our thoughts and prayers are for the victims, and their families of this dreadful tragedy which is down not to terrorism but to the negligence and lack of care by those in power and authority. It is not the families, friends or relatives of Government Ministers who are forced to live in such dangerous property that is generally only found in social housing or the private rented sector. It is remarkable that the Prime Minister hides away from the public in Notting Hill, as she did during the election in a private visit. The SBL & AML will be conducting a series of meetings in the community and interviews with witnesses in the coming months to gather first hand testimony of what occurred”.

Rita  Patel commented,
“There are horrific accounts of whole families that have perished, with children separated and lost, parents and the elderly who have tragically disappeared with the old and the vulnerable the least likely to survive. We know that this type of property is simply not tolerated in the private sector, so why should it be acceptable in public housing? This Government has increasingly run down, privatised and neglected public housing over the years with the consequences visited on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”
Ismet Rahat stated,
“We are proud of our Islamic youth and our Mosques who have demonstrated their community support.  There has been an abandonment of safety standards for the poor who are forced to occupy the least popular highest floors of properties all over the UK. These are disproportionally families with young children, minorities and those suffering with a disability. No private sector tenant in a buy to let property would tolerate such safety standards, the lack of functioning fire alarms and safety systems. All faith communities have shown the type of commitment not shown by RBKC. No offer of housing has come from any member of the Royal family despite their abundance of accommodation in London.”

For further information please contact:
 Info@societyofblacklawyers.co.uk
 Info@blaksox.com


Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166
D Peter Herbert OBE – SBL 07973 794 946
Zita Holbourne – BARAC UK 07711 861660
Ismet Rahat- AML -07852 146 056

Monday, 5 June 2017

BARAC UK: Use Your Vote for Race Equality on June 8th, Vote Labour


BARAC was established as an anti-cuts organisation, 7 years ago this month, to respond to and campaign against the disproportionate impact of cuts on black workers, communities and service users. Over the past 7 years we have campaigned not just against cuts but the deepening race discrimination and injustice faced by black communities. 



Throughout these seven years, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party  and John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor have supported our campaigns, joined our rallies and events and brought out campaigns and concerns to Parliament, chairing a range of parliamentary meetings, discussions and  campaign launches,  including our Equality in Our Lifetime campaign marking the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, Jobs and Justice, Olympic Fair Play and our 2025 vision for race equality parliamentary launch to mention just a few.



We have therefore seen first hand their commitment to race equality.



Many of the concerns that BARAC has been campaigning on, the adverse and disproportionate impact of cuts to local authorities, the NHS , public sector job cuts and pay freeze, zero hour contracts, university tuition fees, deepening poverty, insitutional racism, discrimination in the labour market and in service provision,  inadequate social housing, disproportionate stop and search are issues that Jeremy, John and the Labour Party say they will address if elected.




You can read here a statement from Jeremy Corbyn, responding to a race equality manifesto published by 20 race equality orgs including BARAC UK here: https://www.raceequality2017.org.uk/jeremy-corbyn/



If you haven't already, we would encourage you to read the Labour Party manifesto here:


http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/LabourManifestoEASYREAD.pdf


For an alternative to reading, here's a spoken word video setting out reasons to vote  and to vote Labour, If All the People Voted for the Many Not The Few:


We've also produced some Vote Labour BARAC stickers.


Inline image 1


Every vote counts on the day and failure to vote / low turnout can assign us to another 4 years of misery, more cuts, deeper racism and injustice and poverty so please speak with family, friends and networks to encourage them to use their vote on June 8th.


 "If you elect me as your Prime Minister I promise you our Government will tear down the barriers that restrict fair access to jobs, housing, homes and health care.
Under a Labour Government those hard fought race equality rights and institutions that have been weakened and undermined in the last eight years will be strengthened." Jeremy Corbyn.



Monday, 22 May 2017

Campaign groups launch a manifesto for a racism-free post-Brexit Britain

Campaign groups launch a manifesto for a racism-free post-Brexit Britain

Press release: Monday 22nd May 2017, For Immediate Release

Contact OBV press office: 
020 8983 5430 / 020 8983 5444 / 07584 177 529 / 07920 057 237

Campaign groups launch a manifesto for a racism-free post-Brexit Britain

A new coalition of 20 race equality campaign groups has launched a manifesto which includes a set of demands they want the next government to adopt.

The ‘Manifesto for Race Equality in Britain’ includes policy proposals to tackle racial inequalities in the jobs market, housing, and criminal justice.

Proposals include:

  • A comprehensive government-wide race equality strategy;
  • Brexit negotiations must be “race equality-proofed” to safeguard rights protecting citizens against discrimination;
  • A new law prohibiting online hate which forces social media firms to take action.


The online manifesto has just gone live: www.raceequality2017.org.uk

The website also features new analysis of the power of the black and ethnic minority (BME) vote in this snap general election.

The study found that:

  • Seven of the top ten swing seats have BME electorates significantly larger than the 2015 majority;
  • 45 of the top 50 swing seats, 45 have BME electorates larger than the 2015 majority;
  • 96 of the top 200 marginal seats have BME electorates large enough to make the difference.

The report concludes that Labour could seriously reduce the Conservatives majority by holding onto their share of BME voters. The Tories could seal a comprehensive victory by winning over more BME citizens, and the Lib Dems need to increase their appeal in diverse seats to have any hope of winning them back.

See the Power of the Black Vote 2017 report here: https://goo.gl/kAZMrA

The Race Equality 2017 coalition was coordinated by Operation Black Vote. The full list of organisations is in Notes to Editors.

Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote, said:

“Britain is at a crossroads on Brexit, immigration, and British identity. How these issues play out in this snap election will determine the country's direction for a generation. The key question is to what extent will black and minority ethnic communities (BME) be involved in this debate?

“Persistent race inequalities in employment, education, housing and the criminal justice system has meant and lack of social mobility for BME children growing up to be adults is nothing short of a scandal. Many do succeed despite the barriers but too many fail to have their potential recognised much less fulfilled. That is why we are calling for a government-wide race equality strategy to root out racial inequality wherever it lurks in the system.

Dr Omar Khan, Director of the Runnymede Trust, said:

“Given the persistence and extent of racial inequalities we need the next government to have an actual plan to reduce racial inequalities, not just warm words. With post-Brexit Britain raising existential questions about who we are, we also need the next government to affirm that race equality is a core British value and that minorities won't see their rights and protections weakened”

Viv Ahmun, from Blaksox, said:

"Unemployment of 30% amongst 16-24 year old black people in comparison to just 13% amongst white people of the same age is a shocking disparity that feeds into and drives the poverty of opportunity that underpins rises in violence and mental ill health. The next government must do more to increase opportunities for employment and business development within BAME communities.” 

Zita Holbourne, National Chair, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK and National Vice President, Public and Commercial Services Union, said:

“Austerity combined with institutional racism is impacting disproportionately on BAME workers. Our manifesto seeks to address the adverse impacts of cuts on BAME workers from redundancies in the public sector having a double impact on BAME women to zero hour contracts meaning young BAME  workers have no job security, whilst addressing the structural systems of discrimination that already existed before cuts, in appraisal, promotion, progression and recruitment. Race Equality should be a right, not a privilege.”

Patrick Vernon OBE, trustee of Bernie Grant Trust and founder of 100 Great Black Britons, said:

“This is the 30th anniversary of Black History Month and the election of the late Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz as MPs. Tackling racial inequalities still have not been fully achieved. Our manifesto is a demand for our civil and economics rights to be taken seriously and delivered to all political parties.”

Lee Jasper, Blacksox sponsor, said:

“Black and Asian people in the UK today look with trepidation towards an uncertain future in a Brexit Britain. Racial inequality in the UK is now wider than any other time in our history. Hate crime is rising and black unemployment is at record levels. This no time abandon hope and refuse to vote. It’s time for UK Civil Rights movement.”

END.

Notes for editor: 
1)    OBV is non-partisan political campaigning organisation
2)    Organisations supporting the ‘Race Equality 2017’ manifesto include:
Runnymede Trust; Aspire Education Group; Coreplan; Ukren; BTEG; Friends, Families and Travellers; BSWN; Blacksox; Father 2 Father; DWC Global; Reallity; Voyage Youth; Race on the Agenda; Every Generation Media; BARAC; JUST Yorkshire; Society of Black Lawyers; Race Equality Foundation; Bernie Grant Trust.
3)    Power of the Black Vote report – showing that 45 of the top 50 most marginal seats have BME electorates larger than the 2015 majority – can be found here: https://goo.gl/6cPA91