Report back from United Families and Friends Campaign members Meeting with the Attorney General

Wednesday 27th February 2002, Attorney Generals Chambers, 9 Buckingham Gate.

United Families and Friends Campaign members whose loved ones died in custody met the Attorney General for a meeting to discuss future changes to the policy and procedure for prosecution, by the Crown Prosecution Service. The C.P.S also were represented at the meeting.

The families were informed by the Attorney General that he would not be looking at any of the individual deaths in custody, which they raised, and that he was not in a position to reopen those cases. For him the meeting was to give the families the opportunity to speak about their experiences of the Criminal Justice System and the way in which they had been treated over the years. This Lord Goldsmith said would be a positive input by the families, and would help shape the future changes in Prosecution procedure. Hopefully other families and individuals would not be put through the same situation that they had gone through, as a result of those changes.

Clearly from the outset of the meeting the families were there for a completely different reason. They are unanimous in their demand for an Independent Public Inquiry into Deaths in custody, along with other changes in the law that would enable them to have Justice. The families are not prepared to rest until they have had Justice for their loved ones.

Lord Goldsmith having seen the film Injustice, which the Police Federation tried to have banned, was clearly moved by what he seen in the film. Unfortunately Lord Goldsmith seems to be of the opinion that the odd change in the law or policy here and there will put things right. The family members made it quite clear to Lord Goldsmith that there experience of the Criminal Justice System told them that the survival of the Status Quo was more important than Justice, and for that reason they could not see prosecutions taking place. They did not have any faith in the system to prosecute Police and Prison Officers, and felt that the whole Criminal Justice System was loaded against ordinary people.

Lord Goldsmith talked about the problem of evidence not being available to prosecute the Officers and the great difficulty facing the C.P.S. It was pointed out to Lord Goldsmith that there were thousands of individuals that have gone to Goal on no evidence what so ever, yet where there has been clear concrete evidence the C.P.S refused to allow a Judge and Jury the right to try these individual Officers.

Pauline Ashley sister of Jimmy Ashley shot dead by police in Hasting three years ago, pointed out that even when her family got to the Old Bailey for the trial of five Officers for the death of her brother, it turn into a complete farce and all five Officers walk away with no convictions what so ever. How can this be asked Pauline?

This seemed to be the main problem. The families were the one who had felt the Injustice yet no one really wants to listen to what they have experienced. Clearly the families feel that it is not the case of the Police alone. It is not the case of the C.P.S alone. It is not the case of the Courts alone. It is not the case of the Legal Aid system alone. It is the case that the whole Criminal Justice System needs to be changed root and branch.

If Lord Goldsmith is serious about not allowing other families to experience the horrors, which the families talk to him about, then he needs to do only one thing. Call for an Independent Public Inquiry into deaths in Custody. He will then get a lot nearer the truth, of how these people died, and perhaps the total lack of faith that people have in the Criminal Justice System may be restored. He will certainly be a lot more informed on what changes need to be made in order that the Criminal Justice System is a reflection of Justice, and not a system of one law for the Police and Prison Officers and another law for the rest of us. I am afraid that is the reality for the families who have lost loved ones, in deaths in custody, and Lord Goldsmith should have the same strength and dignity that the families have and call for that Independent Public Inquiry. Our whole community deserves nothing less than the truth.

Terry Stewart

Deaths In Custody Campaign

P.O.Box 29644 London E28TS

Telephone 07931844969