By Alan McArthur
Police lawyers have been strong-arming cinemas to stop them showing Injustice, a powerful new documentary on deaths in police custody which exposes corruption and cover-up at every level of the criminal justice system.
The film names officers responsible for deaths in custody and calls for them to be tried for murder. It follows the families of the dead through their attempts to establish the truth, documenting how, time and again, they meet a wall of official secrecy.
Police lawyers have been scaring cinemas into cancelling showings of Injustice by threatening to sue for libel. Film-makers Migrant Media have responded by arranging backup “guerrilla screenings” at alternative, makeshift venues.
The film’s director, Ken Fero, told Workers’ Liberty: “We will show the film and keep on showing it. We want these stories told — and we want the police officers responsible convicted. We won’t back down — however long it takes.
“If the police or individual officers sue us for libel, all the evidence in these cases will come before a court and they will have to justify why it was not murder.”
Injustice focuses in detail on the cases of three black men, Brian Douglas, Ibrahima Sey and Shiji Lapite — all killed by the police in the mid-1990s — and was made in conjunction with their families. It also tells the stories of David Oluwale, Joy Gardner, Wayne Douglas, Christopher Alder, Roger Sylvester, Sarah Thomas and Harry Stanley.
Brian Douglas, stopped by the police in Clapham, south London, in May 1995, received a blow to the head with a police baton so hard that it was the equivalent of falling 11 times his own height onto his head — despite the fact that he had been backing away in fear from PC Mark Tuffy, the officer who dealt the blow. Brian then spent 15 hours in a cell at Kennington Police Station with a fractured skull and was given no medical attention. He died in hospital a week later.
Ibrahima Sey, a Muslim from the Gambia, was taken to Ilford Police Station, east London, in March 1996 after a domestic row. He was held down and beaten by several officers, resulting in severe bruising on his forehead and stomach, and had CS gas sprayed in his face. He died from asphyxiation.
Shiji Lapite, a Nigerian asylum seeker, was stopped by two police officers — Andrew McCallum and Paul Wright — in Hackney, north-east London, in December 1994 for “acting suspiciously”. The officers claimed they found crack cocaine at the scene. One of them held Shiji in a headlock while the other kicked his head: a witness reported that, as Shiji was put into a police van, his head was “lolling about”.
At the inquest into Shiji’s death, McCallum and Wright claimed he was “the biggest, strongest, most violent black man they had ever seen”. Yet their only injuries were a bite mark on the shoulder of one and a small scratch on one of the other’s fingers. Shiji was 5’ 10” tall and of medium build.
No police officer has ever been convicted for a death in custody.
* For details of showings of Injustice, or for more information, visit www.injusticefilm.co.uk
* For details of any of the cases listed here and to join the campaign for justice, contact the United Friends and Families Campaign: 07770 432439. The campaign demands a public inquiry into deaths in custody.