Thursday, January 19, 2006

Police racism in the UK

At the end of this month the appeal or retrial by my son against Thames Valley Police will be heard before Aylesbury County Court. As the matter is going to be sub judice then and I am involved as a witness I will not be able to comment on these pages. However, Mathaba News Network have once more agreed to cover the case and I will be reposting their reports here to keep readers informed. Here is the first report ahead of the trial. The original post contains further links for a background of the previous case before Milton Keynes Magistrate’s Court.

A high profile case brought by Thames Valley Police against a Muslim law student is coming before the appeals court and could decide whether it will become a crime in Britain to allege racism against a police officer - Photo: forceful arrest was captured on video

Abdu-l-Muqtadir Mustaqim, a third year law student and son of Islamic Party general secretary Dr Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, was arrested, handcuffed, held in custody and abused when alleging that Thames Valley Police officers behaved racist when they stopped him.

The event took place when he was stopped while driving his car on 23 August 2004. At first the police claimed that he did not have a valid tax disc for his vehicle and then proceeded to try and find some other faults when they found his car and paperwork was in good order.

Following an outcry by the local Muslim community the 'Independent Police Complaints Commission' (IPCC) was selected to investigate the behaviour of Thames Valley Police officers in this case after a consultation meeting with local community representatives.

This was the first case the IPCC appropriated for Thames Valley police and it was therefore reported in The Guardian and subsequently on Channel 4 News. However, they soon put their investigation on hold when the police charged Mr. Mustaqim with possession of an offensive weapon and a public order offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act.

Mr Mustaqim alleges that the IPCC was not independent but instead actively trying to obtain witnesses and prepare evidence for the benefit of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which was acting for the police.

After the police forensic service had had to admit that what officers had made out to be an illegal lock knife was in fact a perfectly legal ornamental pocket knife the more serious charge had to be dropped and only the minor public order offence charge remained. After a total of 8 pre-trial hearings at great cost to the British tax-payer the matter was heard during a further 3-day trial before District Judge Williams at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court.

In spite of video and audio evidence of the arrest provided by the defendant's brother and in spite of the fact that the only civilian witness furnished by the CPS who had seen part of the events only saw the defendant from behind yet proceeded to offer a dock identification, District Judge Williams decided to make her own findings on fact, disregarding most of the evidence before her.

Williams convicted Mr Mustaqim for allegedly saying a phrase which she found to be offensive for the police officer, although the audio recording clearly indicated that he had said something quite different.

Mr Mustaqim appealed and there followed a number of unsuccessful and improper attempts by a representative of the local Council for Race Equality to mediate on behalf of the police and to dissuade him from doing so. The case is now going to be heard in the form of a retrial before Aylesbury County Court from January 30 to February 1.

According to Mr Mustaqim, he was victimised by the police and this trial is as much about establishing the truth about a whole range of abuses and procedural errors by Thames Valley Police starting from the time he was stopped until he was released with a bruised face from custody some twelve hours later.

The case is also of relevance in that District Judge Williams attempted to redefine the definition of what constitutes racism. That definition had been recommended by the Stephen Lawrence enquiry (one of the most important enquiries in Britain that looked into the handling of the murder of a Black teenager) and had subsequently been accepted by most government agencies.

Contrary to giving the victim the benefit of the doubt when feeling harassed and alleging racism towards him, District Judge Williams concluded that she found the allegation of racism against a police officer to be offensive and racist in return. If this conclusion were allowed to stand it would make it quite difficult in future for anybody to allege racist behaviour by an officer of a police force as such an allegation could subsequently be found to constitute an offence.


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