Category Archives: News

Evening Seminar on Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU

Last week on 9 and 10 July 2015, a two day conference celebrated and contemplated 50 years since passing of the Race Relations Act 1965. Organised by Dr Iyiola Solanke (University of Leeds) and Mr Patrick Maddams (Honourable Society of the Inner Temple), the conference was fittingly supported and held at the august British Academy in London. Academics, practitioners, lawyers and policy-makers came together to critically consider the changes that the last 50 years had brought and looked ahead to what the agenda for the next 50 years might look like in terms of race relations. It was undeniable that much had been achieved and won (legally and socially) since the passing of the act and the people that attended and spoke, were indicative of that. Society, the media, academia and legislative frameworks had progressed and evolved, however, also clear was that more was necessary, and that although overt racism was fading, as a consequence of the passing of the Act and attitude change in society, indirect racism remains, everyday racism has now evolved and correspondingly, the fight against new racisms need to continue. It was resoundingly suggested that interpretation of the Race Relations Act needed to be better in its application.

britac eventAs part of the conference, a public event on the evening of Thursday, 9 July, entitled Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU, brought together a panel of scholars and practitioners dedicated to discussing how (and indeed if) the Race Relations Act had impacted specifically on policing and criminal justice. The intersections of race and criminal justice are all too often referred to in passing, rather than presented as the central question to be addressed, which is arguably myopic given the grossly disproportionate ways in which black and minority ethnic groups are policed and imprisoned in the UK. Hence it was apposite that experienced and esteemed panellists spoke directly to this issue and in as bold terms as the title of the event suggested.

Read more at:  http://crim.law.ox.ac.uk/racial-discrimination-and-criminal-justice/

How and why did Sheku Bayoh die?

Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old local man, originally from Sierra Leone and a father of two, died in police custody in Kirkcaldy on 3 May.

The circumstances of his death –  he was clamped in leg shackles and handcuffs when taken unconscious to hospital, until medics insisted these restraints be removed – have caused outrage, as has the way that he and his family have been treated by the local police, the Scottish Police Federation and a seemingly indifferent Scottish government.

Hundreds gathered outside Kirkcaldy police station on the day of his funeral for two minutes’ silence. Many want to know the truth. What is not disputed is that Bayoh was left unconscious after a pavement encounter with at first four, and then a further five, police officers, who used batons, CS gas and pepper spray, responding to reports that he had a knife.

Read more at:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/12/scottish-police-answers-sheku-bayoh-death

New Book: Jim Crow’s Last Stand by Thomas Aiello

New from LSU Press is Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, by Thomas Aiello, an associate professor of history at Valdosta State University.

The nonunanimous jury-verdict law originally allowed a guilty verdict with only nine juror votes, out of twelve, funneling many of those convicted into the state’s burgeoning convict lease system. The law remained on the books well after convict leasing ended. Historian Thomas Aiello describes the origins of the statute in Bourbon Louisiana—a period when white Democrats sought to redeem their state after Reconstruction—its survival through the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. Louisiana (1972), which narrowly validated the state’s criminal conviction policy.  Spanning over a hundred years of Louisiana law and history, Jim Crow’s Last Stand investigates the ways in which legal policies and patterns of incarceration contribute to a new form of racial inequality.

 

Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU – Panel, 9th July 2015

Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU

Thursday 9 July 2015, 6-7.30pm
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Chaired by: Aidan O’Neill QC, Matrix Chambers

Join a panel of leading voices from politics, academia and legal practice to as they explore issues at the nexus of race, EU law and policing.

Speakers:
Ben Bowling is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Kings College London.
Momodou Jallow is the Vice-President for the European Network Against Racism in Europe.
Dr Alpa Parmar is Departmental Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Oxford.
Leslie Thomas QC is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers.

Details and registration at: http://www.britac.ac.uk/events/2015/Racial_Discrimination_and_Criminal_Justice.cfm

New Study: Deaths in Police Encounters in Maryland

The ACLU has published a study recording the deaths arising during interaction with police in Maryland. It makes for sober reading. In the last five years, at least 109 people died in these encounters in Maryland, nearly 70% of them Black and more than 40% unarmed.

The study can be found in the Bibliography section of this site.

ACLU Report on Puerto Rico Police Finds Widespread Brutality and Absence of Accountability

ACLU Report on Puerto Rico Police Finds Widespread Brutality and Absence of Accountability

Study Also Documents Failure to Protect Women from Rape and Domestic Violence

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2012

CONTACT: Steven Gosset or Molly Kaplan, (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Puerto Rico Police Department is plagued by a culture of unrestrained abuse and brutality as well as a failure to crack down on sexual assault, domestic violence, and murders of women by their partners, a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveals.

The report, “Island of Impunity: Puerto Rico’s Outlaw Police Force,” identifies numerous deficiencies that are responsible for the crisis at the PRPD, which is the second-largest police department in the U.S., with more than 17,000 officers. They include a lack of procedures to monitor and investigate abuse complaints – which are routinely covered up by the department – and inadequate systems to train, supervise and discipline officers.

“This is a place where American citizens and immigrants are enduring terrible abuse at the hands of their own police force, and the local and federal governments are letting it happen,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The Puerto Rican government has promised reform for years, but people are still suffering under a police department that is out of control. The U.S. Justice Department needs to take concrete action immediately to end the PRPD’s unconstitutional practices.”

The ACLU documented extensive violations of Puerto Ricans’ constitutional and human rights by the PRPD, including:

  • Use of excessive and lethal force against civilians, especially in poor and Black neighborhoods and Dominican communities, often resulting in serious injury and death.
  • Violent suppression of peaceful protestors using batons, rubber bullets, and a toxic form of tear gas that was phased out by mainland U.S. police departments in the 1960’s.
  • Failure to protect victims of domestic violence and to investigate reported crimes of domestic violence, rape, and other gender-based crimes.

The 180-page report comes nine months after the release of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report on the PRPD, which found myriad constitutional violations, including widespread use of excessive force. The Justice Department investigation focused on incidents from 2004 to 2008, and also found that police suppressed protestors’ rights in 2009 and 2010. The ACLU report documents additional areas of police misconduct and focuses on incidents from 2007 to as recently as last month.

“Governor Fortuño proposed reforms after the Justice Department report came out nine months ago, but they are superficial at best, and regardless almost none have been put into place,” said William Ramirez, executive director of the ACLU of Puerto Rico. “We still lack a system that holds police officers accountable for their actions, and people are dying because of it.”

The ACLU report is based on more than 75 interviews in Puerto Rico with government officials and victims of police brutality or their attorneys or surviving relatives. It also includes detailed analysis of police procedures, and uncovered shocking statistics including:

  • In 2010 and 2011, PRPD officers killed at least 21 civilians. The per capita rate of fatal police shootings in 2010 was almost triple that of New York City the same year.
  • Only about one percent of rapes are properly reported by the PRPD. In most U.S. jurisdictions the number of reported rapes is four times the number of homicides – in 2010, the PRPD reported 1,000 homicides, but only 39 rapes.
  • Puerto Rico’s per capita rate of women murdered by their partners is the highest in the world. In 2011, the number of women killed by their partners in Puerto Rico was six times higher than Los Angeles, which has about the same population of 3.7 million.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, more than 1,700 PRPD officers were arrested for criminal activity including assault, domestic violence, drug trafficking and murder – amounting to 10 percent of the force. At least 84 still-active PRPD officers have been arrested two or more times for domestic violence.

“The PRPD has demonstrated it is both unwilling and unable to police itself, and the political leadership in Puerto Rico has failed to step into the breach,” the report says.

The problems continue, the study finds, because the PRPD’s disciplinary, investigatory and reporting systems prevent accountability. In one case, an officer who had been arrested eight times and held the local police chief hostage at gunpoint was reinstated, after which he fatally shot an unarmed teenager. In another, an officer who was labeled a “ticking time bomb” by a police psychologist later shot and killed an unarmed man; at the time of the shooting the officer was the subject of seven disciplinary complaints dating back as far as nine years.

The report offers numerous detailed recommendations, including:

  • The Justice Department should enter into a court-enforceable and court-monitored agreement with the PRPD.
  • The PRPD should develop and implement policies on the use of force, improved training, the investigation of civilian complaints of police abuse, and the discipline of officers.
  • Puerto Rico’s legislature should create an independent and effective oversight body to monitor the PRPD.

“These abuses do not represent isolated incidents or aberrant behavior by a few rogue officers,” said the report’s author, Jennifer Turner of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “The police brutality we documented is systemic, island-wide and ongoing. The PRPD is steeped in a culture of unrestrained abuse and near-total impunity.”

For a copy of the report go to:
www.aclu.org/defending-targets-discrimination/embargoedisland-impunity-puerto-ricos-outlaw-police-force

Statewatch launches fully searchable archive on EU Justice and Home Affairs policy

Statewatch today launches a unique online archive of over 4,500 official documents (rising to over 6,500 by the end of 2012) that chart the development of EU justice and home affairs policy over three decades.

 The documents cover the period 1976 to 2000, providing a historical record of the development of EU police and security cooperation leading up to and including the ‘Maastricht’ period of European integration. The collection is unique because the EU’s own public registers of documents were launched after 2000 and include very little historical matter.

 The archive covers the ‘TREVI’ Group on “Terrorism, Radicalisation and Extremist Violence”, established by the governments of the then six EEC member states in 1976, the period of “European Political Cooperation” during the 1980s, and the negotiations leading up to the Schengen and Maastricht Treaty frameworks, which set the parameters for justice and home affairs cooperation throughout the 1990s.

 The fully-searchable archive includes the justice and home affairs ‘acquis’ of adopted texts and legislation, policy proposals, working party documents, communications and action plans.

 It can be accessed free of charge at: http://www.statewatch.org/jha-archive

 Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

 “The only way that external observers can really understand what’s happening in the EU is to read the documents it produces and then put those documents in an historical context. It is only once you have this full picture that you can grasp the significance of what’s being proposed or implemented.

 “This collection provides a valuable resource for academics, journalists, students and citizens trying to understand the historical development of EU policy and governance. It also shines a light on a crucial period when the EU was even less open and transparent; the period that paved the way for the Europe-wide incursion into civil liberties that we have witnessed over the past decade”.

 1. Statewatch monitors the state and civil liberties in the EU. In 2011 its website recorded 10,288,301 million ‘hits’ and 1,198,831 million ‘user sessions’. In December 2011, Liberty awarded Tony Bunyan and Statewatch the “Human Rights “Long Walk” Award 2011 for “dedication to openness, democracy and informed debate about European institutions”: Home page: http://www.statewatch.org/

 2. SEMDOC is Statewatch’s European Monitoring and Documentation Centre on EU Justice and Home Affairs policy. See: http://www.statewatch.org/semdoc/

 3. Statewatch is grateful to Zennström Philanthropies for providing the financial support required to produce the online archive which involves the scanning and key-wording of each individual document.

 For further information please contact: Statewatch office: (00 44) 0208 802 1882 or email office@statewatch.org