Socialist Worker

Even after Winston Silcott's release he is still having to fight for justice

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1874

WINSTON Silcott's 17 years of unjust, politically motivated incarceration is finally at an end. The police and right wing media's campaign against him is not. Their lies and smears kept an innocent man in jail for nearly two decades. Now they are out to persecute him and his family further by continuing to link him to a crime which an appeal court found him innocent of.

You'd imagine from the howls in the media that there must have been a mountain of evidence to show Winston was responsible for PC Keith Blakelock's killing during a riot on the Broadwater Farm estate in north London in October 1985. There was none. Winston was sent down for 30 years on the say-so of senior police officer Graham Melvin.

Melvin claimed Winston had a 'guilty posture'. There was no forensic evidence-no blood, no footprints, no sign of Winston in over 1,000 police photos taken during the riot. No police officer or witness claimed to have seen Winston anywhere near Blakelock. They did know he was a local community leader. The police 'evidence' was 26 words in interview notes in which Winston supposedly incriminated himself.

Those words did not admit guilt. And a forensic science test called ESDA in 1991 proved they were added to the notes after Winston's interrogation. The court of appeal finally quashed Winston's conviction, alongside those of Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite in 1991.

'If the police can't catch the person who killed a police officer it is bad for their morale,' said Winston in an interview from prison. 'So they keep coming back to me. But what about my morale? The police and the media don't know me, they don't know anything about me, but they still say whatever they want.'

At the time of his trial the Sun published a picture of Winston designed to make him look like a crazed killer.

It was taken while he was in Paddington Green police station. He was woken up and bundled from his cell. Still bleary and expecting a beating his arms were held out then dropped and the picture taken.

It was passed on, illegally, to the press and published during his trial to summon up the racist image of an 'evil black thug'. The arrest over Blakelock was crucial to Silcott being found guilty for an unrelated killing.

After 1991 Winston was kept inside for the 1984 murder of a boxer. Winston maintains he acted in self defence and is appealing to the European Court of Justice. During this trial the papers reported Winston had been charged with the murder of PC Blakelock.

As Winston has put it, the two trials 'gave the police two bites of the cherry. The police packed the court-commanders in all kind of police suits. The jury must have thought who is this guy? He must be a real gangster.'

It took years for campaigners, friends and family to get the Blakelock conviction quashed. They are determined to clear his name entirely. The police's attitude is that they see nothing wrong with using the same methods to get convictions today.


Facts the media ignore

CYNTHIA JARRETT: has been written out of official history. She is the black woman who died when police raided her house days before the Broadwater Farm riot. Officers refused to call an ambulance for 45 minutes while she was writhing in pain on the floor.

INVASION: The riot only began when hundreds of police invaded the estate to prevent people holding a third peaceful march to the police station in protest over Cynthia's death. After the riot 3,000 police occupied the estate for months, smashing up one in three doors.

GRAHAM MELVIN: the lead police officer was formally reprimanded for his part in interrogating 13 year old Jason Hill, put on trial alongside Winston. Jason was held alone in a cell for 52 hours, naked save for his underpants. When his mother found him he was 'huddled under a dirty old blanket, just wearing his soiled underpants. He smelled of vomit and was sobbing uncontrollably. By then he had made statements described by even the trial judge as 'pure fantasy'. Such treatment of young men rounded up from Broadwater Farm was typical.

HOWARD KERR: a 17 year old who became so frightened in police custody he signed a 57-page statement implicating himself and Winston in Blakelock's killing. Howard was totally illiterate, had a mental age of seven and was at a party in Windsor on the night of the riot.


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Features
Sat 25 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1874
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