Campaigns demanding justice for those who have died in police custody join forces today to launch a petition calling for major changes in the criminal justice system.
The petition demands the replacement of the Independent Police Complaints Commission with a body genuinely independent of the police, and the suspension of officers involved in deaths in custody for the duration of any investigation.
Other demands include automatic prosecutions of officers following unlawful killing verdicts and the right to non-means tested legal aid for the families of those who die.
Campaigners also demand action over deaths in prisons and psychiatric and immigration detention centres.
The e-petition has been accepted on the official government e-petition site. It needs 100,000 signatures by next January to be 'eligible for debate' in parliament.
The petition was instigated by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of campaign groups.
It is supported by UFFC Campaign Central, 4WardEver UK, the Mikey Powell Campaign, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign, INQUEST, Habib Ullah Campaign, Migrant Media, Black Mental Health UK, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture and many more.
Each of these campaigns is announcing the petition’s launch on their websites today. Socialist Worker is supporting the petition in solidarity with the campaigns.
US civil rights veteran Jesse Jackson has also backed the petition.
Tippa Naphtali from the 4WardEver UK website was one of those who initiated the petition.
“I’ve lost count of how many supporters we have now,” he told Socialist Worker. “But it’s most of the family campaigns you can think of.”
Tippa says that the idea for the petition came after the series of marches and events that raised public awareness of the issue.
“Last year was a hive of activity for the family campaigns,” he said. “Today marks the beginning of a new, more united approach to tackling the institutions responsible for the deaths of our loved ones.”
The petition is just the first of many campaign activities that planned for this year.
Since 1998 more than 340 people have died in police custody. Yet no police officer has been convicted in connection with the deaths.
A UFFC statement supporting the petition notes “the poor quality and speed of independent investigations conducted by the IPCC”. It also criticises “an inquest process that is seriously under resourced, subject to delay, limited in remit and not fit for purpose”.