Socialist Worker

Police guilty of racism, violence and lying

by Helen Shooter
Issue No. 1837

POLICE OFFICERS racially abused and violently assaulted a black man in Brixton, south London, a judge ruled last week. Sylbert Farquharson, aged 57, was awarded record damages of nearly £250,000. Judge Dean said Sylbert was 'subjected to explicit racist abuse in the street, and a particularly vicious and cowardly form of racist abuse at the police station.

'The officers felt obliged to invent an account of the events which they knew to be untrue in order to justify their actions.' Sylbert is still partially paralysed from the attack in July 1995. The handcuffs caused permanent damage to his wrists. He now has chronic pain syndrome.

It took his civil action against Metropolitan Police chief John Stevens to force the police to suspend two officers on Monday of this week, seven years after the event. Three of the officers were involved in seven other civil actions successfully brought against the Met.

The details of the attack were revealed in court. Sylbert, then a van driver, had been delivering bread when he saw his cousin Steve being handcuffed outside a cafe in Stockwell, near Brixton. Steve had gone to the aid of the cafe owner, who had been falsely accused of carrying drugs.

Sylbert went over to his cousin only to be told to go away by officers. As he left the scene officers targeted him for a stop and search. 'They were like wild dogs,' said Sylbert after the court hearing last week. 'I was put in a neck hold, and was picked up and thrown to the ground.'

He described how an officer knelt on his back and called him 'a fucking black bastard'. One of the officers used the handcuffs 'like a saw, and my hands were cut and bloodied. I can't describe the pain I was suffering. It was a burning sensation of an intensity I have never felt before.' Sylbert told how the officers debated what to do with his shoe, which had fallen off, at Brixton police station.

He told of how one said, ''He's a fucking coon. Let's give him a fucking tail,' and the shoe was attached to the back of my trousers.' Sylbert and his cousin were later prosecuted on trumped-up charges. The case against them was thrown out of court by a magistrate.

The case shows the reality of institutional racism, the charge the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence laid against the Met in 1999. David Blunkett rubbished the idea of institutional racism as 'a slogan which missed the point' only last month. Tell that to Sylbert. He was a victim of police racism. It took him seven years to get any justice.

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Sat 8 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1837
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