Socialist Worker

Ten years on, police apologise over the death of Mikey Powell

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2369

Friends and family have campaigned for justice for Mikey Powell

Friends and family have campaigned for justice for Mikey Powell


West Midlands Police has issued a formal apology to the family of Mikey Powell.

Mikey was 38 years old when he died after being detained by West Midlands Police on 7 September 2003. 

Mikey’s sister Sieta Lambrias said, “We appreciate the apology for the pain and anguish caused to my family as a consequence of Mikey's death. 

“We would be far more appreciative of an apology acknowledging that it was the actions of their officers that caused the death.”

Mikey had three children. He had a mental health crisis and smashed a window at the home he shared with his mother. His mother called the police for help, assuming they would take him to hospital.

During the incident that followed officers drove a car at Mikey as fast as they could. They said  they thought he had a gun, which he did not. 

Mikey was injured. He was then sprayed with four times the "recommended" amount of CS gas, hit with a baton and restrained for at least 16 minutes.

No ambulance was called. Mikey was put on the floor of the police van and taken to the police station and into a “drunk cell”. It was then that officers said they noticed that he was not breathing.

An inquest jury found that Mikey died of positional asphyxia in the back of the police van while he was being taken to the police station.

Tippa Naphtali is Mikey’s cousin and founder of the Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice. He said, ”This apology comes to us very late, 10 years on, however it remains important to us as a family that West Midlands Police have extended this gesture.

“Over the 10 years since Mikey's death we have influenced many major reforms and initiatives in relation to West Midlands policing as a direct result of the recommendations issued after the inquest in 2009.” 

Benjamin Zephaniah, Mikey’s cousin, said, “An apology for the death of my cousin ten years after the event is cold comfort. 

“We have been asking questions for ten years, protesting for ten years, writing letters, and poems, and statements for ten years. But most of all we have been collectively grieving for ten years. 

“We can't reject an apology. The best we can do is simply raise our eyebrows and say, it's better than nothing. 

“But it's only a little bit better than nothing. What is important is that we let it been known that although we accept this apology, we are intelligent enough to know that it is just an apology. It is not justice.”

A vigil will take place from 12 noon to 1.30pm at West Midlands Police Headquarters this Saturday, tomorrow. More details here

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