Socialist Worker

Young Asians' unjust prison sentences cut

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1809

AN APPEAL court decision has given a big boost to the justice campaign for scores of young men given long sentences following last year's disturbances in Bradford.

The court cut the jail sentence of Imran Ghafoor, who was 17 when he was arrested, from four and half years to 18 months. Lord Justice Dyson accepted human rights legislation means judges have to take account of the age of young people when sentencing them. He said the four and a half year sentence did not reflect the fact that Imran Ghafoor was just 17.

Irfan Ghafoor, Imran's brother, told of the family's relief at the decision. And it has spurred on supporters of the Fair Justice for All Campaign, set up in response to the severity of sentences handed out against young Asian men in Bradford. Sal, a spokesperson for the campaign, told Socialist Worker, 'We have been arguing that the sentences are far too high.

'Now a judge in London has agreed with us over this case. It's given everyone here some hope. The campaign is only three or four weeks old, but this shows what we can achieve if we get support. It's the length of the sentences that has got to people. Lots of men are getting four or five years. It was the National Front that started the trouble last year, and it's important everyone in Britain is aware of that. We are appealing for support from everyone, black and white, to help us step up our campaign.'

The appeal court decision is a blow to Judge Stephen Gullick, who handed out the original four and half year sentence and has jailed many more young Asians in Bradford. It sets a precedent for many other young Asian men who are appealing against the harshness of Gullick's sentences.

The High Court's advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted, 'The spirit of the ruling is that young people have to be dealt with as young people.'

The CPS, which authorised bringing riot charges in Bradford, is considering appealing. That is one reason why the justice campaign needs more support now. Another is that the ruling is still a long way short of justice. Many of those jailed are in their mid-twenties and will not have their sentences cut as those under 18 may as a result of the appeal court case. And sentences of 18 months are still long, and take no account of why Asian people had to defend themselves from the Nazi NF and police violence.

But Imran Ghafoor's case has put the establishment in Bradford on the back foot after they recently fawned over Judge Gullick by giving him the freedom of the city.

Labour MP for Bradford South Gerry Sutcliffe backed the establishment. After the appeal court ruling he repeated his attack on justice campaigners, saying, 'It is people's right to have each individual case looked at, but I do not support collective action. That is not the way forward.'

But it is Judge Gullick who decided to ignore what individuals may or may not have done and to treat them 'collectively' as part of a riot. Instead of condemning Gullick's 'collective action', Sutcliffe has said he supported the original sentences handed out.
Phone the Bradford campaign on 07966 215 696.


MP Ann Cryer's witch hunt

THE SELF proclaimed 'liberal' Observer newspaper gave credence to disgraceful comments by Labour MP Ann Cryer about 'Asian drug gangs' in Bradford. The paper's two-page feature focused on drug dealing in predominantly Asian areas of the city.

The effect was to paint a picture of criminality among young Asian men at just the time scores of them are coming before Judge Gullick. Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley near Bradford, presented no evidence for her claim that Asian drug gangs are a particular threat when she was interviewed two weeks ago on Radio 4.

She let her real feelings slip when she referred to young Asians in Bradford as 'arrogant'. The evidence in the Observer amounts to little more than the fact that they found a couple of Asian drug dealers.

But if you look for Asian drug dealers you will find Asian drug dealers, just as if you look for Welsh or Cornish ones you will find them too. The truth is that people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, as most of Bradford's Asians are, are less likely than whites to use drugs. The government's own reports have concluded this.

The authoritative British Crime Survey two years ago found 26 percent of white people in the 16-29 age group said they had used illegal drugs in the last year. The figure for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis of the same age was 8 percent.

Some 52 percent of young white people said they had used drugs at some point in their life, compared with just 13 percent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Most of those arrested for drug dealing are white, particularly bigger dealers. Of course some Asian people in deprived areas do turn to heroin and other Class A drugs.

They do so for exactly the same reasons as white people in the same circumstances. The likes of Ann Cryer may have difficulty making sense of it as she also believes Asian people live in a world apart from their white neighbours.


Nazi attack on synagogue

NAZI SLOGANS were daubed on the walls of Swansea's synagogue on Thursday of last week in an attack which almost destroyed the building.

A gang of people vandalised valuable religious scrolls, wrecked furniture, and scrawled Nazi emblems and slogans on walls, before pouring white spirit in a corridor and trying to set it ablaze. The small Jewish community in Swansea is stunned by the attack. The attack has all the hallmarks of the Nazis. The British National Party has made several attempts to build in Swansea.

Anti-Nazi campaigners responded swiftly by organising a protest in the city centre. Hundreds of names were collected in condemnation of the attack, as well as the racist attack on members of a Llanelli mosque last month. The Red Voice Choir joined members of the Anti Nazi League and other local groups, including members of the university's AUT union and the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group, to highlight the growing menace of the BNP in Swansea.

Nazi thugs have been behind other recent attacks in South Wales. Allan Bashella, the infamous 'Grand Dragon' of the Ku Klux Klan who lives in Maesteg, was recently jailed for racially harassing an Asian shopkeeper after the 11 September attack. An independent record shop owner in Swansea received threatening letters from the BNP.

An anti-racist band had their gig cancelled after BNP thugs threatened the venue's owner, saying that if the gig went ahead they would smash up his bar.


Police lead assault on Caribbean carnival

THE POLICE in Dudley in the West Midlands have stopped a Caribbean carnival, claiming the town would be invaded by 15,000 black people 'with access to guns and drugs'. Staffordshire police told the local council they would not support the carnival but refused to reveal the 'high level intelligence' which led them to make the outrageous claim about thousands of black 'criminals'.

The organisers of the carnival had hired their own security, and had even agreed to pay the police £3,400 for supplying officers on the day.


Racists carry out attacks near murder of Stephen Lawrence

NINE YEARS after the racist murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, the vicious attacks continue in Eltham. Two attacks have been carried out just yards from where Stephen Lawrence was killed by a gang of white racists in April 1993.

A 30 year old black man was out walking with his girlfriend on Monday 1 July. He was chased and attacked by six or seven white men. Attackers stabbed him in the back, leaving him in a critical condition. Just the next day Lee Evans, 24 years old, and his cousin Kasim Evans, 22, were brutally attacked by a gang of racists.

Armed with knives and bottles, the racist thugs leapt out of a car to ambush the pair. Both young black men were seriously hurt. Lee Evans, who suffered a broken jaw, said, 'I can't believe people just attack someone because of the colour of their skin. If I hadn't got the attacker's knife I could have been another Stephen Lawrence.'

People in Eltham are outraged by racists on the rampage. No one has been arrested or charged. No MP or politician has spoken out against these racists or appealed for the community to find the attackers. There has been no intense media interest in these attacks, or in the reality of racism today.

When the BNP set up its headquarters in Welling, near Eltham, a spate of racist attacks followed-they were not taken seriously by the police or the authorities. The victims were let down, their cases were swept under the carpet, and no one was ever charged or convicted. This was before the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Today nothing has changed for the victims of racism.


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News
Sat 20 Jul 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1809
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