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‘There is no justice for anyone who dies in police custody’

This article is over 15 years, 6 months old
Brenda Weinberg, the sister of Brian Douglas who died in police custody 11 years ago, is now the chair of the United Friends and Families Campaign, which links together families fighting for justice. Brenda spoke to Socialist Worker
Issue 2010

Brian died on 3 May 1995. He was on the way home from a nightclub with a friend when he was stopped and searched in Clapham, south London.

Brian sustained a blow to the head from a newly introduced US-style long handled police baton.

We went through a similar process to the one experienced by Jean Charles de Menezes’s family. The Crown Prosecution Service remain convinced that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for Brian’s death.

Since 1969 I don’t think there has been a single successful prosecution for a death in custody. That says it all. We do not prosecute police in this country.

Families may get as far as a prosecution these days, for example Janet Alder, who lost her brother Christopher. But in the end the case is thrown out, or it doesn’t even get that far.

The only option left open to my family is private prosecution—find your own money and go down that road – and the judicial system is not set up to assist us in that.

In the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, they are talking about health and safety. This is outrageous. They have the nerve to say to his parents that on a word, a word that was perhaps misheard or not clarified, their son is dead.

If you are told to go ahead and shoot a man, aren’t you going to ask, “Are you sure?” Are you not going to ask for the information to be checked?

Individual officers must take responsibility for their actions. If there is no deterrent it sends a message to officers – if you take an innocent life you will be protected.

Where is the outcry? Where are the MPs screaming that this cannot be? Where is the judicial system stepping in and saying this is outrageous?

Nothing has changed. The IPCC are still using police officers to investigate police officers. This status quo will remain until police officers are prosecuted from the top ranks downward to act as a deterrent.

Brian died before Labour came in. There were MPs in the shadow cabinet such as Jack Straw who pledged their support. When Labour was elected in 1997, it was a different kettle of fish. It doesn’t change whatever government is in power.

They have a new target at the moment. Today it’s the Muslims. In the past it was other groups. Historically we know that the majority stopped and searched were black.

We’ve heard each case, one after the other. It’s a way for families to vent their grief, but we receive no justice. They are still killing us and getting away with it.


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