Tag Archive | "Police"

Government to apologise to Alder family over police custody death

Original Article – Guardian

  • Maya Wolfe-Robinson and Owen Bowcott
  • The Guardian, 
Christopher Alder

Christopher Alder

The British Government will formally apologise through the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to the family of Christopher Alder, a black british ex-soldier who choked to death in handcuffs on the floor of a Hull Police Station 13 years ago.

The “unilateral declaration” made by the United Kingdom to the court is a highly unusual admission of widespread failures in the investigation into the cause of the Falklands veteran’s death.

In its statement to the E.C.H.R, the Government will concede that it breached its obligations in regard to preserving life and ensuring that no one is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. The Alder family is to receive €34,000 (£29,000) from the Government in an ex gratia payment and to cover legal costs.

The unusual step of issuing a statement of that sort is a form of settlement and invites the court to strike out the case. The Government had fought not to have the case heard in Strasbourg, before lodging an official statement and apology to the Alder family. Its apology is on behalf of Humberside police.

The text of the apology states:
“The Government of the United Kingdom regrets the occurrence of the actions which have led to the bringing of the present application, in particular the treatment in custody of the applicant’s brother, Mr Christopher Alder, and the anguish that this treatment and his death have caused to his family.”

“The Government accepts that the lack of an effective and independent investigation in this case constitutes a violation of the procedural obligations in articles 2 and 3 of the convention. Further, the government accept that the treatment that the applicant’s brother received in police custody amounted to a substantive violation of article 3 with 14 of the Convention.”

Earlier this month it emerged that Alder’s body had mistakenly been left in a mortuary for 11 years after his family believed they had buried him.

His death in April 1998 was one of the most controversial in police custody. Closed-circuit TV footage was recovered showing the 37-year-old father-of-two gasping for air as officers chatted and joked around him. The film showed he received no help from five police officers, who thought he was play acting, as he lost his fight for life. It took 11 minutes for him to stop breathing. Afterwards, as Alder lay dead, monkey-like noises were detected on the audio tape.

After an inquest lasting seven weeks, a jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, citing “positional asphyxia”. Five police officers were prosecuted for manslaughter but the trial was halted when the judge ruled there was no evidence for a conviction. They were later cleared by a police disciplinary hearing of neglect of duty.

Janet Alder, the dead man’s sister, said: “It has taken 13 years to break through what I see as a reluctance of the organisations dealing with controversial custody deaths to hold police officers accountable, or to believe or consider whether police officers could be capable of severe maltreatment of citizens within their custody.”

“Why or where did Christopher sustain the additional injuries he suffered? Why was another of his teeth missing? Where was his belt? These concerns have never been investigated or addressed.

“It has taken bringing an action in the European court of human rights – and judges there unanimously acknowledging my complaints were admissible after watching the horrific video of Christopher’s death – to force the government to apologise for failing to hold the officers responsible accountable.

“It wasn’t hard to see that my brother – an ex-paratrooper decorated for his services – was denied his right to life; that his treatment was inhuman and degrading and that race played a part in his death.”

Welcoming the UK’s declaration, the human rights organisation Liberty, which has supported Janet Alder, said: “The government’s unprecedented apology and admission of blatant violations of fundamental human rights are hugely significant and certainly not before time.

Corinna Ferguson, the legal officer for Liberty, added: “More than 13 years on still no one in the police has been held responsible for Christopher’s shocking death. Proper accountability is vital in these situations and in future the Independent Police Complaints Commission must take stronger, more decisive action where serious human rights violations occur.

“The offence of misconduct in public office is completely inadequate in these circumstances – as demonstrated by the fact that these officers were somehow cleared of it. Sadly admissions and apologies will matter little if such tragic cases keep occurring.”


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Notting Hill and other stories – Part1

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival


Time seems to have flown by since August last year when we saw images on our tv screens
of our communities again going up in flames after a Black man had died at the hands of the police.
It was a signal reminder of how quickly our memories dim when all the media outlets started
to howl about how shocked they were about these events and the fact that the people
at some of these locations seemed only interested in divesting
the local shops of their high value stock!

The nervous days that followed, not knowing where this fever would move to next,
is now in the hands of the Riot Communities and Victims Panel to investigate and report.
Led by Heather Rabbatts, this ‘Inquiry’ is looking into the causes and motivations of those
roused to do such ‘anti-social things’ and propose so responses. They spent some quality
time with us in Brixton a couple of weeks ago and have now gone on tour to the other affected areas,
istening diligently and asking poignant questions. But I’m sure that we’ve also forgotten the heart
searching discussion that took place among us,‘will there be a Notting Hill Carnival this year?’After a series
of tense meetings between the police and the organisers, the show went on and main stream newspapers representing the
view of middle England, reported in glowing terms about how thisunique festival had brought some balm to the nations very sore wounds.

They don’t have a sense of the history of carnival in general and Notting Hill Carnival
in particular. Nubian Jak, a ubiquitous heritage organisation emanating from within the
African and Caribbean community, had launched this years Carnival with a ceremony unveiling
two plaques to the matriarchs of carnival in the UK.

Firstly, Claudia Jones, who had inspired her organisation to respond to similarly
traumatic times for Black people, after the first Notting Hill Riots, when the white youth
gangs of the late 1950s, had attacked the newly settling community, that was mainly coming from
the Caribbean at that time, first in Nottingham and then in Notting Hill.

These communities initially responded by keeping a low profile and trying not to provoke a
greater violent response by matching fire with fire. The demographics of the places attacked,
were also characterised by people from quiet rural communities in the eastern
Caribbean. My father and other adult relatives, resident here at the time in Brixton and largely
drawn from Jamaica, reported to me later how their hearts bled as they read the reports in the newspapers
and heard the news on the radioabout the racists mobs,incited by demagogues like Sir Oswald Moseley,
continually laying siege to our fellow ‘West Indians’ nightly, in their homes. These were the experiences
that were forging a pan Caribbean mentality as we knew very little of each other before we arrived in Britain,
apart from when the West Indies beat England at cricket! But our solidarity ignited when we saw what was
happening to people who looked and acted like us for being different, so my father and his cohorts
decided to mobilise. Not for them were quietwords and understated gestures. Most of those people,
because women participated in this fightback, as I’ve seen photographs of a woman with a large machete
standing on the corner of Portobello Road waiting for the mob to arrive, armed themselves with similar
implements and set out to ‘The Grove’ to defend their kith and kin.

It was unsurprising that after a few skirmishes and some telling chops in crucial places,
that weren’t reported in the media, the mob decided that it wasn’t such a good idea to ‘attack the Blacks’.
Unfortunately, there would be one more fatal casualty before things finally petered out. Kelso Cochrane, an
Antiguan carpenter, migrant to Britain, trying to improve his economic circumstances, was attacked by a furtive gang, skulking in the shadows of Golbourne Bridge, while he was coming from home from work, late one evening.This solitary figure was set upon with bicycle chains, cut throat razors,truncheons and boots. He didn’t survive the experience andthe Notting Hill community of all kinds,the wider black community, and all good thinking people mourned and turned out in thousands for his funeral and march to his final resting place at Kensal Rise Cemetery. Unlike Roland Adams and Stephen Lawrence forty years later, no one was even identified for the murder.

Mainstream society finally realised that it had colluded too long with the fascism in its midst,
that it had defeated abroad during the 2nd World War. The Fleet Street media led by the Daily Mirror
and the West Indian Gazette, led by Claudia Jones, pleaded for justice and reconciliation. Claudia,
at an editorial board meeting of her paper, proposed, distilled from her Trinidadians roots,
that a Carnival be held to create a lighter and more convivial mood and to show British society another
side to our culture. This first carnival was held indoors as the organisers were not yet confident
enough to take it to the streets but it was televised to the early tv audience who saw for the first time,
something of what we were about. Institutions such as the Cy Grant nightly current affairs calypso, appeared on
BBC TV and fragments of the multi-cultural society started to emerge.

These indoor Carnivals continued until Claudia’s death five years later, when another immigrant,
this time from Eastern Europe,Rhaune Laslett, who was working as a community worker in the Notting Hill community,
decided with her organisation, that an event was needed to bring together the now burgeoning and diversifying
community of ‘The Grove’.They organised a Notting Hill Festival and invited all and sundry to participate and
the Trinidadian and other eastern Caribbean folk now resident there, brought out their pans and themselves
and turned it into a carnival.

The rest is history hence Nubian Jak’s gesture to honour the two women who had
initiated attempts at community reconciliation and cohesion using carnival as the medium.
Now this backdrop is to remind you of the context and role that carnival has played in the UK from the outset
and that it didn’t just do this last August. Unfortunately the police are not sufficiently au fait with this history
and I attach a People’s Account of events last Bank Holiday Monday, brought together by my old friend, Michael La Rose,(PART 2) chair of the George Padmore Institute and carnival veteran, erstwhile leader of the People’s War carnival band,setting the record straight. The authorities have got to get their heads screwed on the proper way round,if they are not to alienate the good citizens of their own society.
Inquiries, inquiries. Plus ca’ change.

D. Thomas
Devon C Thomas
The Griot


Tomorrow Read the:

experience of carnival spectators, stall holders , masqueraders and bandleaders at this years
Notting Hill Carnival 2011.

They share their accounts of the 6.30 shut down of music on the carnival route by the police, 
policing of the event and the governance of Carnival 2011.

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Mangrove 9 – Event

Mangrove Nine

Mangrove Nine

The George Padmore Institute in association with the Black Cultural Archives Invite you to a screening of

Mangrove 9

Directed by Franco Rosso Produced by Franco Rosso & John La Rose (1973)

On Tuesday 8th November at 7.00pm
At the Karibu Education Centre
7 Gresham Road, Brixton SW9 7PH [Nearest under or overground – Brixton]

The screening presents the original full version of this historic documentary.
The film will be introduced by Linton Kwesi Johnson of the GPI and Paul Reid of the BCA, and the film will be followed by a discussion led by Ian Macdonald QC,
leading immigration lawyer and one of the barristers at the trial.

Mangrove Nine tells the story of conflict between the police and the black community in Notting Hill at the start of the 1970s. The central incident of the Mangrove affair took place when a deputation of 150 black people protested against long-term police harassment of the popular Mangrove Restaurant in Ladbroke Grove.The protest – policed by 500 police and a plain clothes police photographer – later led to nine arrests and 29 charges. The nine were Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Critchlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Althea Lecointe Jones, Rothwell Kentish, and Godfrey Millett. The charges ranged from making an affray, incitement to riot, assaulting a policeman, to having an offensive weapon. 22 of the charges against the nine were dismissed including all the serious ones. Only seven minor counts were found proven. The high profile trial at the Old Bailey lasted for two months finishing in December 1971 with five of the defendants being completely acquitted. Most strikingly, the case made legal history when it delivered the first judicial acknowledgement of ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan police force. The Mangrove Nine film portrays interviews with the defendants recorded before the final verdicts were delivered at the trial, as well as contemporary comments from Ian Macdonald and others.

This event is part of the Dream To Change The World Project, a five year
HLF funded project which began at the George Padmore Institute in June 2010. Its purpose is to make available to the public the personal archives of John La Rose, the GPI’s foundng chairman.

The dvd of Mangrove Nine is available from New Beacon Books price £6.00 (incl p&p)

For more information contact
George Padmore Institute and New Beacon Books, 76 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3EN; 020 7272 8915/4889

http://www: georgepadmoreinstitute.org


email: info @ georgepadmoreinstitute.org; newbeaconbooks @ btconnect.com

Black Cultural Archives, 1 Othello Close, London SE11 4RE; 020 7582 8516 www. bcaheritage.org.uk; email: info @ bcaheritage.org.uk



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The 1981 Brixton Riots

In the Early 1980′s the tensions of inner City Living and intense policing collided. Rioting erupted in inner city London. This film shows some of the events of the 1981 Brixton riots. Were you there? Do you know anyone who was there who participated in the disturbances?

Related Links:

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Sickle Cell and Deaths in Custody Conference

Registration closes 18 May 2009 - Book now to avoid disappointment!

The Unit for the Social Study of Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell (TASC Unit) at De Montfort University, Leicester is pleased to present this exclusive one-day conference.

The conference examines Sickle Cell Disorders, healthcare neglect in prisons, racism in the criminal justice system and the introduction of specialist custody nursing Sickle Cell and Deaths in Custody dmu.ac.uk/conference/sickle-cell.

Wednesday 10 June 2009 – £130

You will receive a FREE copy of Professor Simon Dyson and Professor Gwyneth Boswell’s new groundbreaking book Sickle Cell and Deaths in Custody (London: Whiting & Birch) worth £50.

Resgistert on-line here

Speakers include

  • Professor Guy Rutty – a member of the British Association in Forensic Medicine, the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, British Medical Association (to name a few) and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology.Elise Bethancourt
  • Dr Adebayo Olujohungbe – a consultant haematologist at the University Hospital Aintree NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, Chief Investigator of the Priapism In Sickle Cell Study (PISCES) and Medical Adviser to the Sickle Cell Society.
  • INQUEST – an ‘award winning’ campaigning organisation founded in 1981 providing a specialist comprehensive advice service to bereaved people, lawyers, the media, MPs and the wider public on contentious deaths and their investigation.

If you would like further information please contact Sarah Allen conferences@dmu.ac.uk or call (0116) 250 6215.

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Man shot by cop testifies to grand jury

Shot by Police

A Harris County grand jury on Monday heard from 23-year-old Robert Tolan, who was shot in the chest in front of his home by a Bellaire police officer, leading to accusations of racial profiling.

A former minor league ballplayer, Tolan was stopped in front of his home on New Year’s Eve because police believed the vehicle he was driving was stolen. After Tolan protested officers’ treatment of his mother, who had come outside after hearing the disturbance, he was shot by police Sgt. Jeff Cotton.

The vehicle was not stolen and Tolan has said he was shot because of his race. He is black. Tolan’s family and lawyers say he was stopped only because he and his cousin, a passenger, were racially profiled.

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Tuesday 11.30am March 31st & April 7th 2009 BBC Radio 4 and on BBC i-player for 7 days after broadcast

Black Cinema

Programme 1: Less than 50 years ago a passionate bedroom kiss between a white man and a black woman in a popular television soap opera was the stuff of tabloid headlines. So risque that, in fact, once the news broke, the kiss was cut.

Inter-racial relationships were just one of the many taboos that early black actors had to deal with – as Burt Caesar discovers in the first of two programmes exploring how immigrants from the Caribbean were depicted in British screen drama.? He talks to some of the pioneering generation of black British actors about what it was like to play black characters in the 1950s and 60s, a time when the new Caribbean presence was still a curiosity for audiences in this country.

Programme 2: By the 1970s the prevailing screen images of black people were as muggers and thieves or as the butt of comedians jokes. But, as tensions between young black men and the police escalated in cities across the country, a small number of black writers and film makers started to challenge these stereotypes and tell their own stories. Their task was not easy but, as Burt finds out in this programme, the body of work they created now provides a valuable alternative view of black lives in Britain.

Contributors include
: actors Earl Cameron CBE, Mona Hammond, Cy Grant, Joan Hooley, Rudolph Walker, writer Michael Abbensetts, film makers John Akomfrah OBE,Menelek Shabazz, Alrick Riley, sound recordist Albert Bailey, commentators June Givanni, Dr Jim Pines and Baroness Lola Young.

Please note: Most of the films discussed in this series can be viewed free of charge at the BFI Southbank’s Mediatheque in London or at the Quad in Derby

Mukti Jain Campion

Executive Producer


Tel: 0208 994 6980

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Was OPD’s Treatment of Inner Circle racist?

Revellers at Inner Circle

Revellers at Inner Circle

Last week, Geoffrey Pete–long a well-respected figure in Oakland’s African-American community, and the owner of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle nightclub–held a press conference outside Oakland City Hall to announce he’s considering filing a complaint against the OPD for unlawful harassment.

Pete has previously raised allegations that OPD and former mayor Jerry Brown instituted a crackdown on Oakland’s African-American clubs in the downtown area–which happened to coincide with Brown’s plan to bring 10,000 new residents to the city and a surge of development. On Tuesday, he charged the police with “extortion practices as it relates to the closing of my establishment” and threatened a lawsuit unless mediation occurs.

As reported on the front page of the Oakland Post (both the Chron and the Trib neglected to cover the press conference), Pete claims that OPD gave “false information” to the manager of a parking garage the nightclub used, which led to the cancellation of Pete’s contract, and refused to allow him to hold an event at Sweet’s Ballroom unless 18 police officers were hired to provide security, at a cost of $7,600 (OPD later dropped the number of officers needed to six, which Pete also refused to pay for, and the party was shut down when officers blocked the entrance).

Read the full article>>

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Letter to a young black man

Walter Backstrom | Letter to a young black man

Bellevue Reporter Columnist
Mar 20 2009, 1:26 PM

Walter Backstrom

Walter Backstrom

It seems sometimes I grew up in a different country than you.

I grew up in a time and place where black people couldn’t vote. It seems times have changed. Sometimes it seems nothing has changed.

When I tell you stories of racism, you look at me in disbelief, trying to understand how could it be.

I remember in elementary school, being black was OK and there was no cost. In junior high school, I began to feel there was a cost, but I didn’t know the price.

My hair was what they called “nappy.” So I bought a product for my hair that was supposed to straighten it — so that I would look more like white people. I used to put a lotion on my face to make it lighter — so that I would look more like white people.

The cost of being black began to appear, and I realized something might be wrong. But in my mind, the jury was still out.

You ask me, how could that be? You tell me you have friends of all colors. You say this whole race thing is crazy.

I am your age now, a teenager, full of ego, not knowing much, seldom right but never in doubt. In high school, the price became painfully clear, and it was enormous. The school I attended was majority white. I guess you can call that experience a slap in the face. I was not prepared for what was to be.

I am walking in a department store, and I am being followed, just like you are. Do you remember having teachers who silently believed you weren’t smart enough? So did I. The difference? My teacher told me I wasn’t good enough. I played sports and was good at it, just like you.

Do you remember being pulled over by the police, telling you that the car you were riding in fit the description of a car involved in a robbery? So do I.

I was a good kid. I listened to my parents sometimes. I was popular with the girls, and I went to church on Sunday, just like you.

I began to wonder, so I asked my parents, what was the deal with all this race stuff? They told me about growing up in the South, and the separate bathrooms: One for whites and one for coloreds. I remember listening, with my eyes wide open and my heart beginning to close. As they told me these stories, my heart pounded. My hands clenched into fists that shook with righteous indignation.

I was mad that I couldn’t protect my parents, who were decent God-fearing people. My face turned away, and I gazed out the window, thinking with righteous indignation, which helped cover up the shock and sadness.

The cost of being black was altered forever. The world was no longer filled with wonder. It brimmed with shame because of my blackness, and there was nothing I could do.

I wanted to do something, but what? I had to present to the world a different face, a different persona that you couldn’t hurt or touch. Underneath that new look was a scared and frightened little boy, wanting the world to be different and be fair to me, my parents and all other black people.

At that moment, the changed occurred, and the cost seemed unbearable.

Where I grew up, the majority of people were black, and they knew the rules. Where I went to school, the majority of people were white — and I knew the rules. Rule number one: Always smile, just like today.

Young man, I am sorry that your father is not around. I can only imagine the pain. I was fortunate to have a dad who taught me how to be a man. I wonder, who did you learn from? Your mother? The streets? The gang? The counselor at the Boys and Girls Club?

In this society, they see you walking around with your pants sagging, with no father to tell you to pull them up. Where is your father, who is supposed to call your teacher about your grades? Where is your father, who tells you to quit listening to that rap music and saying the n-word?

You know, it’s a lonely world out here without dad to protect you and guide you. I want you to know that I pray for you — even the ones who scare me.

You think drugs, fast money and loose women are the answer? It just helps mask the pain. However, in that quiet moment, where you meet you, there is that emptiness. That hole in your soul that can’t be filled by anything earthly. The hole can and must be filled by grace. I know I haven’t told you that I believe in you, but I do. I haven’t told you that I love you, but I do.

I don’t want to bore you anymore because my heart is heavy and my eyes are filled with tears. I can only tell you, as my father told me: Son, do the right thing, even if no one else does.

Do the right thing, you ask me? How will I know?

I say, be still and listen to your heart. I love you dad.

Walter Backstrom can be contacted at wkbackstrom@aim.com

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Hoodies Raid Derby Store

CASH was stolen from a till when three men wearing hooded tops raided a Derby shop.

The shop assistant at the Afro-Caribbean food and fish store, in Upper Dale Road, was pushed out of the way by one of the thieves while another snatched money from the till and the third stood by and watched.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the incident which happened between 5pm and 5.30pm yesterday (17).

Anyone with information is asked to call Derbyshire police on 0345 1233333.

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The Streets are always Watching – Short Story by Raymondobie

Same old Same old

Same old Same old

The Streets are always watching.

That night,as I lay on my bed listening to the dogs bark,

I began to wonder how much more I could take, and I began to get a terrible feeling inside my chest and a tightness at the back of my throat, and I jerked upright with my head spinning and stared into the darkness, thinking that if things don’t change very soon I will have no choice but to throw in the towel.

Still the next day and the day after nothing worthwhile came, and I stood back from my desk, holding my head, and then hearing a familiar sound, I sprinted off to the passage.

Jesus, it’s driving me insane, I can’t do it, I panted breathless into the phone. What d’you mean you can’t do it? he said.

I took a deep breath and tried to control the frustration and anger seething inside me. Exactly what I just said.

I keep trying but nothing happens. I’ve been like this for weeks. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe you need a rest.

That’s all I do is rest. I sit in front of the thing just staring. I’ve been staring for two hours straight already. I’m actually starting to feel sick. 

Well, give it another go and if it doesn’t happen…

If it doesn’t happen I think I shall have to kill myself, I said without smiling.Then I hung up the phone and went stood by the window in the living room and stared out at the traffic. A police car and a Vauxhall Cavalier pulled up to the curb.

The two cops climbed out and walked up to the Vauxhall. One of them pointed at the driver and signalled for him to cut the engine. 

The doors opened and two guys got out. Both were in their early twenties, both were wearing jeans and had dark blue bomber jackets; and both were black.

They followed the cops over to the wall. 

The taller of the two cops began talking into his radio, and then while his partner stood in front of the two black guys, with his arms slightly raised and pushed out in front of him, he took out his note pad, walked round to the back of the car, and scribbled something down.

Somewhere in back of the flats I could hear the annoying sound of somebody’s dog barking. It was almost 3pm and the dogs had been barking on and off for most of the day and part of the night.

The cop with the note pad squatted down to check the car’s back tires and then stepped back to check the taillights. Then he opened the car door and leaned in and checked the

glove compartment, while his partner talked into a radio close to the top of his chest. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee mainly to keep myself warm. It was freezing cold in the flat. 

It was always cold in the flat and every time I breathed I could see the cold air rushing out in front of me. 

I was trying to save money.

And during the day when it was particularly cold, I’d put on my green puffa or jogged on the spot wearing a Beanie and a couple of woollen jumpers.

When it dropped below freezing, as it had done at the beginning of the week, I would wrap myself in a duvet or simply refused to get out of bed.

I decided to make myself something to eat, which had ceased to be an easy task, since the cupboards nowadays were nearly always bare. I was eating one or two meals a day, 

(and sometimes none at all) 

but I was expecting a cheque from my ex employer soon, which would hopefully keep me from going under. In the end I settled for a thin slice of cheese that I’d accidentally left to turn mouldy in the bread bin. I cut off the mould and ate it between two stale slices of thin bread, with no butter.

I was desperately broke, and every day there would be another announcement on the news or from one of the so called current affairs programmes about the deplorable economic situation, the collapse of the banks, trust, confidence in the markets, (house prices were falling and there were almost 3 million out of work).

Over in America, The USA The home of the Buick, Microsoft, baseball, basketball, Michael Jordan; the often mentioned, and celebrated American Dream… the 44th President Barack Obamama was trying to Push his  STIMULUS….Package forward.

And avert a cataclysmic crisis reminiscent of The 1930’s soup kitchens, mass unemployment, poverty homelessness They Shoot Horses Don’t They.

But some of the bigwigs wouldn’t bite, budge etc,  so it was any one’s guess, how it would all turn out in the long run,and against this background, I was existing…or to use a well-worn phrase: ‘on the bread line’, romantically rejecting the rat-race, turning off and tuning out, and barely eking out a living, (if you could call what I was doing living at all); but as they say, such is the life of a die-hard writer.

When I got back to the window, still chewing part of the sandwich, I noticed that there were two more police cars parked next to the Vauxhall, and three of the cops were standing by the back of the car, peering into the boot, while a further three had formed a half-circle around the two black guys.

One of the cops at the back of the car turned to say something to another cop, and immediately afterwards, they began removing items from the boot and placing them on the ground beside the vehicle’s back wheels.

I trudged back to my desk, sat down and glared with growing resignation at my archaic circa 1980’s, Olivetti computer screen. My head felt empty. Every time I looked at the computer screen it was as if everything worth saying had either already been said and any modest contribution I might make seemed utterly banal and useless.

After a while, shaking my head, I got up and went back to the window. One of the cops was now lying on his back, with a torch in his hand looking up at the Vauxhall’s chassis.

Another cops pulled the driver aside and started asking him questions and going through his pockets.

The driver stood with his arms aloft, and his head turned to one side holding onto his wallet and keys.

The cop looked up and said something to him and the black guy looked down at the cop and shook his head.

Then the cop checked both the young men’s wallets and handed them back. The three cops moved away from the boot and started going through the inside of the car again.

A heavy looking cop with grey hair moved across to where the black guys were waiting. He and the black guys began to speak to one another, occasionally blowing into their hands and looking off to the side before engaging again.

They all seem oddly friendly. And after the cop had finished saying what ever he was saying, both the black guys nodded their heads in unison and then all three began to laugh.

I yawned and walked back to my desk. This time I hoped that something good would come of it. 

In the early days shaking with excitement I had told myself that maybe I could be the next Richard Wright, or Hubert Selby Jr or Chinua Achebe or Jack Kerouac.

So I had imitated each style, which of course is not uncommon, but as time went on it become more and more clear to me, that there could only be one Richard Wright or Hubert Selby or Achebe or Kerouac, and after reading a paragraph of my prose and comparing it to that of the masters, I would instantly feel defeated, wanting to dash my brains against the wall, depressed by the apparent sad conclusion, that I had absolutely ‘no right’ to call myself a writer, particularly since for the last two months I had hardly written a word.

And since I wasn’t doing much writing. Perhaps all I really was a bum clinging to some arrogant notion, that it was my god-given-right to while away my days in the pursuit of solitary creativity, while babies starved, wars were fought, Wall Street crashed, and Rome metaphorically burned.

I scratched my head and chewed my fingernails and stared into space. Everything seemed hopeless. Then I heard the sound of another police siren and I jumped up and hurried back to my spot. A police van, with its lights flashing, squeaked to a stop behind the three police cars.

One of the cops ran up to the van, said something to the driver and pointed over his shoulder at the two black guys who were stood with their arms crossed, moving their feet from side to side, expelling puffs of cold air through their nostrils.

Then moments later both black guys were ushered into the back of the van, shortly after which they climbed down again, shaking their heads and doing up their belt buckles. 

An hour had passed and I was back at my desk having still not written anything worth calling fiction. 

A writer writes  is what they tell you… So that what I did. I began to type the famous mantra, over and over again, in bold italics, across my tiny computer screen. Then realising that that wouldn’t work I got up and began pacing the room, and then out of curiosity or perhaps panic, I wandered back to the window and peered outside.

The black guys were now leaning up against the wall smoking cigarettes, and looking extremely bored with the extremely slow and drawn-out proceedings. One of the cops was holding what looked like a Pencil-torch in front of him and was searching the car interior, pulling up one of the floor mats with his free hand.

He placed the torch between his front teeth and slid one hand across, and tapped the knuckles of his other hand against the inside of the door panel. One of the black guys looks at the other and grinned. He began shaking his head and pointing at his wristwatch.

His mate rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. On the other side of the road, a succession of passing vehicles beeped their horns, as if to express their sympathy.

The three police cars and the van sped off. The two remaining police officers said something to the black guys, and then began quickly walking away.  One of the black guys shouted something but his friend appeared to restrain him. A cop turned round, rubbed his jaw and turned back again.

Then both cops got in the police car, and sat there for a while talking into the radio, while both black guys stood on the pavement, watching them.

I stepped out into the passage and looked at the clock on the wall. It was an hour and forty-five minutes since the cops had first flagged down the two black motorists. I began to wonder if perhaps it was some sort of record. I jokingly considered writing to the Guinness Book of Records to check. 

The two black guys got in their Vauxhall Cavalier. The cop car pulled out and the two black guys pulled out after them.

My only regret was that I didn’t possess a video camera. Instead I leafed to the back of my note pad and started writing notes about the two black guys and the cops. I figured that maybe I could turn it into some kind of dramatic story.

Maybe a story about the badlands of London, or a tense thriller or comical story about a couple of rouge cops who would go around hassling innocent drivers, who are mostly black, because…well, because they’re mostly black.

..A sort of 90’s version of CHIPS, meets, The Cannon Ball Run

meets Dirty Harry

I dropped the notepad on the sofa and hurried back to my writing desk. I rubbed my hands together and ran my tongue over the front of my top teeth.  I sat down,  took a deep breath and stared at the blank computer screen.

Then amazingly, it came and I started to type the first sentence of my 60, 000 word, Literary novel.

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Sickle Cell and Deaths in Custody conference

Sickle Cell and Deaths in Custodyconference

The Unit for the Social Study of Thalassaemia and

Sickle Cell (TASC Unit) at De Montfort University, Leicester is pleased

to present this exclusive one day conference.

The conference examines Sickle Cell disorders, healthcare

neglect in prisons, racism in the criminal justice system and the

introduction of specialist custody nursing Sickle Cell and deaths in

custody dmu.ac.uk/conference/sickle-cell

Wednesday 10 June 2009 – £130

You will receive a FREE copy of

Professor Simon Dyson and Professor Gwyneth Boswell’s new

groundbreaking book Sickle Cell and

Deaths in Custody (London: Whiting & Birch) worth £50.

Resgistert on-line here

Speakers include

  • Professor Guy Rutty - member of the British Association in Forensic Medicine, the Pathological Society of

    Great Britain and Ireland, British Medical Association, and

    Editor-in-Chief of the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

  • Dr Adebayo Olujohungbe – consultant haematologist at the University Hospital Aintree NHS Foundation Trust,

    Liverpool, Chief Investigator of the Priapism In Sickle Cell Study

    (PISCES) and Medical Adviser to the Sickle Cell Society

  • INQUEST – an ‘award-winning’ campaigning organisation founded in 1981 providing a specialist comprehensive

    advice service to bereaved people, lawyers, the media, MPs and the

    wider public on contentious deaths and their investigation

If you would like further information please email Hayley

Robinson conferences@dmu.ac.uk

or call (0116) 250 6213.

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