Shelia Sylvester's  SPEECH (NAAR Conference ) Sat 22nd Feb 2003

Good morning! As many of you know, I lost my son Roger 4 years ago at the hands of Tottenham Police.

My family has therefore joined the ranks of the many who have also lost their loved ones at the hands of the state. We all seem to be condemned to a life sentence of injustice.

As you can imagine, my family have been deeply wounded by Rogerís death, but the legal process for dealing with my Sonís death has only rubbed salt into our wounds.

Therefore we remain hurt, and for us the healing process has not yet begun.  

It is true that we have met with various Home Office ministers to discuss our case.

It is also true that the Lord Chancellor and the Crown Prosecution Service have seen the moving film called Injustice, and on seeing the film, the Lord Chancellor arranged to meet families such as ours to discuss Deaths in Custody.

Some progress has been made and at least now families like ours are beginning to get a hearing.

The Lord Chancellor has now authorised some limited funding for the inquest into Rogerís death, BUT THIS WAS ONLY AFTER A FIGHT!

But for me, this is where the commitment to changing the system stops. No one is prepared to tackle the issues related to deaths in custody head on.

We have a situation where the Lord Chancellor appeared to be moved by the film, but is not prepared to hold a public inquiry into all deaths in custody.

Despite the tea and apparent sympathy from Home Office Ministers, Ö. where are we 4 years on ? Still waiting for an inquest. The delay of the inquest has been unprecedented. It is the longest delay for a death in custody, surpassed only by custody deaths in Northern Ireland.

I believe that someone, or a group of people somewhere in the system are hoping that interest in Rogerís death will dwindle and the interest in deaths in custody will fade away.

BUT, I HAVE NEWS FOR THEM! We will never give up the struggle and my love for my son will never fade, and MY quest for justice will continue until my last breath!

So hopefully, we will have an inquest in September, nearly five years after Rogerís death. We have been offered a confined venue for the inquest, and guess where?ÖÖat the back of Hampstead police station!

This reminds me of the confined space my son was held in at the back of the police van!

So, any suggestions for a suitable venue from the 8th of September will be gratefully welcomed.

Although the number of people dying in custody has decreased slightly, this is not the case for Black deaths in custody. Evidently, race must play an important part in Black custody deaths, an issue that is definitely not being addressed.

The government seems to be concerned about Human Rights violation in other countries.

They are keen to rescue the innocent from the evil of states abroad. But, hypocritically, they are not prepared to tackle the issue of those who die at the hands of the state in this Country.

I donít know about a moral case for war, but there is one thing I do know beyond any reasonable doubt, there is a moral case for a public inquiry into deaths in custody!

So Tony, I have a moral puzzle for you. The police brought your son home safe on that night. What happened to mine?


Shelia Sylvester