My name is Victor Sylvester and I am from the Roger Sylvester Justice
The Roger Sylvester Justice Campaign was set-up by his family following
I would like to begin by thanking National
Assembly Against Racism for
inviting me to speak at this meeting today.
Roger‘s story is not unfamiliar; the background is as follows:
In January, Roger was restrained on his doorstep by eight police officers from Tottenham Police Station. We were told the police had responded to a 999 call from a neighbour, reporting there was a man who seemed to have no clothes on outside Roger’s flat.
He was carried into a police van, naked, his body limp and sagging and
taken to St Ann's Hospital. He collapsed at St Ann's while still being
restrained by police officers that were alone with him at the time. He was put
on a life support system after sustaining serious injuries. Roger never regained
consciousness and seven days later
was pronounced dead.
We may never know why he was naked, but we do know that:
He had telephoned a friend to complain that the police had been following
him less than an hour before.
There was a police operation in the immediate vicinity that night.
He had spoken to a neighbour less than 30 minutes before and was his
usual cheery self.
Roger died in suspicious circumstances his death is yet another example
of a young healthy black man dying after collapsing following an
"encounter" with the police.
There is compelling statistical evidence that black people are over
represented in police custody deaths. This is particularly true of the
Metropolitan Police. We have no
confidence that the Metropolitan Police has learnt any lessons from these
appalling deaths and in none of them have those responsible been brought to
The MET has the highest incident of deaths in custody and a
disproportional high number of these victims are black. For us this is a measure
of their performance.
The Macpherson inquiry did not cover Deaths in custody in any depth as it was outside the inquiry’s remit. The Roger Sylvester Justice campaign demands an independent open Public enquiry into all deaths in custody, as this is the only way that the specific issues related to deaths in custody can be truly aired.
For example the report did not deal with the over use of CS gas (Ibriham
Sey), batons (Brian Douglas) and dangerous restraining techniques (Lapite).
The Home Secretary needs to hear the testimonies of all the families of
all those who have died in custody.
Police have to be accountable to the communities they serve that means
they should not in any circumstances evade prosecution for deaths in the
We need convictions, we need to name and shame them.
However, the report recommended that serious complaints against the police be independently investigated. At a meeting last year with families who have lost their loved ones in custody the Home Secretary, stated legislation would be brought in to change the current procedure, but not in the life of this parliament.
appointed to look into this we’re concerned that they are financial
consultants. Does this mean that any new system will be driven by financial
concerns and not in the interest of social justice.
So, in the
meantime, we have to make do with the shortcomings and unjust process of the
police investigating the police.
We have no
confidence in the police investigating the police and our experience of the
investigation into Roger’s death has only served to reinforce that view. These
investigations are not independent and are flawed by built in bias.
investigation has been about the victim. It has focussed on Roger’s character,
not on what happened on that fatal night.
In October 1999 the report for the investigation was completed by Essex Police It was supported by seven volumes of statements, documents and exhibits, including videos and photographs.
we’ve seen no documentation. The disclosure precision they have introduced is
far from adequate. It also makes
the assumption there will never be any disciplinary action when someone dies in
custody. Unsurprisingly documents are not disclosed if it is in their interest
to do so.
good enough to address the recommendations partially
If the CPS
decide not to prosecute, then the inquest will be our only opportunity to
receive information about his death. However
an inquest is not a court. Its
remit is not to administer justice but to establish the medical cause of death.
Roger’s Death Racist?
An institution where as a black man I am four times more likely to die in custody is a racist institution.
An institution, which says mainly young black men commit street
robberies, is a racist institution.
An institution, which could not be bothered too seriously, investigate
the deaths of black men who die when they are killed by racist thugs. Stephen
Lawrence, Michael Menson, Ricky Reel.
Is a racist institution?
An institution, which condones stopping me because I drive a flashy car,
is a racist institution.
institution where eight claims of race discrimination by employees were lodged
against them in the last year namely the Crown Prosecution service. Is a racist
institutional racism begin and end?
We all deserve fair and just policing.
The London Mayor will have responsibility for the Met and some say that this will provide an opportunity for more openness and accountability. Openness and accountability must not be sound bites; we have no confidence that things will change unless radical measures are taken.
down the gauntlet to:
To hold a
debate on Policing in London.
remains high on our agenda we have votes in the mayoral election so candidates
need to address policing along with concerns about transport and the like.
We call on mayoral candidates to listen to Campaign groups like ours who
are keen to see the creation of a fairer justice system. We have a massive stake
in this, as all to often we pay the price of not having such a system with our
We believe that Roger’s death was not an act of God but was the result of the actions of 8 individuals. We know our quest for justice will not be easy but our love for Roger means our fight will carry on.