Saturday, 5 September 2015

Police 'call-in' of South Kilburn youth seen as threatening and undermining justice principles

The above letter written to some local young people by the Metropolitan Police Brent Borough Commander has unsurprisingly caused them and their parents considerable alarm as well as raising the issue of civil liberties and what appears to be an undermining of the principle of 'Innocent until proven guilty'.

Particularly disquieting is the last paragraph which appears to contain a threat of continuing police harassment if the recipient does not comply. It has also given rise to fears that this constitutes another example of racial profiling by the police when their are concerns about disproportionality regarding Stop and search in the local BME community (see table at the end of the article).

The apparently template letter contains no evidence that the recipient is involved in criminal activity.

The Guardian has covered the issue in detail LINK.  Cecil Gutzmore who attended the meeting as an observer from the London campaign Against police and State Violence said that the two recipients and their mothers who attended the meeting were 'very strong' and that the police conceded that the tone of the letter was wrong.

The Guardian article reports:
Roy Croasdaile, chairman of the Brent Stop and Search Monitoring Group, who saw the letter in advance, said he was not comfortable with its content, although he supported the meeting’s aim. “I was the first person to amend and send feedback from the young man I spoke to and [his] solicitors to the police with regard to the ambiguity and offence that was taken,” he said. 

“After all, it was meant to be an invitation to obtain support and was received as threatening. We have all learned lessons from this for the future and I would like to think that this will not be repeated.”
Croasdaile added that the two young men who did attend proved to be “the stars of the meeting”, making a big impact on how it progressed and engaging with the charitable groups that had come to help them
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said that the letter was deliberately strongly worded to ensure gang members were in no doubt about what awaited them if they continued with their 'current behaviour'.

Giovanna Midgeley of StopWatch said
It is bewildering that Brent police will be considering non-responses from households an admission of criminal activity. Guilt is proven by good police work, not by whether someone attends a meeting or not.
The 'call-in' strategy is similar to that used in the Operation Shield pilot in  Lambeth. A critique of the strategy has been submitted by the organisation London Against Police Violence and can be found HERE

From the Brent Stop and Search Equality impact Assessment: LINK


Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

I personally can anticipate that with all the benefit cuts that there are and the phenomenon known amonth councils, governments and private companies as ‘joint intelligence’ or ‘shared intelligence’ that more and more people denied benefits will be targeted with letters such as those outlined above.

I myself was summonsed on 'presumed guilty until proven innocent basis' in May 2014 to a DWP ‘Customer Compliance’ interview at the jobcentre. Instructed by letter to bring with me my last six months’ bank statements. It turned out at that interview that the interviewer was not at all interested in my bank statements as presented but reported to me an allegation received from HMRC that there was a separate Co-operative Bank a/c registered in my name and at my address that had accrued £800 interest in 2010/11; my McKenzie Friend from KUWG and I were told that it was up to me to prove that that bank a/c that HMRC alleged existed and that I had not declared to DWP did not exist.

My McKenzie Friend saved me a lot of trouble by having the active intelligence to walk with me to the Co-operative Bank branch that was 100 yards away and get them to verify by way of a check on their system that such an account in my name and at my address did not exist and never had existed. Thus we made it back to the jcp with evidence letter in hand to present to the ‘Customer Compliance’ interviewer and she was satisfied with that. Still though, it was in effect a case of ‘guilty until proven innocent’, and I was not offered information regarding the source of that allegation against me.

Yet I did not take up the matter with my MP, partly because the stress of that false allegation contributed to a stress-related illness that had me laid up with a virus for some weeks leaving me with a backlog of stuff to deal with.

And I recall instances from the times that my income was pegged at JSA levels without DLA where I experienced debilitating illnesses wondering how I would make it to the end of the month without bank surcharges and eviction.

Maybe some of those in Government and their corporate allies are more of a threat to society than those locked up for protection of the people?

Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

On the specifics of the targeting area -- what the global property industry might call 'location, location' -- the heavy-handed policing letter does not surprise me in the least and ties in with a previous Kilburn Unemployed blog piece Metropolitan Police team up with Brent Housing Partnership, but what is their real objective?

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

Thiis morning's BBC Breakfast TV show's London news slot reported that the Met say there are over 200 gangs operating in London with over 3800 members, and the Met report will be discussed at London Assembly today. I wonder whether they will be asked about the 'intelligence' behind that report?