No Justice! No Peace! 20 Years

This was the 20th annual march by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of of people killed by police, in prisons, in immigration detention and in secure psychiatric hospitals. I first knew about their campaign in 2003, when I took the picture above, along with others. Then the list they carried of those who have died in custody since 1969 hand around 1800 names on it; now it is considerably longer, with many new names being added each year.

Some of those I photographed in 2003 were still there in 2018, but others have themselves died – sometimes as a result of their grief. Many have given up on the struggle for justice, beaten down by the system which lies and obstructs the course of justice – including the police, coroners and judges who all dissemble, and a complaints procedure dedicated to being ineffective. For most there is no justice – but many are determined to fight on despite this. The most determined sometimes make a little progress, but still the system keeps slapping them back.

Of course not every death in custody is a result of criminal acts by police or others concerned. Some are from natural causes. But too many are from a lack of care; too many from the use of excessive force and failures to carry out proper procedures for restraint. And too many from clearly criminal acts which our courts allow to go unpunished.

The only case among around two and a half thousand where there has been a sucessful prosecution, so far as I’m aware, is one where the violence by fellow officers so offended one policeman that he broke ranks and gave evidence against them. In other cases police have got away with perjury, supporting the clearly false evidence of their fellow officers, making up stories between them that bear little relation to what actually happened.

So many police inquiries into these incidents have been at best half-hearted and often facially incompetent or even criminal. CCTV cameras – even in police stations – never seem to work when officers would be in the frame, and interviews are not made or delayed for months.

Of course police have a difficult job, and mistakes will sometimes happen, but this goes beyond this, and is an institutional problem – like the racism which, despite its revelation after the death of Stephen Lawrence, is still active in police forces around the country, and involved in too many of the deaths. Many of the victims are also people with mental health problems, and the continuing deaths also reflect a lack of proper mental health provision, exacerbated by changes in policies and government cuts both to health services and to community services.

The campaigners met in Trafalgar Square, and then marched slowly, very slowly down Whitehall, stopping for a rally opposite Downing St, where many representatives of the bereaved families spoke. A delegation went to take a letter to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing St, as they have done each year, though never getting a sensible reply. This year they were even refused entry, despite having made their application several months earlier. Police on the gate were apologetic (and the police had facilitated the march and rally in exemplary fashion) and took the letter promising to see it was delieved, but apparently their request had been lost, perhaps deliberately, by Theresa May’s office and they could not be allowed to enter.

‘No Justice! No Peace!’ is the slogan of the campaign, and so far justice is sadly lacking.

More at:
20th UFFC remembrance procession
20th UFFC remembrance rally


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