The Metropolitan Police killed teacher/activist Blair Peach at an anti-fascist rally in 1979:
Documents published on the Metropolitan police’s website shed new light on the death of Peach, a 33-year-old teacher from New Zealand, whose death marked one of the most controversial events in modern policing history.
A campaigner against the far right, Peach died from a blow to the head during a demonstration against the National Front in Southall, west London.
A crucial report into the death, which Peach’s family have campaigned to see for more than 30 years, was finally released today. It said it could “reasonably be concluded that a police officer struck the fatal blow”. A police van carrying six officers was identified as having been at the scene when the fatal blow was struck.
Except of course this doesn’t tell the whole story. The Met want you to think that it’s all gone murky, that the killer can’t possibly be found and that releasing this report should draw a line under the matter once and for all. The evidence suggests otherwise:
• suspicions centred on the SPG carrier U.11, the first vehicle to arrive on Beechcroft Avenue, the street where Peach was found staggering around and concussed. [Commander John] Cass said there was an “indication” that one officer in particular, who first emerged from the carrier but whose name has been redacted from the report, was responsible;
• the criminal investigation into Peach’s death was hampered by SPG officers, who Cass concluded had lied to him to cover up the actions of their colleagues. He “strongly recommended” that three officers should be charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, giving detailed evidence to show how they were engaged in a “deliberate attempt to conceal the presence of the carrier at the scene at that time”. None were ever charged;
So the Met knows who murdered Peach, and knows who covered it up? Can someone in the know explain why they aren’t being charged now? The problems continue:
It was already known that when Cass raided lockers at the SPG headquarters he uncovered a stash of unauthorised weapons, including illegal truncheons, knives, two crowbars, a whip, a 3ft wooden stave and a lead-weighted leather stick.
One officer was caught trying to hide a metal cosh, although it was not the weapon that killed Peach. Another officer was found with a collection of Nazi regalia.
In his report, Cass said the arsenal of weapons caused him “grave concern”, but claimed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers involved.
A total of 14 witnesses told investigators they saw “a police officer hit the deceased on the head” but, according to Cass, there were discrepancies in their evidence and most could not identify the officer.
Insufficient evidence? What should we make of Commander Cass, when he’d seen what seems abundantly sufficient evidence, yet labelled it ‘insufficient’? And why then should it be abundantly clear to others who killed Peach:
The six officers with the SPG (the forerunners of today’s brutal and equally notorious TSG) are known to be Insp Murray, PC White, PC Richardson, PC Scottow, PC Freestone and PS Lake. Although the published version has been censored by the Met to obscure the truth it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that Blair Peach was killed by a blow from Inspector Murray’s police radio.
It is shameful that it has taken so long for the report to be published. It would be more shameful if the lessons in it – about honesty and transparency and about the dangers of creating an elite force-within-a-force like the SPG then and the Territorial Support Group now – were not recognised.
They’re still not being recognised, just as the lessons of the G20 protest last year haven’t been learned. Indeed just recently Sergeant Delroy Smellie was acquitted for his attack on a peaceful protester, following the Met’s killing of Ian Tomlinson. Not only was Smellie’s defence palpably absurd, but the reasons for his violent behaviour were never questioned. The current TSG might not be quite as bad as the SPG but having this elite force-within-a-force seems still to lead to a serious level of needless brutality, serious injury and death. And just what is happening about Ian Tomlinson? Any charges anyone?
British ‘justice’ – nothing changes.
The first prosecution against the Metropolitan Police for the violence it perpetrated against unarmed, non-violent protesters at the G20 protests last spring has resulted in an acquittal:
Delroy Smellie was suspended last year after video footage was posted on YouTube showing him back-handing a protester and striking her twice on the legs with his metal baton.
He was acquitted of assault by beating after a four-day trial in which his alleged victim, protester Nicola Fisher, declined to give evidence.
Smellie, from the Met’s territorial support group (TSG), a specialist public order unit, argued during his trial that he believed Fisher posed a threat to himself and fellow officers. He said he repeatedly struck Fisher, who was considerably smaller than him, after mistaking a carton of orange juice and digital camera she was carrying for weapons.
The district judge, Daphne Wickham, said there was no evidence that his use of the baton was not approved, correct or measured, adding that Smellie had a “mere seven seconds” to act, and other witnesses had feared for his safety.
Erm what? The TSG must be laughing themselves sick this morning. A big, burly TSG officer really, genuinely thought he had something to fear from a small, female protester attending a non-violent vigil for Ian Tomlinson? And a highly trained riot policeman really thought a carton of orange juice and a digital camera were weapons? Check out the video and see for yourself. Is there really any hope of justice for Ian Tomlinson?
We’re talking about Delroy Smellie of course, but what about the unnamed officer who caused Ian Tomlinson’s death? What about the senior officers who gave the orders for such violent policing? What about their role in the attempt to cover up the cause of Tomlinson’s death, blaming the crowd rather than their own? Tomlinson’s wife, as the run-up to the first anniversary of his death approaches, has gone on the attack:
Last August the CPS was asked to consider whether the officer should be charged with manslaughter and, weeks later, Starmer promised swift action. “My view on these things is we should move quickly,” he said, adding that he hoped for a decision “in a few months”. CPS officials later told the Tomlinson family they could expect a decision by Christmas.
“Keir Starmer has let us down personally,” said Julia Tomlinson. “Why did he say there would be a decision around Christmas? Why are we still waiting? My kids need to move on from this. They’re left without a dad now and their lives have been turned upside down over the last year, especially the four girls. He doesn’t seem to realise the pain we’re going through.”
She added: “We feel like there was a cover-up from day one, and we didn’t see it because we were nervous about the police. Now a year on it still feels like all of that is still going on. If it had been someone on the street, a civilian, who had pushed and hit Ian just before he died, and it was all caught on video, surely something would have happened by now. The officer needs to go before a jury. Let them decide what should happen to him.”
She’s right of course. It’s cut and dried what actually happened, so why are they still waiting? On the other hand I would also suggest that the TSG officer who attacked Tomlinson wasn’t the only one who deserves to face justice for causing his death that day. Putting just that officer on trial would entirely miss the point that the Met’s behaviour that day was entirely normal, and the smears against the protesters and lies about Tomlinson himself a familiar refrain when the Met’s policing has caused death or serious injury. I’m still disgusted at how long Jean Charles de Menezes was blamed for his own murder, and how effectively the system closed ranks ultimately to justify it; the same result is likely here. De Menezes’ shooter has never been charged with a crime, despite committing perjury and murder, whilst his commanding officer was promoted. Julia Tomlinson really ought not to expect much better.
It was obvious to those of us who saw the video of this horrible confrontation between the Met and G20 protesters:
but it’s finally been ruled unlawful and the Metropolitan Police are going to pay a heavy price:
The Metropolitan Police are facing a compensation bill of £250,000, after admitting a raid on a climate change group the day after the G20 protests in London last April was illegal.
Police burst into the Convergence Centre in east London carrying taser guns, and handcuffed protesters face down.The Met Commissioner admitted it was unlawful to arrest, search them, and force them to be recorded on film, but he refused to apologise to the protestors.
They were non-violent and there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion, but the Met didn’t care last spring. They’d decided, without any evidence whatsoever that there was going to be violent trouble, and went as far as indicating their preparedness to be violent in turn. Look at the story of Delroy Smellie:
The sergeant at the centre of allegations of striking a female protester with a baton during a heated exchange at last year’s G20 protest said he was acting in “self defence” after mistaking a carton of juice and camera for weapons, a court heard.
Sergeant Delroy Smellie, 47, said he struck Nicola Fisher, 36, in a “pre-emptive strike” after seeing both items in her hands. The confrontation outside the Bank of England, on April 2 last year occurred during a vigil for the death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who died after inadvertently getting caught up in a demonstration the previous day. Mr Smellie, an officer in the Met’s elite Territorial Support Group, is accused of common assault by beating. He denies the charge, and his lawyers insisted they would argue he was acting in self-defence.
A highly trained riot police officer mistook a carton of juice and a camera for weapons eh? Check the video out and decide for yourself if he’d decided on his course of action in defiance of the evidence in front of him. Now then, why aren’t we still talking about Ian Tomlinson, whose death was directly caused by Met brutality?
It beggars belief but the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) are acting the wounded party in the face of attacks on them for their ultra violent behaviour at the G20 protests in April:
“They want to be seen as the best and they want to be the best – and of course when anybody challenges them about it, they feel it very personally,” he [Head of the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group, Commissioner Chris Allison] said.
They want to be seen as what they are… the overwhelming majority are highly professional cops who go out on the streets to protect communities.”
Pardon me for finding it absurd then that if they want to be seen to be ‘the best’ then they shouldn’t go around either wantonly beating unarmed, non-violent protesters or killing innocent passers-by. If the overwhelming majority of the TSG really are highly professional it seems rather odd that the reports of extreme violence from within their ranks should be coming out with such regularity, with so little then done to change the behaviour of the unit.
Met Police Commander Bob Broadhurst, in charge of the disastrous G20 policing effort in April, appears to have misled Parliament:
Commander Bob Broadhurst, who had overall command of the G20 policing operation, told the home affairs select committee in May that “no plain clothes officers [were] deployed at all” during the demonstrations in the City of London.
It has emerged that 25 undercover City of London police were stationed around the Bank of England to gather “intelligence” on protesters on 1 and 2 April. Broadhurst stands by the evidence he gave to MPs, claiming the deployment of undercover officers was unknown to him.
The proof is on a video on that page. Broadhurst can split hairs all he likes, saying that he was only talking about the Met, when the plainclothes police in question belonged to the CityPolice, but he still told parliament as the man in charge of the entire operation, that no plainclothes police were deployed when there were. And the City Police admitted it:
The assistant commissioner at the City of London police, Frank Armstrong, then told the MP that about 25 undercover officers were deployed during the protests.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the select committee, has written to Broadhurst suggesting the disclosure about plain clothes officers “contradicts” his evidence to MPs. Broadhurst claimed the officers filmed marching among Met and City of London riot police were “evidence gatherers” seeking to identify a certain protester.
It’s a terrible demonstration of just how inept he and the entire operation were that day, particularly when Armstrong continued to undermine Broadhurst:
[Lib Dem MP Tom] Brake said Broadhurst had “inadvertently misled” parliament, thus revealing a “startling lack of co-ordination” in the top ranks. “If plain clothes officers were only deployed to gather intelligence why is one clearly seen brandishing a baton?”
Was the cop in question in the video instructed to brandish that baton or was that rogue behaviour? The fact is the cops were out of control that day, pumped up largely by Broadhurst into an expectation of the need for violence which never resulted from protesters. Today’s report is sorely needed.
It’s somewhat strange that another policeman should still not face charges, when his actions clearly led to the death of Ian Tomlinson, but another TSG officer is being prosecuted for violence against a protester:
A CPS spokeswoman said Sergeant Delroy Smellie would be charged with assault of Nicola Fisher and he will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 16 November. He faces up to six months in prison if found guilty.
Smellie, a member of the Metropolitan police’s territorial support group, was suspended from duty two months ago after footage emerged of him near the Bank of England, apparently hitting Fisher, 35, with the back of his arm.
He was also shown appearing to strike her on her legs with a baton as she attended a vigil for the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who had died the previous day. She said the incident left her with severe bruising.
Of course he’ll get off, or he’ll become the scapegoat that his renowned colleague has long been expected to become. What must be remembered is that both officers, although behaving in an unacceptably (and unnecessarily) violent manner, were operating under the presumption that this was acceptable behaviour. Don’t forget how the force trailed its intention to be violent that day. The CPS can’t be allowed to get away with making this their only notable prosecution against the Metropolitan Police after their calamatous handling of the G20 protest.
Most of you will have heard of the Metropolitan Police’s pre-emptively violent behaviour at London’s G20 protests earlier in the year. Another G20, more violent policing, this time in Pittsburgh:
It’s quite a choice G20 protesters find themselves faced with: getting beaten for peaceful protest or having their eardrums shattered by military weapons. Nate Harper, Pittsburgh’s police chief was pleased with how the sound cannon performed: “it served its purpose well.”
The sound of things to come in the UK?
Don’t forget what the Metropolitan Police did in April at the G20 protest:
The notebooks, which have been lodged as evidence in an action brought by three protesters, also disclose how Metropolitan police were given no restrictions on the use of force when they were ordered to move protesters attending the Climate Change camp in the City of London on 1 April. The accounts were written up the day after the demonstrations.
In one notebook, a police constable recounts how when he saw a protester pushing against officers’ shields: “I punched him in the jaw and he moved backwards.”
Another officer describes how he hit people with “shield strikes both flat and angled. I also delivered open palm strikes to a number of individuals and fist strikes as well.”
A third constable logged: “To get the protesters who would not move, I needed to hit the flat part of my shield to get them to move back. I also used open-handed palm strikes. Once the protesters were moved back to the required distance, we remained in a closed cordon until relieved.”
The Met insists that this time they’ll engage in ‘community policing’, but what evidence is there that they’ll keep their word? Their operation last time in Bishopsgate promised (and for a time delivered) ‘community policing’, but entirely peaceful protesters still faced the brutality mentioned above. After all Chief Superintendant Helen Ball, in command of policing Climate Camp’s swoop and camp (beginning as I write) has said:
“At the moment we will be photographing people on arrival at the camp because it is important for us to know if there are people coming who want to cause violence and disorder.
“We will not be routinely stopping and searching everybody going into the camp and we have briefed officers carefully on searching people and what the spirit of the operation is.”
In other words the first tactic will be to use Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) from the outset. Given that FIT teams used for protest are never used to track people who might cause violence and disorder, how can we possibly believe that the stop and search tactics used at Kingsnorth won’t be reappearing, not to mention the suppression and attacks on the media? The jury’s out and the country is watching…