News Newsletter June 2020 newsletter In this edition: Thank you, from INQUEST Recent news: Policing COVID-19 and coroners inquests Grenfell Tower fire updates Prison New family communication channels Events INQUEST news and recruitment Thank you, from INQUESTWe continue to receive many messages of support and encouragement, donations and fundraising for the work we do, and are very honoured. This will help support the work we do alongside families bereaved after state related deaths, as well as the policy and campaign work we undertake to fight racism and discrimination, and for systemic change.INQUEST are grateful to be receiving a donation from every copy of 'Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race' by the excellent Reni Eddo-Lodge when purchased at Waterstones during July. Buy your copy Policing While the attention of the world has focused on state violence and racism following the murder of George Floyd, INQUEST and the families we work alongside have sought to raise the fact that this is an issue in the UK. INQUEST has worked to ensure that family voices have been elevated through the media over the past month highlighting the global parallels of the systemic racism seen in the United States. This involved family members that INQUEST has worked alongside over many decades including those of Seni Lewis, Sheku Bayoh, Adrian McDonald, Rashan Charles, Edson da Costa, Cherry Groce, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell and Clinton McCurbin and many others. Read more INQUEST, Police Action Lawyers Group (PALG), United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) and the ILG Steering Group drafted a letter in solidarity with the family of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. A powerful coalition of over 350 civil rights and civil liberties lawyers and campaigners have signed in support. Deaths are the extreme end of a continuum of pervasive racial bias in the criminal justice system. With the rise of racist and reactionary forces world-wide, now more than ever we must stand together to defend the right to freedom from state racism and state brutality, and the right to state accountability when those rights are violated. Read and sign the letter. Join us INQUEST’s monitoring of deaths of people from Black and minority ethnic communities and our statistical data and thematic analysis arising from our casework have been used as a resource for many media articles, both in the UK and internationally. "This is not a new issue", INQUEST Director Deborah Coles told CNN and VICE. "Time and again there is shocking lack of accountability of those responsible for abuse or ill treatment at an individual and corporate level. Nor do we see the enactment of recommendations on the structural change needed arising post death from inquests and reviews. The evidence is all there" we explained to the Metro.Head of Casework, Anita Sharma, spoke at ‘The UK's hidden George Floyds’, an event organised by Central London Humanists, about the history of police brutality that gave rise to INQUEST, racism and discrimination in the UK criminal justice system and detention settings evidenced from our casework and the Angiolini Review and Lammy Review. Netpol have launched a campaign to produce and publish a comprehensive report on the policing of #BlackLivesMatter protests in Britain. Find out how to share your evidence and testimony and how to donate here. INQUEST has been commenting on concerns about the disproportionate use of force against Black people and those with mental ill health that has led to a pattern of deaths and serious injuries. The roll out of Tasers has seen a disturbing rise in its use and there are legitimate questions to ask about its safety and its use as a first and not a last resort. Marc Cole and Adrian McDonald both died following police restraint and use of Taser whilst experiencing a mental health crisis. Their families have launched a petition featuring a series of demands including an independent review into disproportionate use of Taser. Lisa Cole, sister of Marc, spoke to Falmouth Packet about their outrage that there have been no changes to police use of Tasers following their deaths, “We are so angry that the Home Office and police are not taking my brother's horrifying death seriously. In the wake of the George Floyd killing and the subsequent global uprising, we are once again consumed by trauma; it is too close to home for us." Northumbria Police have made changes to their custody processes following the inquest into the death of Mark Needham who suffered several seizures caused by head injuries sustained before his arrest. The jury found his death was contributed to by neglect and the coroner issued concerns about his treatment and care in a report to prevent future deaths. The changes include the involvement of healthcare professionals in training of custody staff on rousals and the use of CCTV in audits to check the custody record accurately reflects the welfare checks.INQUEST has signed this letter to the National Police Chiefs Council and coordinated by Big Brother Watch demanding a review of every lockdown fine. These draconian powers have been used unlawfully time and time again and the letter evidences “racism, discrimination and bias” in the issuing of lockdown fines. The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a family led coalition of people affected by deaths in police custody, prison and mental health settings. INQUEST is proud to stand in solidarity with UFFC. Please donate to their fundraiser to support their collective campaigning work. Donate COVID-19 and coroner's inquests INQUEST continues to examine the ways in which the government plans to discharge its legal duties to investigate deaths of people in which failures in systems, policies and procedures may have played a role. Coroners inquests continue to be the only forum for examining these deaths, and calls to set up a public inquiry remain unanswered.Marienna Pope-Weiderman, the cousin of Gaia Pope - who died in November 2017 two weeks after she was reported missing to the police - responded to the Chief Coroners guidance, writing in the Independent “if this sets a precedent for all coronavirus inquests, it could obscure the role of government failures in the deaths, not only of hundreds of NHS workers, but tens of thousands of patients. As a bereaved relative going through an inquest myself, I know what this means for the families in mourning.”The Chair of our Board of Trustees Daniel Machover highlighted INQUEST’s call for a National Oversight Mechanism to address the longstanding failure to implement recommendations from inquests, reviews and investigations into state related deaths in a webinar on the call for a public inquiry into COVID-19 that was reported in the Guardian. Grenfell Tower fire updates On the three year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, we joined in remembrance of the 72 men, women and children who had their lives cut short and thought of those that mourn their loss. We played tribute and stood in solidarity with those who fight for structural change to try and stop this ever happening again. Read the statement The delayed public inquiry resumed at the beginning of the month but the prohibition of hundreds of survivors, families and residents from the venue as a result of strict social distancing rules have left them questioning once again whether they are truly ‘at the heart of the inquiry.' In a submission by Leslie Thomas QC, a barrister representing bereaved families and survivors, he reminded the inquiry about the significance of race, poverty and disability and the responsibility of the inquiry to act. Prisons In March, INQUEST and Women in Prison brought together a coalition of over 600 charities, grassroots organisations and activists to demand the government drastically reduces the number of people in detention settings to save lives #Release2SaveLives. We received a response from the government which you can read, along with our reply. Read the letters Deborah Coles was quoted in Inside Time as they reported on the self-inflicted deaths of people in prison who were subject to inhumane living conditions and highly restrictive regimes, “The government must show political courage and rapidly reduce the prison population. This course of action can best protect the lives of both prisoners and staff.” New family communication channels The Family Reference Group are now meeting weekly, and encouraging other families to get involved. Last week's meeting welcomed five new people and INQUEST’s Four Pillars of Participation were discussed. We have been working on some exciting new ways to strengthen pillar three – Increasing Solidarity and Connection Amongst Families. We will be starting bi-monthly Coffee Mornings over Zoom shortly which provide an opportunity for families bereaved after a state related death to meet each other. We are also opening a Families@INQUEST Facebook Group, towards the end of July but you can request to join now. If you would like to get involved in this, or other family participation work please email [email protected] As ever we encourage families to feedback on their experiences of INQUEST and you can do this anytime by emailing a new email address for this specific purpose [email protected] Events TONIGHT! - Thursday 9 July - Mark Thomas is hosting a lockdown livestream of his award winning show Serious Organised Criminal. INQUEST are honoured that this show will be raising money for INQUEST. Get your tickets here. There will be a short Q and A after with Deborah Coles and Shamik Dutta a solicitor at Bhatt Murphy solicitors. Tuesday 14 July - TEDxExeter are in conversation with Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean who died in police custody in 2010 and Dexter Dias QC, barrister at Garden Court Chambers to discuss race and racial justice. Reserve your free tickets. Friday 17 July - Unrestricted View (Online) Film Festival. ‘Restraint’ a short documentary film about deaths of people in police custody is showing at its first film festival. The film features the voices of five family members of Thomas Orchard, Olaseni Lewis, Kingsley Burrell, Darren Neville and James Herbert. Use the code UVFF2050 for a £5 ticket (50% off) to watch it and the other films screened that day. SAVE THE DATE - Saturday 31 October - United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) are holding their annual memorial march in memory of all those who have died in state care or custody in London. We hope to see you there. INQUEST news and recruitment INQUEST are recruiting for a Senior Media and Communications Officer to join our team. The successful candidate with play a key role in INQUEST’s public facing work, leading on fast paced strategic and reactive media and developing and maintaining the website and external communications from leaflets to publications. The closing date for applications is 20 July at 1pm. Find out more about the role and how to apply here. We were very excited to welcome Jodie Anderson who joined INQUEST in June as a caseworker. Prior to this, she practised as a criminal defence barrister at Garden Court Chambers and then in police complaints at Harrow Law Centre. She worked on death row in Texas in 2014 and has been involved in the criminal justice system ever since, with particular focus on youth justice and accountability. Jodie has followed INQUEST's work throughout her career, but became particularly invested following the death of a family member in prison. National Memorial Family Fund It is fantastic to see the first round of The National Memorial Family Fund is has opened for grant applications. This fund will be of significant importance for families bereaved following deaths in state custody by providing financial support for their campaigns for justice. Visit the National Memorial Family Fund website to find out how to register and make an application or contact your INQUEST caseworker.