Jack Straw urged to reveal report on Blair Peach

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The Independent Online
JACK STRAW, the Home Secretary, has been urged to reopen the file on Blair Peach to mark the 20th anniversary of his death. The New Zealand-born teacher was killed as police charged anti-racist demonstrators in Southall, west London.

Mr Peach's partner, Celia Stubbs, who attended the fateful protest on 23 April 1979, has written to Mr Straw saying that she has never been allowed to see the official police report into the tragedy.

As a young backbencher, Mr Straw was one of the first of 150 MPs to sign an early day motion calling for a public judicial inquiry into Mr Peach's death.

The Conservative home secretary at the time, William Whitelaw, refused a public inquiry. An internal Metropolitan Police investigation by Commander John Cass was never released. An inquest recorded a verdict of "death by misadventure", though 11 witnesses had reported seeing Mr Peach struck by police.

Ms Stubbs, 58, a social worker in Islington, north London, has written to the Home Secretary asking for a meeting. "Jack Straw was one of the first politicians to take an interest in this case but there are still many issues that are unresolved," she said.

She would like to see a copy of the Cass report and to ask Mr Straw to meet community leaders in Southall to discuss the continued racial tension in the area.

Ms Stubbs, who still works with anti-racist groups in Southall, said: "After 20 years of very little, it would be nice to just have the courtesy of a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss what has changed."

The demonstration 20 years ago was sparked by the National Front deciding to hold a St George's Day election meeting in Southall town hall, the traditional heart of London's Indian community.

Thousands of protesters converged on the meeting. They were met by rows of police officers who had sealed off much of the area. Mr Peach, a 33-year-old special needs teacher working in Tower Hamlets, east London, attended the protest with other teachers.

He was a prominent anti-racist campaigner who had led a successful campaign to close down a National Front building in the middle of the Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane. Ms Stubbs said: "He felt that racism should be tackled. You should never let it lie."

Hundreds of the Southall protesters were arrested as they were dispersed by police. Forced down a side street, Mr Peach suffered serious head injuries, following a charge by the Special Patrol Group. A local Asian family helped him into their home and called an ambulance but he was dead on arrival at hospital.

Ms Stubbs will tomorrow launch the Blair Peach 20th Anniversary Committee which will fight for more anti-racist education in schools. She said: "The race issue has been abandoned in schools because of the pressures of the curriculum."