David Lammy: 'It's not just the black community any more – police credibility is questioned by the wider public'

The Monday Interview: Lessons from the riots are not being learned, the Tottenham MP David Lammy tells Paul Peachey

Following the Labour Party's election defeat in 2010, David Lammy's summer holiday last year was supposed to be different. For the first six years of his married life, his luggage was weighed down with ministerial briefing papers and his breaks always interrupted by calls from civil servants. Any hope that the short holiday he began on 1 August would somehow be more relaxed ended abruptly with a phone call from a senior police officer three days later.

He was told that the specialist police team dealing with gun crime in the black community had shot a man, Mark Duggan, from Tottenham. Mr Lammy cut short the holiday and headed home to an uneasy calm which swiftly degenerated into Britain's worst riots for decades. He says he had been predicting civil unrest for a year. But he had not expected it to happen so quickly, so close to home and with such ferocity.

In the months that have followed, the Tottenham MP has been a prominent critic of how the authorities dealt with the riots and their aftermath. He is one of the foremost accusers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission's handling of the shooting in the first hours, which contributed to a sense of crisis. The IPCC wrongly stated that there was a shootout between Mr Duggan and the police and it, along with officers, apologised to the dead man's parents for failing properly to inform them about his death.

"I think it's impossible to be the MP for a deprived area In London and not have engaged on different occasions with the IPCC," says Mr Lammy, 39. "We have seen errors at the beginning of this case ... this is not just in constituencies like mine, this is not just in the black community, [the IPCC's] credibility amongst the wider general public is now being questioned."

With a budget smaller than the disciplinary body of the Metropolitan Police, the IPCC is struggling to cope with the caseload and, with a significant number of its staff being former police officers, its independence is in doubt. Mr Lammy says: "We have now got to a point where we have to examine how the IPCC functions."

The IPCC inquiry into the shooting has, in part, been hampered and delayed by police officers declining to be interviewed by its team. An inquest into Mr Duggan's death may never be held because, under current legislation, a coroner is not allowed to see police intercept evidence from the minutes before the shooting.

Mr Lammy met Theresa May, the Home Secretary, this month to press her for a change in the law. He highlighted the case of Azelle Rodney, another young black man shot dead by police in 2005, whose inquest was scrapped and whose death will not be subject to a public inquiry until later this year. "It is impossible to conceive of a scenario in which our country has seen four days of mayhem and rioting in which there [was millions of pounds] of damage ... and not hearing answers to what happened to Mark Duggan, given that this all started with his death," he says. "We need to understand that our justice system is falling into ill repute if ... we cannot have an inquest into a case like Mark Duggan."

The ramifications of the riots are still felt in the constituency where Mr Lammy grew up and has been the MP for 12 years, and where his father worked as a taxidermist. He highlights several cases, uncluding the Congolese landlord of the Pride of Tottenham pub, who had to scramble on to a roof to elude a knife-wielding mob ransacking the place. The landlord has received only a portion of the compensation he asked for.

Then there is the Cypriot family whose garage business was burned down. One of the family, who is only in his 40s, had a heart attack because of thepressures of trying to rebuild their lives. They have received only minimal payments from their insurer. Businesses are worried about premiums for next year, says Mr Lammy, and more than 660 people are awaiting payments under the riot compensation scheme.

"The barometer of whether we have recovered is whether they are recovering," he says. "When I looked into their faces, I saw my father. I saw someone who gets up early and got back late, day after day after day, while the family breathes their highs and their lows. We are coming up to the anniversary and these businesses are still struggling."

Mr Lammy bemoans the failure to hold a "Leveson inquiry into the riots" to try to understand the causes and to ensure such disturbances do not happen again. He claims the issues that prompted the violence were swept under a "giant-sized carpet called deficit reduction".

He wrote his own book to try to answer the questions. As well as the leaden-footed police response, he aims his fire at the failure of parenting and criticises legal restrictions on smacking children that he says have contributed to a "fractured, anonymous and individualistic" society.

He praises the police for reducing the use of blanket stop-and-search powers on young people in his area which, he says, has done much to reduce tensions since last year. He believes this summer's events, from the Jubilee to the Olympics, have bound communities together again. But he says the Government has failed to deal with some of the key issues that led to the riots. More than 2.6 million people remain unemployed and he believes that "on the whole you don't riot if you have a job and a mortgage".

"I don't sense the kind of tension I was sensing last summer, but the issue of civil unrest will not be judged by one summer. You only have to look at the eurozone and how that affects us all to see how we are going to be looking over the next decade."

He predicts further riots if the issues highlighted in the Metropolitan Police report are not addressed. It pinpointed failings in intelligence, problems between the Met and the IPCC, and the need for better links with the community.

"Four days of mayhem involving very different communities – black and white – involving wide-scale looting and the trying on of clothes, and involving communities that had no relationship with Mark Duggan, I think demonstrate wider and deeper issues than we've seen before. Only time will tell if I was right."

His story: David Lammy

1972: Born in Tottenham, north London. One of five children raised by a single mother. His father left for a new life in the US when Lammy was 12, but died there penniless in 2003.

 

1985: Having secured a choral scholarship, Lammy was away from Tottenham during the riots, in which PC Keith Blakelock was killed.

 

1991: Lammy was studying law when the convictions of the men jailed for killing PC Blakelock were quashed for being unsafe.

 

2000: Becomes Labour MP for Tottenham following the death of Bernie Grant. Serves as minister in Labour government for nine years until the party loses power in 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones