Met faces fresh criticism over black and Asian victims' cases

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The Independent Online

The Metropolitan Police faced growing criticism yesterday over its record for investigating cases in which victims are black or Asian.

Since Stephen Lawrence's murder nine years ago, the National Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) has identified 157 incidents across the country in which people have lost their lives as a result of racism. In many of these cases the families claim the police have been at fault in either the way they carried out investigations or in their unwillingness to bring prosecutions to court.

Last night, Raj Joshi, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, said the Metropolitan Police had shown itself unable to follow a consistent policy when investigating cases with a racial element.

"There is either over- activity where a great deal is done but little to show for it, such as is the case with Damilola Taylor, or the racial aspect is ignored or not taken account of properly, such as was the case in the death of Stephen Lawrence."

The NCRM has highlighted five cases in which grieving families are still demanding action and answers from the Metropolitan Police.

Lakhvinder 'Ricky' Reel was found dead after being racially abused and attacked in Kingston, west London, on 14 October 1997. Seven days after the attack, his body was washed up on the banks of the River Thames, less than half a mile from the location of the incident. But the police concluded no further investigation was required. A coroner at inquest has since recorded an open verdict. Reel's family continue to press for publication of the results of a Police Complaints Authority investigation into the conduct of the case.

On 11 January 1999 Roger Sylvester interrupted a walk home to phone a friend to say he was being followed by police. The Metropolitan Police have admitted he was arrested and restrained by eight officers outside his home in Tottenham after an alleged disturbance. Roger died eight days later in hospital. Despite evidence that he suffered injuries at the hands of police no action was taken against officers.

Justin Waldran, a member of Roger Sylvester's family, says: "This injustice must stop. We are tired of being persecuted and are angry about the way black men, in particular, have been treated. We fear for our fathers, our brothers, our sons and want things to change. We do not want other families to experience the distress and pain we have suffered. What we are asking for and what we demand is justice for Roger."

On 23 December 1998, Farhan Mire, a 32-year-old refugee from Yemen, was kicked to death by a white man at Gayton Road, Harrow. After a police investigation a man was charged with the murder. However, the charge was dropped on 1 April 1999 as the Crown Prosecution Service said the case was too weak to bring before a court.

The family claim they were only informed of this development the night before it was formally announced and that the police failed to tell them that a key witness had gone missing. The NCRM has asked the Home Secretary to appoint a new investigating team to lead the case and ensure the family's concerns about the flow of information are resolved.

Michael Menson was racially abused and set alight in North London on 28 January 1997. He died nearly three weeks later. Initially the police treated it as a suicide.

On 16 September 1998 an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. After the family met the then home secretary, Jack Straw, in November 1998, a new team of investigators led by the Race and Violent Crime Task Force was appointed. They charged three suspects 51 days later. In December 1999 one man was found guilty of murder and another of manslaughter. The family are still seeking publication of a Police Complaints Authority report into their complaint.