Most-abused race victim failed by CPS

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The Independent Online

Over the past nine years Mal Hussein has been the target of more than 2,000 racist attacks in his corner shop in Lancaster. He has been stoned, shot at and suffered death threats. Six times firebombs have thrown at his shop, below his flat, all because he is black and his girlfriend, Linda Livingstone, is white. On the Ryelands estate where they still live, that is considered a crime.

Over the past nine years Mal Hussein has been the target of more than 2,000 racist attacks in his corner shop in Lancaster. He has been stoned, shot at and suffered death threats. Six times firebombs have thrown at his shop, below his flat, all because he is black and his girlfriend, Linda Livingstone, is white. On the Ryelands estate where they still live, that is considered a crime.

Prosecutions have been brought, but the Crown Prosecution Service has failed to convict at least 33 people since 1997. So serious is the situation that the chief CPS prosecutor for Lancaster is conducting a top-level inquiry into allegations of racism and negligence in the way staff have treated Mr Hussein and Ms Livingstone.

The inquiry is also focusing on a complaint by police that a CPS barrister was "negligent" in his handling of the failed prosecution of a council tenant on trial for racially abusing Mr Hussein.

The police report says this specific incident points at wider "racist attitudes in the CPS". Last year, official figures show 37 of the 79 racial incidents recorded by Lancaster police related to Mr Hussein and Ms Livingstone.

Civil rights groups want a public inquiry into what they see as failure by police, the council and the CPS to investigate Mr Hussein's case.

Until effective action is taken, he must spend his life as a prisoner in his windowless shop behind grilles, razor wire, steel shutters and doors. This his been his fate since 1991, when he and Ms Livingstone used their joint savings to open their grocery store.

Soon after they arrived, two residents demanded extortion money and, when Mr Hussein refused, his property was daubed with racist graffiti for the next two weeks. Since then, they have been the victims of more than 2,000 racist attacks, including an attempt to slash Mr Hussein's throat with a Stanley knife.

Stress of the hate campaign broke up the couple's relation-ship, and Mr Hussein has had to have trauma counselling and medication.

"Until 1994 we were a couple, but now we lead separate lives," he said. "We are still best of friends and she still gives me the strength to go on, but this racism has destroyed two people's lives." The day after he moved in, Mr Hussein put the shop on the market, but has yet to find a buyer, after nine years.

Last year, Lancashire Constabulary did apologise to Mr Hussein for its "damning" and repeated failures since 1991 to investigate racist attacks against him and his property. But despite eviction orders being served on 16 families on the estate, Mr Hussein claims many of his persecutors are still living there.

He has written to the Home Secretary asking for a public inquiry, but, after five months, has had no reply. "There has been a collective failure to address racism of the worst kind," he added. "Everyone sat back and did nothing. Black people are victims only when they are dead. Do I have to be killed to be seen as a victim?"

His case is seen by race groups as a symbol of the failure to learn the lessons of the handling of the death of Stephen Lawrence.

"The key aspect in this case is here we see failure both pre-and post-Lawrence," said Lee Jasper, secretary of the National Assembly Against Racism. "The level of multi-agency failure is widespread, and there is a massive cultural denial in Lancaster."

Last night, the CPS said it was treating the inquiry into the handling of Mr Hussein's case as a priority. "Allegations like this regarding people who are CPS staff, or agents who work for us in the court, are treated very, very seriously," a spokeswoman said.