Letter: Not a hanging offence

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IN AN otherwise welcome leading article on the Government's approach to racism ("Meaning well is not enough", 29 March), your unequivocal call for the sacking of the head of the Prison Service, Richard Tilt, seems, in my opinion, extreme and unjustified, a case perhaps of seeking to shoot the messenger.

For you, as others have, omit to mention that Mr Tilt was citing the evidence of scientific research which suggested "that people of Afro- Caribbean origin were more prone to suffer 'positional asphyxia' than white people due to a physiological difference". Indeed, such evidence, if substantiated, would be welcome in helping to end such tragic deaths in custody, not that a justifiable case can be made for such barbaric methods of restraint in any case.

There is no evidence to suggest that such comments stemmed from Mr Tilt's own beliefs or, more importantly, that they were born of any racial prejudice on his part, as you claim.

Admittedly, a man in a position of such prominence ought to have displayed a far greater degree of sensitivity, tact and good judgement in discussion of issues of such delicacy and importance; but surely his behaviour is not deserving of the penalty that you advocate?

Richard Bryant

London SW1

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