Church leaders join BMH UK in speaking out in support of March against deaths in custody

Church leaders join BMH UK in speaking out in support of March against deaths in custody

Prominent church leaders from across the black community have joined with campaigns group Black Mental Health UK in speaking out in support of a national march against the disturbing trend of deaths in custody.

Organised by the Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture this peaceful march is part of his family’s drive for clarity and accountability not only for his death but for many others who have lost their lives while in the custody of the state.

Set for Saturday 16th April, supporters will assemble 12.00 noon outside the Southbank Club 124-130 Wandsworth Road SW8, then commence on a peaceful march to New Scotland Yard, Victoria, London. With the tragic death of Kingsley Burrell Brown, just weeks after Smiley Culture this issue is now viewed as an issue of national concern for Black Briton. Thousands are expected to attend this march, which may well turn out to be the largest march of this community since the New Cross Fire back in the 1980’s.

Organisers are using Saturday’s event as a platform to call for a wholesale reform into the way in which such deaths are handled. There have also been calls for a commitment from the highest levels of Government to ensure that those responsible for such deaths are brought to justice and the numbers of preventable deaths of people in custody are reduced.

Since the death of David Oluwale, in 1969, no officer has ever been convicted of a death of a person in custody.

Latest figures show that there have been on average over 500 deaths a year of people while in the custody of the state. Health campaigners note with concern that 62% of these deaths have been of people detained under the Mental Health Act. This was highlighted by recent tragic death of Kingsley Burrell Brown, who sadly lost his life after he was restrained by police officers, while he was detained under the Mental Health Act.

‘The frequency of these disturbing events has made this an issue of national concern across the community. We stand in support of the organisers of this march and all families who have lost their loved ones in this way. Now is the time for wholesale reform in this area, if we do not want to see similar tragedies of this kind occur again,’ Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK said.

‘With this march being supported by many sections of the church it will put into peoples mind the importance of life and addressing the issue of deaths in custody. We can’t stand idly by when these incidences happen, something must be done, and one of the ways in which we can bring this issue to the attention of those who determine policy to come out in large numbers and express ourselves in a peaceful non threatening way. It shows that the silent majority can do something,’ Archdeacon Daniel Kajumba chair of the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) said.

‘Justice has eluded the black community in this respect for many years. It’s high time for the officers responsible together with the system that has protected be brought to justice. Something is desperately wrong when the system that is designed to protect vulnerable people end up being responsible for their deaths. Nothing short of a public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding these untimely deaths in custody will satisfy the growing mistrust between the community and the police,’ Bishop Llewellyn Graham National PR Director Church of God of Prophecy.

‘This is both a policy and accountability issue, we need to see a commitment for change in this area at the highest level. This is of particular concern because of the numbers of mental health service users who come in contact with the police. It is not right that someone is taken into custody and their family should fear for their lives.
There needs to be a detailed investigation that identifies and exposes wherever there has been foul play in both these cases so that this issue can be addressed appropriately, ‘Pastor Ade Omooba co-founder Christian Concern and Christian Victory Group said.

‘We stand with the families at this time and hope that Saturday’s march will be a catalyst for change so that this issue is taken up at the highest levels in Government. We need to see a commitment bring about lasting change, so that that these lives would not have been lost in vain,’ Pastor Desmond Hall, chair of Christians Together in Brent said.

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