No justice for racial abuse victims in UK
Reeta Sharma

BY now it is well-known that racial assaults and violence, at times culminating in deaths, are increasingly becoming common in the West. But how are the various governments handling the cases in which the bubbling lives are snuffed out?

The following are the two cases from England. They are progressing at a snail's pace. The first relates to Lakhvinder Ricky Reel. Ricky and his three friends were racially abused and attacked by White boys in Kingston, West London, on October 14, 1977, night. Fearing for their lives, they fled the scene of the incident.

By the time Ricky's family realised that their son was missing along with his friends, it was already midnight. Ricky's family discovered that their son was racially abused. They immediately reported the matter to the police. But, according to the family, the police took no effective action.

The family, on its own, spent the first week organising search parties, besides speaking to witnesses. They videotaped everything to provide evidence to help the police investigate, but in vain. Finally, at the end of the week, Ricky's body was recovered from a river close to the place where the assault had taken place. Despite vital video and circumstantial evidence, the British police had, within minutes of the discovery of the body, concluded that he had accidentally fallen into the river Thames while trying to urinate.

However, this theory was questioned by Dr Freddie Patel from the Department of Forensic Medicine at Guys Hospital, London. The doctor had found grievous injuries on the back of the body caused with a blunt impact against a hard surface. The doctor had further pointed out that the body, in all probability, was thrown into the Thames on its back. If Ricky had slipped while urinating, he should have fallen on his belly, asserts the family.

Disillusioned with the police investigation, the case was taken over by a voluntary organisation, "Race and Violent Crime Task Force", in late 1998.

Meanwhile, Ricky's family lodged a complaint against the poor response of the police. This was undertaken by the Surry Constabulary and supervised by the Police Complaints Authority. It completed its report in 1998 and by early 1999 it was released to the family and their solicitor on the condition that they will not disclose the details to the public.

In November 1999, the inquest into Ricky's death began at Fulham Town Hall. It came as a rude shock to the Ricky family that the police once again declared Ricky's death as an accident. However, the jury did not agree with the police. But for Ricky's parents and voluntary organisations the racial murder of Lakhvinder Ricky would have been closed as an accident long ago. The case is still on and the family is clinging to the hope that one day murderers of their son would be put behind the bars.

In the second case the entire social set-up did not hesitate to target an innocent person who was first victimised and then held guilty. This case relates to another Asian, Satpal Ram. One evening, in 1986, in Birmingham, when he was having a quiet meal in a restaurant, he and his friends faced racial assault. Six drunken White men began hurling abuses trying to provoke Satpal and his friends.

When they failed to do so, they began shouting at the owner of the restaurant, "We do not want any more of your **** Paki music". They began bashing Satpal and his friends. One of the White men, Clarke Pierce, smashed a glass on the table and hit Satpal with it twice across his cheek and shoulder. At this juncture, Satpal retaliated in self-defence. The fight stopped only when Clarke himself was injured.

According to the evidence put before the court, Pierce went to hospital but was very abusive to the medical staff and he pulled out his drips, saying he did not want to be treated by a woman doctor. He discharged himself and went home, where he later died.

But Satpal Ram was made to pay for Clarke's folly of not getting himself treated. The case was built-up and handled with vengeance. Satpal was charged with the murder of Clarke. Even his barrister changed the plea from self-defence to provocation. Intriguingly, he also did not bring out the details before the court as to what had happened in the restaurant.

The National Civil Rights Movement (NCRM) that eventually began fighting for Satpal Ram has put on record that most of the evidence that was heard in the court came only from friends of Clarke. "Unsurprisingly, the all-White Jury convicted Satpal of murder within about half-an-hour of hearing. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but continues behind the bars today even after 13 years", revealed Suresh Grover, a solicitor, who voluntarily works for the NCRM.

The agonising plight of Satpal did not end here. He faced racial abuse and assault even inside the prison, solely because he chose to challenge his conviction. The racial authorities within the prison not only continued to beat him but also allegedly starved him. He was repeatedly strip-searched and put in solitary confinement. He was denied bedding many a times. As per medical reports, he has progressively lost weight.

Ironically, when Satpal complained about the racial abuse within the prison the authorities retaliated by putting him up on a disciplinary charge for attacking prison officers. Meanwhile, NCRM, along with Satpal, are still fighting this long-drawn battle.

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