Justice for Joseph

In November 2014 Joseph Brown-Lartey was killed tragically in Rochdale when a dangerous driver sped through a red light and smashed into his car, splitting it in two.  The 18-year-old driver was driving unlicensed, uninsured and had bragged only 24 hours earlier to friends that he was doing 124mph from Leeds to Rochdale.                      

The driver was sentenced to six years in prison but will serve only three, in a young offenders’ institution. Joseph’s parents describe this a “further slap in the face” and the Attorney General was asked to review the sentence on the grounds of being unduly lenient, yet no action was taken as it fell within current guidelines.

Aim:

Joseph’s parents, together with Key-103 Radio’s Michelle Livesey, have launched the Justice for Joseph Campaign, campaigning for tougher sentences on road crimesto stop any more families going through further pain and suffering as well as preventing further road crimes by raising awareness across communities.

Strategies:

The campaign’s main objective to achieve this aim is to get the Government to review the sentencing guidelines for all road crimes and have worked with MPs Greg Mulholland and Liz McInnes to lobby the Government in Parliament. In January 2016 they submitted the Criminal Driving Bill to Parliament which would make the following changes:

  • Strengthen penalties relating to serious criminal driving offences that lead to serious injury or death.
  • Redefine such offences and amend bail conditions for those charged with them.
  • Enhance the standards of police and court investigations.
  • Improve treatment of victims and their families within the justice system.

The campaign has also been working with Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd to call on other commissioners across the UK to back to campaign and has received backing by international law firm Slater and Gordon.In other areas the campaign has launched a petition to call for this review and has worked with road safety campaign BRAKEand community organisations such as the supporters club of Manchester City FC, Joseph’s team, to share this on social media.

Most recent developments:

In March 2016 this petition reached over 20,000 and was delivered to Downing Street, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron agreed to look at the case but has since resigned after the EU Referendum. The campaign has since kept up its pressure by working together with BRAKE to parade the wreckage of the car that Joseph died in past Parliament and at road safety events across the North West.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI):

WASPI are a campaign group that is fighting the injustice against women born in the 1950s (on or after April 6th 1951) from unfair way their state pension ages have been changed by the Government. The Conservative Government in 1995 passed the Pension Act which increased women’s state pension age to 65 in line with men’s. WASPI agrees with equalisation but not with the unfair way which these changes have been implemented, including little or no direct notice given to these women and the changes being implemented faster than promised, as a result of the Coalition Government’s 2011 Pension Act. Thishas left no time for alternative plans to be made,as may women until the 1990s were unable to join company pension schemes, leading to financial hardship and retirement plans shattered.

In particular, the campaign highlights that these changes can mean women born just one year apart can have 3 years’ difference in when they receive their state pension. Furthermore, women were given as little as one year’s notice of up to a six-year increase to their state pension age, compared to men who received six years notice of a one year rise to their state pension age. It is clear that whilst there now may be an equal state pension age between men and women, there is still massive inequality between men and women in the extent to which the state looks after them when they come to the end of their working years.

The campaign began in 2015 with five women affected who came together to fight against this injustice. In the short time since then the campaign has taken off with 37 active local organisations across the UK, over 40,000 likes on their Facebook page and 193,186 signatures on their Parliamentary Petition.

Aim:WASPI is campaigning for the Government to bring in fair transitional state pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s (on or after April 6th 1951), including paying reduced pension payments to those who’s state pension age has been increased.

Strategies:

The campaign has focused on direct political pressure to achieve its aim, setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group of MPs in Parliament and organising a high turnout and high profile demonstration in Westminster in June.

Most recent developments

The APPG’s chair, Barbara Keeley MP, has worked to put pressure on the Government in the House of Commonsalongside MPs from 6 different political parties, leading debates and successfully passing a motion calling for transitional arrangements for women affected by increases in the state pension age 158-0 in January 2016. WASPI campaigners also gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. The Government is not budging on this but the campaign is still fighting and gaining widespread coverage from the mainstream media. Current campaign actions include getting local councils to put pressure on the Government,organizing their national day of local action in September and getting members to write to the Department of Work and Pensions en masse to force the ombudsman to begin a formal complaints procedure against the department.

Remembering Srebrenica:

Srebrenica itself is a town in Bosnia Herzegovina and was one of the biggest Bosnian Muslim enclaves during the breakdown of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. During the Bosnian War in1995 it was the site ofa genocidal killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb Army and remains the single biggest atrocity committed in Europe since the Second World War.

In 1993 the United Nations Security Council declared the town an internationally protected “safe area” as Bosnian Serb forces were ready to over-run the enclave. UNSC promised to deploy UN peacekeepers to protect the people howevermember states were unwilling to send the numbers of peacekeepers required and Bosnian Serb forces were able to launch a successful offensive on the town in July 1995.

Over the next ten days, 8,000 Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica were killed.Thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys trying to escape faced blocked roads, ambushes, and Bosnian Serb forces pretending to be UN peacekeepers using stolen uniforms and vehicles to trick them into surrendering. The war in Bosnia ended in stalemate and US and NATO troops arrived in December 1995 to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement.

International justice has taken a long time but progress was made when in 2009 and 2011 Serbian Government finally found andarrested Bosnian Serb president Ratko Karadžić and Commander of the Bosnian Serb forces General Mladić,both responsible for the massacre, and handed them over to The Hague for trial. However, the Remembering Srebrenica campaign highlights that there is still more work to be done here. Stating that promises of allowing survivors to move back to Srebrenica and reverse Serb ethnic cleansing have been only partially fulfilled.

Bosnia Herzegovina is now peaceful but remains a state with political instability with its territory split into three autonomous regions based on the three sides in the conflict. Remembering Srebrenica notes that corruption is endemic and its constitution adopted as part of the Dayton Accords allows Bosnian Serb nationalists to veto efforts by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnia Croats to create a strong central government. Many young Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs are now leaving the country to look forbetter opportunities abroad and more Srebrenica survivors are currently believed to live in the US than in Srebrenica itself.

Aim:

Remembering Srebrenica is a UK charitable initiative, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and donations as well as supported by the Foreign Office. The campaign sees that what happened in Srebrenica was the result of hatred and intolerance that went unchallenged until it was too late. As a result, itorganises events and community outreach and educationprogrammes in orderstrengthen communities against hatred and discrimination by learning the lessons from what happened in Srebrenica.

Strategies:

The campaign enjoys a large amount of support from the Government and other organisations and does not appear to be struggling to make its voice heard, yet its objectives focus on encouraging grassroots community action and has developed a way to do this in three stages:

  1. REMEMBER the victims and survivors of the Srebrenica genocide;
  2. LEARN the lessons from Srebrenica, particularly that we must always be vigilant against hatred and intolerance in our communities; and
  3. PLEDGE to take action now to build better and safer communities for all.

These three stages in practice involve sending delegates from the UK to Srebrenica to learn about what happened, hear personal accounts from survivors and then return to the UK and pledge be ‘community champions’ who take action, sharing what they learned, to strengthen local communities against any discrimination and hatred they may face. Campaign action may include using the media to inform a wider audience of the impact of hatred and intolerance, promoting awareness of these issues through education typically in schools and universities, holding an event, such as a local talk, or organising a memorial day to mark the EU’s Srebrenica Memorial Day on the 11th July.

Most recent developments:

Aside from community outreach, the campaign has been doing a great deal of publicity work with the Government around the 21st Anniversary of the genocide, hosting events with the Foreign Office and receiving £1.2 million from the Governmentover 3 years. The now former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has also worked closely with the campaign in urging the Bosnian Government to deal with the backlog of cases from the genocide in its justice system and push ahead with reform of its justice sector in general.

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign:

It is well known across the trade union movement and former mining communities that Police forces across the UK were instrumental to Thatcher’s success in defeating the Miners Strike of 1984/85. No clearer was this seen than in the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in 1984. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign say that Orgreave was more of a rout and police riot than a battle, echoed by Michael Mansfield QC in 2012 stating “the police wanted to teach the miners a big lesson such that that they wouldn’t come out in force again.” The police responded to picket surges with over-use of force including mounted horse charges, severe beatings of picketers and ‘snatch squads’ to arrest them.

95 miners were arrested at Orgreave, 55 were charged with “riot”, an offence which at that time carried a potential life sentence, whilst a further 40 men were arrested the other side of Orgreave site and charged with the marginally less serious offence of “unlawful assembly”.The trial collapsed soon after it started and the prosecution abandoned the case as it became clear that many officers had had large parts of their statements dictated to them, and that many of them had lied in their accounts, claiming to have seen things they could not have seen, or that they had arrested someone they had not. There was though never any counter investigation into the conduct of the police for assaulting, wrongfully arresting and falsely prosecuting so many miners, nor for lying in evidence. Not a single officer faced disciplinary or criminal proceedings.The police then in 1990 paid miners paid nearly £500, 000 to 39 of the miners, without admitting that they had done anything wrong.

The 2014 National Union of Mineworkers’ analysis of the Cabinet Papers relating to the strike rightly point out that before the strikes the Thatcher Government’s planned to equip, train and prepare the police to the highest level in order to deal with violent picketing in any industrial disputes against their economic restructuring efforts. It also importantly notes that whilst the Home Secretary at the time’s Personal Files are still being withheld by the Government we cannot know for certain whether direct orders on tactics and the use of police forces were given by the Government.

However, the recently released Cabinet Papers show through numerous pieces of evidence that to satisfy Thatcher’s desire to have the police act like her own private army, the Government was at the very least responsible for undermining the constitutional independence of the police. They also, through pressure to arrest more striking miners, encouraged bad practices in the policing of pickets and prosecution of those arrested, leading to serious wrongdoing and injustices against miners by South Yorkshire Police that would feature again 5 years in the Hillsborough Disaster.

South Yorkshire Police and the link between Orgreave and the Hillsborough Disaster:

In May this year the Yorkshire Post reported that calls for an inquiry into Orgreave were growing as a redacted Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog report into police malpractice at Orgreave revealed that the same senior officers and solicitor were involved both in the aftermath of Orgreave and of the Hillsborough disaster in five years later in 1989. These senior officials were aware and kept secret the fact that their officers had committed serious injustices against the miners both during and after Orgreave. These included the fact that officers perjured themselves at the trial of Orgreave miners in 1984 and during the strike were told by unspecified officers not to write anything in their notebooks which was an instruction also given out in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign notes that:

“Both cases involve strikingly similar attempts by the police to manipulate the evidence.After Orgreave junior officers have come forward and said that parts of their statements, supposedly their own personal recollection of events, were dictated to them by senior officers. Analysis of their statements shows that many do indeed contain lengthy identical passages – which cannot be a coincidence;In the Hillsborough Inquest many officers gave evidence that they were told not to write up their notebooks in the usual way, but instead to write undated statements on plain paper, which were then edited, often quite radically, by more senior officers and lawyers acting for the police.

Both cases [also] involve the police colluding with the media to portray a false picture of events and blame the innocent so as to conceal their own wrongdoing and failings.After Orgreave, encouraged by the police, the media unfairly vilified the miners for provoking the violence when in fact it was the police who instigated it;

After Hillsborough, egged on by the police, the media unfairly blamed the fans for the disaster, accusing them of being drunk, arriving late and trying to get into the match without tickets, an account which the Inquest jury has now roundly rejected.

In neither case has there been any proper accountability for what the police did wrong.”

Aim:The campaign calls for an independent inquiry into the policing of Orgreave and pressure the Home Office to release all remaining classified documents on policing and the Government’s role in policing practices at the picket. It also calls on the IPCC to release the full version of its report into the links between policing malpractice both at Orgreave and at the Hillsborough disaster.

Strategies:The campaign works to directly lobby the Government, in particular the Home Office to achieve its aims. This is coupled with an awareness raising campaign alongside the progression of the Hillsborough inquiry to highlight the link between Orgreave and the sporting disaster, this is helped by a great deal of support from the trade union movement.

Most recent developments: The Campaign submitted a dossier evidence to call for an independent inquiry to the Home Office in December 2015. At the time the Home Secretary was Theresa May and in March this year the Home Office stated she was considering the evidence and set out the Government’s position in due course. Of course political events have slowed progress somewhat as Theresa May successfully took part in the Conservative Party Leadership contest in July and has now given her rival Amber Rudd the position of Home Secretary. It was during this time that Government ministers said that the IPCC would delay any inquiry whilst the Hillsborough investigation remains ongoing, however Mrs Rudd backtracked on this claim in late July and stated that she would be looking over the case before meeting with the campaigners in September to make a decision.