4WardEver. A site for Mikey Powell and others who have died in custody
From Tippa Naphtali
Stand Up For Your Rights
4WardEver UK was developed as an off-shoot of The Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice. The Friends of Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice was established by the family of Michael Lloyd Powell (known as Mikey), a cousin of the renowned poet and writer, Benjamin Zephaniah, following his death whilst in Police custody. Mikey was 38 years old and a father of three young children.
4WardEver exists to provide information and resources on families that have lost loved ones and suffered injustice, and supports the call for reform within police, penal and mental health institutions in the UK and internationally.
In a very short time after Mikey Powell’s death, his family met with other affected families who, like them, had no voice on the worldwide web; and what began as a basic website focussed on Mikey’s case gradually developed into something much more comprehensive. The site developed to have a broader focus than its original theme, and it was decided that a new site would branch off independently, and be called 4WardEver.
The website has now become a widely used reference and information resource for many families, their friends, supporters and campaign groups. 4WardEver also provides other online resources, is involved in the organisation and participation of events for justice, and direct support of families through a West Midlands based sister organisation, the Family Advisory Support Trust; and a free website development service for affected families and friends called The Family Web Pages Collective.
Why we feel passionately about custody deaths:
Between 1969 and 1999 over one thousand people died in police custody alone, not counting deaths in prison and psychiatric institutions. No one has ever been convicted for any of these deaths.
In October 2004 the then Home Office Minister, Hazel Blears commenting on a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) report noting a reduction in such deaths said, “There was an encouraging reduction in the number of deaths of people from minority ethnic communities from 22 in 2002/03 to 10 in 2003/04.
She went on to say; “The PCA report found that while there are grounds for concern about some aspects surrounding the general treatment of detainees, there is little evidence that this concern can be attributed to racist attitudes or behaviour.”
These words however, were of little comfort to the dozens of families who have lost relatives in these circumstances.
Chair of the Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice and founder of 4WardEver UK, Tippa Naphtali, gave the following response to Hazel Blears’ statement.
“We have concerns regarding the current Home Office definition of custody deaths, which presently includes any death where the deceased came into contact with the police, (heart attacks in cells, collisions with police vehicles responding to emergencies etc) even if only for a short period.
Campaigners have long called for a clear definition of the sorts of suspicious or violent deaths in custody as in the case of Mikey Powell, Christopher Alder, Jean Charles de Menezes and others. Until this is addressed, whatever figures are presented will be far too wide to give accurate details on particular types of violent custody deaths or those caused through neglect”
“It is stated that deaths decreased in 2003/04; but whether 22 or 10 deaths, this is still unacceptable. We must remember that for each of those 10 deaths there are 10 families that have lost loved ones in extremely traumatic circumstances, and who are up against the might and experience of top police legal representation, and Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decisions, which have come out in favour of the police, prisons and other institutions consistently over many years.”
“Families have also had to contend with an unwillingness to get their legal costs covered, graphically demonstrated recently in the Roger Sylvester case.”
“The PCA was disbanded because of concerns about its ability to be independent, and many campaigners therefore will give little weight to their findings on racism within the police, and how race influences the course of investigations into custody deaths. For example, Black people are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people. Black men are also disproportionately over-represented in the prison population compared to white men; and a previous commander of the Metropolitan Police's anti-racist unit said the force remained institutionally racist, despite a "sea-change" in its attitudes and behaviour.”
“Exposures in the Christopher Alder case, the TV documentary’s ‘Death on Camera’ and ‘The Secret Policeman’ and of course the well documented findings of the MacPherson Report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence; all beg to differ with the view adopted by the PCA and other official Government bodies. One only has to type ‘deaths in custody’ in any Internet search engine to see the breadth of concern about this issue in Britain today.”
“News that The Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Centre for Policing Excellence (now called The National Policing Improvement Agency) have set up a project group doesn’t particularly excite us. We have been flooded with reports and empty promises for years, and still progress is taking place at snails pace. Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the subsequent Inquiry rocked the legal system in this country like no other before it, and yet we continue to see racism (and an unwillingness to recognise it) within the police and most other major institutions in the country.”
Much more interaction with campaign groups, national agencies (such as INQUEST), and citizens at community level needs to be done in order to seek genuine solutions and restore confidence in a system that is perceived to have failed victims and their families time and time again. Without meaningful engagement with real people on the ground, rooted to communities, there will be no real progress.”
4WardEver is dedicated to the memory of Mikey Powell, and continues to work with Mikey’s and many other families and campaign groups across the country and abroad in giving exposure to their issues and causes.
Funds are raised to support our work through donations from families and friends, some of 4WardEver's services, Tippa Naphtali's personal investments, and through part of the proceeds from a partner agency, First Stop Web Design.
4WardEver maintains its website and services to provide profiles, news, event details, resources and useful information, appeals, and photo galleries in relation to deaths in custody and other injustices.
Larry Fedja, a volunteer, said: “We want to ensure that our site can be a useful resource to a range of individuals, groups and organisations that are seeking to influence reform and provide assistance to affected families, supporters and friends both in the UK and abroad. “We also organise a series of film screenings of INJUSTICE and others, music, arts and other events in conjunction with campaign and reform groups from home and abroad.”
Founder – 4WardEver
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
Posted by John Tyrrell at January 31, 2008 8:27 PM