Protest vigil: stop deaths in police custody

January 4, 2013 — News

Written by IRR News Team

Below we publish an edited version of an article that appeared in the Slough Times on a demonstration that took place at the end of December.

On a dark and cold winter evening protesters campaigning for justice for the two men who died in Thames Valley Police’s custody held a peaceful vigil outside Slough police.

On the first anniversary of the death, in Thames Valley Police custody, of 57-year-old Philmore Mills, father of four daughters, Philmore’s family and the family of 39-year-old Habib Ullah came together to hold a peaceful candlelit vigil outside the main police station in Windsor Road, Slough.

Philmore Mills died in police handcuffs on the floor of Ward 9 at the local NHS acute hospital Wexham Park. He was an ill in-patient needing an oxygen mask. He was not wanted by the police for anything.

© Slough Times

Habib Ullah, a father of one son and two daughters, was a passenger in a car stopped by Thames Valley Police in High Wycombe where he lived. Police directed the car into a company’s car park and then Habib Ullah died whilst being restrained by Thames Valley Police.

Rachel Gumbs, the eldest of four sisters, said: ‘Our family is determined to get justice for our father Philmore. We are campaigning for our family’s right to know exactly what happened and why it happened. Our dead father cannot tell us. We want to get to the truth. We are doing this for our family and for the whole community because what happened to our father affects us all. It can happen to anyone, at any time. We hope and expect the investigations into the death of our father in police custody will be conducted fully and fearlessly. Ultimately we seek complete transparency and accountability. Our father died more than a year ago and this long wait for answers is agonising.’

Solicitor for the Philmore Mills family, Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose, a prominent criminal justice and human rights specialist told the Slough Times: ’For any family to have to face the news that their loved one has died after restraint by the police is devastating, but for it to happen in a hospital setting is very hard for them to comprehend. The delay in bereaved families getting information from the investigators breeds suspicion and mistrust. The family hopes that all investigations into how Mr Mills died will be truly robust and that they will get the answers that they need as soon as possible.’

Saqib Deshmukh (© Slough Times)

Saqib Deshmukh, a longstanding friend of Habib Ullah’s family and a leading Justice for Paps campaigner spoke eloquently about the need for accountability and justice. He also said, ‘People from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean did not come to England to bury their own children because they would die in police custody.’

Habib Ullah’s children scared of the police

Habib Ullah's family (© Slough Times)

The family told the Slough Times: ’Habib’s children miss their Dad a lot. Their father’s death has made them scared of the police, especially Amir, aged 6, and Natasha aged 8. The children get frightened when they hear a police siren or see a police vehicle. They think the police will come and hurt them like the police hurt their father. Habib’s family miss him most days especially his son Amir who used to play football with him. Birthdays and special religious days are very difficult and emotional times. Habib’s mother’s, Hamida, health has deteriorated since his death. She has suffered very greatly. She never ever expected she would have to bury her own son. Habib’s widow Musarat is distraught much of the time. She is unable to understand why people in police custody keep dying, why the police always investigate the police and why the whole family and their friends have waited four and a half years for decisive action from the British authorities. At the aborted inquest … the distressing details … were incredibly horrible to hear. We cried a lot. Our tremendous grief continues to this day. Someone must be responsible. We want prompt action but instead we are unjustifiably forced to wait year after year after year for what is supposed to be British Justice. What happened to Habib is plainly not right and neither is the four and a half years of perpetual waiting. The whole system is wrong.  We ask for public support to end all deaths in police custody, now and forever. No more families should ever have to experience this absolutely dreadful nightmare. It is inhuman and degrading for the victims’ family and friends. People must be protected from police violence. Citizens have a Human Right to Life – that should always be respected by those paid to uphold the law.’

Related links

Read the story in full: Slough Times

Justice for Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah on Facebook

Justice for Philimore Mills on Facebook

Justice for Paps

Read an IRR News story: ‘Sudden about turn in Habib Ullah case

Thanks to the Slough Times for allowing us to republish this article.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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