It’s amazing, isn’t it?
School leavers at the age of sixteen finalise their gruelling last two years of mandatory education with GCSEs, the examinations for which require a regurgitation of Pythagoras’ theorem, an in-depth understanding of chloroplasts and photosynthesis, a comprehensive understanding of the differences between ancient religious ideologies and of course, for those that undertook the Physical Education GCSE; how to throw a javelin.
Yet, such young minds, regardless of how bright or dim-witted they are, leave school, absent of any information about the very tenets by which they are expected to lead their lives; the very why and what it means for them to be in a society governed by often bizarre laws, how to vote, how to access social-welfare, how to access their fundamental rights as citizens, what their rights are if the state decides to deprive them of their rights to liberty and freedom…
…and of course, why it’s justifiable for them to feel enraged at the fact they’re unlikely ever to access the property ladder nor free university education, legal aid in times of hardship, access to free-movement guarantees offered under membership of the European Union, safety and job security nor any of the other myriad of privileges previously relished by the very politicians and commentators that have quite blatantly… robbed the next generation of their futures.
And it’s now, more than ever, that the fundamental importance of caring really matters.
Like most, I left school oblivious to the world of politics and society around me. Ultimately, why would I care about something that didn’t really have a bearing on my life? And of course, why would you care either?
…Well, notwithstanding the fact that law, politics and justice governs every little aspect of your life from even before you were born to well after you die… with an imminent departure from the European Union risking the introduction of chlorinated chicken to our supermarket shelves on top of a deep recession; risks of fundamental changes to our relationship with Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (which, FYI…has NOTHING to do with the European Union) by a government determined to scrap the ‘Ewman rights act’; strip-down of legal aid rendering your access to justice virtually impossible; disastrous cuts to our social welfare system; unemployment looming upon millions through a failure by government to appropriately tackle the worst pandemic seen in our generation…and a cabinet of narcissistic, bigoted ignoramuses running everything from education to health and immigration to environment…
… it’s now, more than ever, that we need to equip ourselves with the knowledge on how to navigate a world where Donald Trump’s opinions on climate change hold the same weight as David Attenborough’s facts…. where wool is pulled over our eyes and our rights stripped away without us even realising.
My first meeting with injustice and why I care so deeply about it
In 2009, I found myself subjected to monstrously false allegations of harassment. Metropolitan Police officers, unlawfully (as it later transpired), entered my home, handcuffed me and deprived me of my liberty for perhaps the darkest eight hours of my lived memory.
Deterred from seeking a solicitor on the advice of the custody sergeant that “it’ll be a while before you get one”, despite establishing my innocence during interview and the police quickly establishing that no crime was committed thus no charge may follow, I was still, nevertheless, handed a ‘Harassment Warning Notice’ (and oh boy do I have a lot to say about these… stay tuned).
For the police officers that day, this was probably just “another arrest”.
For me, it was the beginning of a snowball turning into an avalanche of life-altering devastation, heartache, injustice and even a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress.
Forward 3 years
In 2012, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse and harassment with threats of violence. I reported this to the police as a last resort and with nowhere left to go. The officer dealt with the situation and I opted to not support pressing charges against the perpetrator on the understanding that their communication with me seizes immediately.
However, four days later… I found myself in a situation whereby four mistaken Metropolitan Police Officers, unlawfully (as admitted by the Met themselves, years later) entered my home again, pushed me to the ground, deployed eye-shattering CS gas on my face and brutally handcuffed and dragged me with an audience of onlooking neighbours to a police van and to a station where I was held for nine painful, horrific dark hours.
Of course, I wasn’t charged.
And of course, this time, I learnt from my past mistakes and insisted upon the services of a duty-solicitor, who – by the way… did not take ‘hours’ to come to my aid as suggested would be the case by the custody sergeant in 2009.
And yes… the duty-solicitor advised that I “don’t let this go”
And from the ashes, a fire was woken.
After the incidents of that day, I was armed with nothing but tears that wouldn’t even surface, sorrow in my heart and a deep sense of darkness within me.
I didn’t want to socialise with friends, go to the gym, nor do any of the things that made me “me”. I wanted to stay in my own little bubble and avoid any conversation of what happened, letting days, weeks and months pass-by with a growing sense of hate towards the police.
Every time I saw a police officer, I felt a sense of indescribable anger. The sight of blue lights (even to date) raises my pulse and places within my mind images I wish I could forget. The memories of sitting hopelessly in a tiny cell watching the hours tick by and my feelings of injustice raining painfully down on me… have still – not left me.
Yet, something did happen that after that dark, miserable day. That something, as I have tattooed upon my arm now…was the woken fire within me.
It was the turning-point in my life, where I had enough of feeling hopeless and felt a deep desire to do something about my ordeal.
Fortunately, for me, I came across an action against police solicitor, who I now consider a friend. Terence Channer, an award-winning solicitor heard of my ordeal after I shared a post on Twitter.
A few days later, only after meeting with Terence, did it become clear to me just how badly I was violated by the Metropolitan Police Service. To top it off – severely lied to and misled about my rights too.
Cutting a long story short, two years after the second incident, a settlement was agreed with the Metropolitan Police Service for unlawful entry into my home (on two occasions), unlawful arrest (on two occasions), assault (deploying of CS gas and the use of handcuffs on two occasions) and a breach of my fundamental rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 3 and 8).
I received a five-figure sum of compensation, an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service as well as a promise to remove all data held by the police pertaining to both arrests.
Yet; had the police accepted responsibility and owned up to their mistakes and apologised at first instance, compensation isn’t something I had even considered.
It was the continued callousness, incompetence and stubborn attitude of officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards that resulted in lengthy litigation.
I wasn’t after money… I was after an apology – an acknowledgement that what happened on both occasions was totally wrong and unlawful and that the same thing won’t happen to others.
Only when lawyers representing the police became involved did the police decide
“yes, we messed up, bad”.
and only then, did I realise too… that even with compensation, nothing takes away the pain of those two separate days in hell.
And so, going back to it.
Had I found myself in the centre of a triangle with a need to identify the degree of angles, etc… great – my education served me well.
Yet, no… It wasn’t the above, nor was it an emergency situation whereby I needed to make a wooden model with a lightbulb and battery on it.
It was the very real situation of finding myself in a situation whereby state actors infringed my civil liberties and deprived me of all that makes me human, yet…having no idea what to do about it. In fact, even beginning to believe the justification of senior Police Inspectors of the ‘rightfulness’ and ‘necessity’ of their actions.
The pay-out I received from suing the police went towards funding my master’s education in Human Rights. Later, I went on to joining the police (that…is for another post). It is only though the journey of (by complete chance), finding Terence, studying and passionately researching…that I opened my eyes to the horrors around us.
… the horrors of injustice, of inequality, of violations of dignity…
by the very actors we so sheepishly nod along to their rhetoric of and so willingly forgive the fact… any one of us can be the next story of injustice.
Welcome to my blog…
Image source: GVSU