Father’s Day Vigil - Sunday 17th June
This Sunday, many families across the country will gather together to celebrate Father’s Day. I myself, will be seeing my father, who undoubtedly holds a cherished place in my heart, but whilst I celebrate the valuable role my father has in my life, there are many other families who will be gathering to remember the life of a loved one, ripped from their lives Taking place around the country on the same date and at the same time, a number of peaceful vigils will be held in remembrance of fathers that have died in various forms of state custody.
The vigils were initially triggered by the family of Wayne Hamilton from Sheffield. Hamilton, aged 24, was found dead in a Sheffield canal on 16th June 2010. He had been reported missing by his worried family on 11th June when a friend rang them to say the last time he had seen Wayne he was running off with police officers chasing him.
A number of campaigns and family groupings in other cities have replicated the use of a Father’s Day event to remember those that have died in various forms of custody in the United Kingdom and as a show of national solidarity.
Saqib Deshmukh, from Justice for Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah said;
"We have joined other campaigns that are marking Father's Day so people can understand what impact a death in custody can have on families and in particular children. Habib's own children and in particular his oldest daughter have been active in the campaign and we have worked hard to make sure that they are involved and they get the answers to why he died and see justice being done.”
Supported by The United Families & Friends Campaign, a national coalition of families affected by deaths in police, prison, psychiatric and immigration custody or detention, the peaceful vigils will be taking place on Sunday 17th June between 12noon to 3pm in Manchester, Birmingham, Central London, Brixton, Tottenham, Sheffield, Slough, High Wycombe and a number of other locations across the country.
The vigils have been organised after nearly 6000 deaths in state custody from 2000 to 2010 as reported by the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody. This is an average of 545 deaths per year. Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution.
Sheila Sylvester, Mother of Roger Sylvester said;
"I am surprised to know that the police and the state are still killing people! Change was supposed to come since Roger's death, but in the past 12 years nothing has really changed. The system should be ashamed of itself! You have to have a lot of money to fight these cases, but all you get is an Inquest, and nothing comes out of an Inquest."
Campaigners are demanding justice for those who have died in police and other custody joined forces calling for major changes in the criminal justice system. They are demanding a replacement of the Independent Police Complaints Commission with a body genuinely independent of the police, and the suspension of officers involved in deaths in custody for the duration of any investigation.
Other demands include automatic prosecutions of officers following unlawful killing verdicts and the right to non-means tested legal aid for the families of those who die.
For more information about the peaceful vigils and to get involved in the campaign visit United Families & Friends Campaign.