Stoke Newington Police Terrorism in the 1980's
A nightmare revisited
(Copied from: The Radical History of Hackney)
On January 1st 1987 a young black man, Trevor Monerville, was arrested and held incommunicado in Stoke Newington police station. On January 8th he had emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot from the surface of the brain. The Family and Friends of Trevor Monerville was set up to campaign in support of justice for Trevor.
On June 25th 1987, Tunay Hassan died in custody at Dalston police station. His family and friends set up the Justice for Tunay Campaign. On November 5th, Gary Stretch was viciously assaulted by seven off duty City Road police officers. Gary and his family have strenuously campaigned for justice.
In response to the number of allegations made against Hackney and Stoke Newington police officers, Hackney Community Defence Association (HCDA) was set up on July 2nd 1988. The Trevor Monerville and Justice for Tunay campaigns and Hackney Anti Fascist Action formed the organisation with the aim of providing the victims of police crime with a campaigning voice.
3. HUGH PRINCE
I was born in Jamaica on October 7th 1955. In 1967, at the age of 12, I came to Britain with my family. We lived in the Archway area of North London where I went to school. After I left school I worked as a welder in South London. When I got made redundant, I couldn’t get another job down there, so I moved to Edmonton in the late seventies, and then I moved to Hackney in the early eighties. I don’t think I will ever find work, wherever I go it is the same thing. Nobody has a job to give me. My present trade is making bread, and I’m doing evening classes in catering. I want to set up my own business, a bakery, if I get the opportunity. It was in 1986, in the dumplings cafe on Sandringham Road, when I first experienced the police planting drugs on people. I was downstairs playing pool when I heard people stumbling down the stairs. There were police officers all over the place. It was a drugs raid. One of the officers brought a bag of weed downstairs with £50 in and said it was mine. They took me to Stoke Newington police station and I had to return after 28 days. When I went back I was told that the officer was no longer there and nothing more came of it. Sandringham Road – The Line
I used to go down The Line a lot. I used to go to the Roots Pool Community centre. I never had much to do with the police, I never got involved with what was going on. I went there because I knew the people; it was somewhere you could sit and play a game of dominoes or a game of cards. I knew what was going on out on the street, but I didn’t want to get involved, it was nothing to do with me. I have no time for hard drugs and I just kept out of the way. One day, in the summer of ’89 I was attacked by a man with a knife and he was arrested. I believe in law and order, and agreed to testify against the man in court. One afternoon, about a month later, I was sitting on a wall in Sandringham Road, talking to a man and a woman. A hire van pulled up and about eight men jumped out. They were wearing drug squad “uniforms”, leather jackets, jeans and trainers. They grabbed me and took me into the van and made me take off all my clothes. One of the police officers was Sergeant Gerry Carroll. He was well known in the area as “Gerry”.
In the police station they made me take my clothes off again. I asked them what they were looking for and they told me somebody had ‘phoned to say I was selling drugs. I told them I didn’t sell drugs. After they had finished searching my clothes Carroll said to me, “You can go now, but I’m going to get you.”
Everybody knew that drug dealing went on in Sandringham Road. It was common knowledge that police officers took money and drugs from dealers. They would pocket the money and supply the drugs to other dealers. The Line is riddled with what we call “informers”, people who work for the police. It was as if the only people who were safe were the dealers, because, one way or the other, they were useful to the police. Anybody who was in the police’s way would be arrested. Innocent people who just happened to be in the area were planted with drugs to make it look as if the police were doing their job. The officers involved in these atrocities can do this because they are not accountable to anybody. They cover up their crimes by picking on the weak – unemployed and uneducated people who do not have any knowledge of the law. There are no rights for black people, and if you are poor it is worse; as far as the law is concerned you have no place in society. You are a dog; when they kick you, you move.
If this planting of people, abusing people, and beating up people continues, there will be a complete breakdown in law and order. Most of the people in prison who have been planted with cocaine have children on the street who are growing up. Sooner or later the officers who planted their fathers and mothers will come and plant them with cocaine too. Nobody in Hackney trusts the police – young, old, middle aged, they don’t trust them anymore because of what they are doing. There’s a lot of poor white people living in Hackney, and they are also suffering these atrocities, but they can’t do anything about it because they are poor. One August night in 1990 I went to Chester’s nightclub in Stoke Newington with a friend to celebrate a big win I’d had on the horses. At the time, I hadn’t been going out much because of the knifing incident and I believed there was a conspiracy against me. The case had still not been heard in court over one year later and I was nervous about leaving my yard. After we’d been in the club for about an hour, there was a drugs raid. One of the police officers decided that my friend was an illegal immigrant and he wanted to check him out. He had been living in this country for 20 years, but they arrested him because of his strong Jamaican accent. Another friend agreed to give me a lift to see his girlfriend so I could tell her what had happened, and I waited for him in a shebeen round the corner.While I was waiting, I hadn’t even ordered a drink, the police raided there as well. An officer ordered me to go into an empty and unlit room to be searched. I got suspicious of this; everybody else had been searched in the open, why did they want to search me in a dark room? When I refused, he took his handcuffs out and another officer came over and threatened me with a sledgehammer. They very quickly dragged me out of the building. Out on the street I saw Sergeant Carroll who looked to be in command. The officer who had arrested me shouted out, “Gerry, come here” and he took my cigarette packet out of my shirt pocket and walked over to Carroll. When he came back he told me to get into a police van. And then, like a big school kid, he pretended I couldn’t see him fiddling behind his back with my cigarette packet, but he knew I could see. Later, in front of the desk sergeant at Stoke Newington police station, he pulled some cling film out of my cigarette packet with a small piece of silver paper inside it. He laughed and said to the sergeant, “They get £25 for one of these”, and the sergeant smiled.
I was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to supply and held on remand for one week in Pentonville Prison while my surety was arranged. While I was on bail I was called to give evidence against the knifeman. Nothing had happened with the case for 14 months, but as soon as I was arrested it was dealt with in a matter of weeks. It was mentioned in court that I was facing a serious drugs charge, and although the man was convicted of grievous bodily harm he was only sentenced to two months in prison.
They reduced the charge against me to possession of crack cocaine and I was found guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court just before Christmas in 1990. I was sentenced to two months in prison and released from Pentonville on January 18th 1991. I don’t know for sure why they planted drugs on me. I suspect there was a conspiracy against me because of the incident with the knifeman. But I don’t know why he attacked me; I don’t know if he was involved with drugs; and I don’t know if he was an informer. I don’t really understand how the informer system works.
The police who did this to me were not upholding the law. I can only describe them as Gestapo types and the whole incident compares to the way in which Hitler treated the Jews. For nearly a year after my release from prison I hardly left my home. I was frightened of being planted with drugs again. It wasn’t until I heard that Carroll had shot himself that I felt it was safe to go out.
The drugs problem has to be looked at simply, logically. The unemployment crisis is a major cause of the problem. Many people who have been unable to find work have turned to hustling in one form or another to make a living, including supplying drugs. People use drugs in order to escape from their problems, especially unemployment and poverty, and because of the addictiveness of hard drugs there is a demand. There is a market for drugs because there is a demand for them and corrupt police officers are controlling the supply, not by policing the market, as they should be, but by exploiting it.
4. RENNIE KINGSLEY
I was born in Jamaica on January 28th, 1947. Like most people from the West Indies, I was brain washed into believing that England was a marvellous place. The photographs we saw were nice and fancy, we didn’t see the bird shit on the Houses of Parliament or anything like that. In Jamaica we were taught to respect strangers, we were taught to look after them because they didn’t know their way around. When we came to England it was the opposite. I was 15 when I came here, in 1962, during the Teddy Boy days.
I went to day school, and to night classes five evenings a week. After my mother found out that I had taken a couple of nights off she sent me to stay with my father. My father wasn’t an educated person and he didn’t particularly care for me to receive an education. He thought I should go to work and earn my living the same way as he had to. So I ended up working on the assembly line at Fords for nearly five years.
During the 1976 Notting Hill riots a lot of innocent people who I knew were not involved in drugs were arrested. The police even conspired to tell lies against my cousin, who I shared a flat with. The man didn’t smoke and he only drank indoors, but they arrested him. He was lucky, he got off because he was working and his employers went to court as character witnesses.
I was aware of police corruption, but I thought they only fitted up people who were involved, not the totally innocent. It is like catching spratts in a net for them. It is enough that you are there to be caught, and not many of us have good character witnesses, like my cousin. In 1982 I went back to Jamaica. I had reached a certain age, 35, and was coming to terms with my past and preparing for my future. After 21 years in England I was going back to look at boyhood dreams. I was going back to the land my father sold to come to this country. The land, which, as I’m the only son, would have been mine. I realised Jamaica was a land of paradise, but it needed money. Equally, I realised that Jamaican money had no value outside of Jamaica. It would be silly for me to go back to Jamaica, to live in paradise without money. Before I went to Jamaica, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, on my return I felt I didn’t have the ability to do anything about it because I wasn’t educated. I was caught in many ways. I couldn’t buy my father’s land, I couldn’t replace it, and, in England, black people are treated like shit. Never mind if you have a trade or you are educated, it doesn’t make a whole heap of difference.
I came back from Jamaica inspired with great ideas to change my life and do something positive. My mind turned to housing, that basic necessity which everybody needs. When I first came to England, black people couldn’t get council houses, and then we ended up in all the shitty houses and the tower blocks, all the homes white people were not prepared to live in. In the early eighties, Hackney Council were giving black people hard to rent properties. I worked to set up a community project which provided housing for homeless black people, particularly ex-offenders. My reasoning was that there are all sorts of rehabilitation schemes for white people, but none for black people. Quite often we didn’t even have a home to go to when released from prison.
I was ambitious. I intended to gain experience in managing properties and to eventually register the project as a Housing Association. I dreamt that if I ever went back to Jamaica I could set up something similar there and organise exchange visits. I was determined to teach myself the skills to better myself and to work for the betterment of the black community. In late 1989 one of the project’s tenants offered me a partnership in an illegal drinking club. I learned that he was an informer who was paying police officers not to raid the club. On principle I didn’t want anything to do with the proposal, and I distanced myself from the man. He took my decision personally and started to make my position difficult at home and at work. I was concerned that police officers were behind all this and in early 1990 I reported the matter to Scotland Yard. I thought if I made a complaint the situation could be resolved. I was surprised that Scotland Yard referred me to the Chief Superintendent at Stoke Newington, and my next contact with the police was when they raided my home and planted me with cocaine and LSD.
When they knocked down my door I thought the worst; gunmen are breaking in; somebody is going to be killed; something very wrong is going on; this can’t be happening because this is my place; I’ve no grievances with anybody; I haven’t done anything wrong. This can’t be happening. I saw people coming up the stairs in suits and I thought: Mafia. It was like television, like something that happens in the United States. But this is not a dream, it is real and I am being handcuffed; people are going through my pockets; a piece of paper is produced and I am fitted up. Then a warrant card is produced and they take me to the police station. I complain to who is supposed to be in charge and he tells me that he will write it in the book.
In some ways I am glad that they fitted up so many people that the whole thing got out of hand. Otherwise nobody would bother to listen to me, nobody would believe me, I would be just another black criminal.
It hurts that they should have bothered to do this to me, a person who was not doing anything. The fear of what happened makes it worse. Every time I hear a noise, every time a car stops or something unusual happens, I think what are they going to do to me this time? It hurts that this happened to me, a black person living in a racist country. Over 50% of the people living in Hackney are “ethnic minorities” but the seven officers who raided my home were white, my prosecutors were white and even my so-called defence were all white, and, of course, the judge was white.
Justice. We are being misled, there will not be any justice. They will put something together which will hide the level of corruption, it will show that it does not go beyond street level. These people are not trying to find out the truth. They are more concerned about how many people know it is going on, than about how many officers are involved and how far up it goes. These drugs do not come from Africa or the West Indies, they come from Europe and the United States, and organised crime is responsible. Black people are not bringing these drugs into the country, we do not have the contacts to do that. Whether it is the police who are organising it, or not, black people are at the bottom. Black people are the users and the street level dealer. Even the night clubs where black people go, are not owned by black people. We are only licensed to manage, not to own, not to supply the drink. We can only get licenses if the same police agree for us to have them.
It is a conspiracy, and black people are forever being used. We cannot get jobs unless somebody employs us, and racism prevents us from setting up our own businesses. We will always be in the situation where we pay the same electricity bills, the same gas bills, and everything else, but we do not get the same wages. Black people are almost forced to do things to compensate. Those of us who do not, live in poverty. We cannot afford to maintain our kids and we are looked down on by other people because we are not smart enough, because we are not “making the effort.” I think of my kids, will I ever be able to do anything for them? Can I ensure that they don’t go through the same shit I’ve lived through? When I came here I came on a British passport, and over 25 years later I had to buy the “freedom” to become a British citizen all over again. It didn’t happen to the prisoners that this country sent to Australia; it didn’t happen to other foreigners who are here; it happened to black and Asian people.
Justice. That is a dream.