Jimmy The Fish | 17.10.2003 11:53 | Anti-racism
The Law Lords delivered their judgment this afternoon and granted the family of Zahid Mubarek a public inquiry into his death.
Two Home Secretaries have avoided a public Inquiry into Zahid Mubarek’s murder fearing it may have the same impact and significance on the prison system as the Lawrence case did on policing. The family believes that an Inquiry will not only reveal a litany of failures by the prison service to protect Zahid from his cell mate, Robert Stewart, a self-confessed racist psychopath known for his repeated violence but perhaps as importantly the service could learn real lessons so that such a tragedy is not repeated again.
Imran Khan, the family’s solicitor said, “This case is a wake-up call for the prison service just as the Lawrence murder was a wake-up call for the Police. The family is entitled to know why the prison service failed Zahid. Lessons must be learned so that a similar tragedy does not happen again.”
Imtiaz Amin, Zahid uncle said, “The family is going through hell to ensure that there should justice for Zahid. Why was my nephew’s murder allowed to happen? For us, only a Public Inquiry can answer this simple but potent question.”
His cellmate, Robert Stewart, beat Zahid Mubarek to a pulp and coma on 21st March 2000. Mubarek died a week later. Stewart was convicted for murder in November 2000. It became obvious at the trial and through a number of internal prison inquiries that Zahid’s life was in danger as soon as Stewart was placed in the same cell. Whilst in custody Stewart had written over 200 letters, all of these were signed with a swastika. A month before he killed Zahid, Stewart gave a chilling description of how he would kill his “pad-mate”. Yet the prison authorities did nothing to save Zahid.
Soon after the incident, the family wrote to the Home Secretary asking for a public investigation into the circumstances that led to Zahid’s brutal murder and whether any lessons could be learned. However given Home Secretary’s refusal, the family was forced to seek a judicial review. In a landmark decision (September 2001), the High Court Judge, Justice Hooper, asked the Home Secretary to reconsider his stance and order an independent investigation. However the Home Secretary refused to budge and won an appeal against Hooper’s judgment in February 2002. The family then challenged the Appeal Court’s decision through the Lords in July this year.
The House of Lords hearing was held on on Monday 14th July 2003. The House of Lords heard an appeal by Imtiaz Amin, uncle of Zahid Mubarek, against the decision of the Court of Appeal who ruled last year that the family were not entitled to an independent public investigation into the circumstances surrounding Zahid's death.
The family's lawyers contended that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, (which guarantees the right to life), entitles them to a public hearing where they will be able to ask questions of the prison officers through their lawyers. It is the family's case that it is only when an investigation is conducted in an open and transparent manner, that the truth will be revealed. Only then will there be an opportunity for real change. The Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence provides an example of how this type of hearing is able to uncover evidence and facts that other forms of private investigations (such as the prison services internal inquiry or the CRE's private investigation) cannot.
The ruling today provides a landmark judgement that will help many others seeking justice.