There are few residents of East Oxford who believe this. The reality is that it is another event in a long line of corruption, fear and murder in the East Oxford area where Thames Valley Police are known for their heavy handling of a mixed community. The account that follows is from people on the ground who have spoken to witnesses too scared to come forward since the police began making threats.
Paul Jonathan Lewis, aged 42 and from Surrey, was walking up Cowley Road in the afternoon on Tuesday, 14th March with another man when he was stopped by police officers apparently for carrying alcohol. There followed an argument when Mr Lewis which took place in the nearby churchyard at St Marys on Cowley Road. It appears that he resisted arrest, one witness being quoted in the local newspaper, a Kieron Scanwell, saying that Mr Lewis slapped a WPC while resisting. It should be noted that as yet no Scanwells are listed in the phone book or electoral roll for Oxford which we have been able to find.
This is where our witnesses come in. There were several other people we have learned who were in the graveyard at the time of the incident. And it is their accounts which differs from the ones reported in the local press (there is essentially only one newspaper company in Oxford, which is controlled by US multinational NewsQuest/Gannett). The police are still searching for these individuals and the companion of Mr Lewis. Some of the witnesses initially challenged the police over their heavy handed treatment of Mr Lewis but had to leave following an aggressive stance from the officers concerned.
The new story which is emerging is that it was four officers, not two, who tackled Mr Lewis. And their way of restraining him involved punches to the throat and kicking him while he was on the ground. Somewhat different from the accounts into the local newspapers of a man being simply brought to the ground and appearing to have a heart attack. Yesterday it was revealed that a postmortem examination was unable to determine the cause of death.
With such a grievous crime it would have been thought that the police would have been going out of their way to ensure that justice was both done and seen to be done. However, at least two plainclothes officers have been throwing their weight around making threats designed to intimidate anyone who witnessed the incident on Tuesday. The description is of one very tall and broad officer who is bald while his smaller companion is ginger-haired. We have learned that because of them people are now too frightened to trust the authorities with what they have seen, fearing persecution.
In a further disturbing development, it has been also been learned that one of the journalists from Central News called Chris has been passing on details he receives to the local police. We advise that he is given a wide berth.
The air of distrust of the police in East Oxford is not a new one. Poignantly, the mother of their most recent victim, Robin Goodenough, left a tribute in the graveyard to Mr Lewis, hoping that he had not suffered as much as her son had. Mr Goodenough, aged 26, a local, was killed in September 2003 in Alma Place, when police pulled him from a car on the suspicion of theft. Another officer witnessed them manhandle him and stand on his head leading to his death. Though three officers were eventually charged with his manslaughter, one has been acquitted and the others are awaiting retrial in Banbury.
In East Oxford there is widespread belief that justice will not be done in the Goodenough case as it has not been done in so many others. Twenty years ago the police cracked open the head of Kevin Thorneycroft and subsequently removed him from hospital to the cells were he died of his wounds. Despite the force being found at fault in his death, no charges were ever brought against the officers.
More recently, a student was killed not far from the place were Mr Lewis died. They were speeding in response to an alert of an armed robbery. The irony is that the police had only decided to respond to the call after a second call was made saying that the would-be thief had been disarmed already.
During the controversial visit of the Chinese premier several years ago to Oxford, police acted with strong-arm tactics, including standing on the head of future Green Party councillor Matt Sellwood, for which he brought a case against them.
Residents of East Oxford, a community with a strong presence from Asian, African, Carribbean and other cultural groups, and home to an number of refugees, is well used to the heavy handed policing of the local cops, who are all white. It is not uncommon to hear stories of how people have been roughly treated when stopped, or of homeless people simply being kicked as a matter of course.
While the community is a strong and vibrant one, when it comes to the police, people are frightened to come forward and complain. It is generally felt that justice will not be done, despite the efforts of the Independent Police Complaints Commission who are looking into the death of Mr Lewis. Unfortunately it seems the officers who issuing threats were one step ahead of them and the damage has been done.
Will the officers responsible for the death of yet another individual in East Oxford be brought to justice? It is hard to believe so given how quickly the local constabulary went into damage limitation mode. All it does is further breakdown relations between the inhabitants of East Oxford and the police. In the light of what we are hearing it is hard to see what can be done.
However, it is important that people take a stand, so the authorities realise that while the local media maybe compliant, there is a large body of people who are disaffected at the apparent immunity of what is going on with Thames Valley Police.
If you want to take further action we suggest the following routes:
1. Contact your local councillors and demand that they act to put a leash on the police abuse of people. In particular those sitting in the
East Oxford Area Parliament - http://www.oxford.gov.uk/council/meeting-diary.cfm/detail/27 – follow links for contact details) (attend their next meeting at 26 Apr 2006, 18:30pm in St. Clement's Family Centre, Cross Street and ask awkward questions about what is really going on in Cowley Road)
2.Contact the Thames Valley Police Authority, who oversee the running of Thames Valley Police, including those in East Oxford, and voice your concerns over the death of Mr Lewis and the general behaviour of officers on Cowley Road and its environs.
Jim Booth – Executive Director, Thames Valley Police Authority
The Farmhouse, Oxford Road
Kidlington, Oxon OX5 2NX
Telephone: 01865 846780 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
3.If you have information on illegal activity by the police in East Oxford, in particular in relation to the death of Mr Lewis, contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the people who investigate the police. However, make sure you let them know that you inform them you wish your details not to be passed on to the local police. There is a history of intimidation now, and while justice needs to be done, it must be recognized that while Thames Valley Police trample over people with apparent impunity then people need to be protected.
Independent Police Complaints Commission
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6BH
Tel: 08453 002 002 (local rate)
4.If you have any other complaints about the police and do not want to contact them directly, you can always post your account here, or email us at email@example.com and we will post it up. Thames Valley Police depend on peoples fear to get away with what they are doing. Intimidation will fail when it becomes a matter of public attention, which is why it is everyone's duty and in their interest to speak out. There is strength numbers and public outcry.
This story was brought to you by East Oxford Justice, a collective of concerned individuals who will not be silenced in the face of police pressure.
Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
East Oxford Justice
The only way we can stop the police from murdering members of our community is to demand accountability from them.
producing crime fear and disorder
Just to correct something in the article above - I didn't bring any legal proceedings against the police after my arrest during the visit of the Chines Prime Minister. They did, however, stand on my head. :) And they never brought me to court.
I'm the East Area Parliament rep on the City Policing Board - I get to meet with the Area Commander and other senior Oxford Police and demand answers on anything Police-related (lucky me!) They already expect awkward questions from me, so please email me if you have direct experience of problems with Police in east Oxford.
P.S. East Area Parliament has an open session at the start of meetings (6.30pm) for residents to raise issues. There is usually a representative from the Police there.