United Families and Friends Campaign

Photo report by Peter Arkell

Friends and families of those who have died in custody in the UK marched to Downing Street and Parliament on Saturday (25 October 2008). A group of bereaved relatives, including  the mother of Jean-Charles de Menezes, who was shot by police on an underground train at Stockwell Station in July 2005 in a botched security operation, tied flowers to the railings outside Downing Street as the demonstration passed by.

It was the tenth annual gathering organised by the United Families and Friends Campaign. A banner with the names of 2,533 people known to have died since 1969 whilst in the care of the police, the prisons, secure psychiatric units and immigration detention centres was carried on the march. The Campaign has recorded 182 individuals who have died in such circumstances in the last 12 months.

Among those on the march were relatives and friends of Joseph Scholes, whose death has prompted Inquest and his local MP to call for an independent inquiry into the circumstances. The Inquest web-site describes Joseph as:

“A deeply disturbed young boy who has been repeatedly sexually abused from an early age. On 24th March 2002, he hanged himself in his cell at Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution in Shropshire. His death occurred just 9 days into his two-year sentence for street robbery.

“Joseph`s death raises serious issues about the ability of the state agencies to provide a safe environment to care for society`s most vulnerable young offenders. His death also raises questions about the procedures for holding these agencies to account when they fail”.

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