Brian Douglas

 

brian douglasMusic promoter Brian Douglas was arrested in Clapham in South London not long after midnight on 3rd May 1995. During his arrest, he was hit on the head by the recently issued American-style long handled baton. The two police officers that arrested him claimed to have been acting in self-defence because Mr Douglas had allegedly been carrying a CS gas canister and a knife, an assertion contradicted by eye-witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest. The officers also claimed that Mr Douglas had been struck a blow on his upper arm, which slid over his shoulder and hit his neck. These allegations were flatly contradicted by the expert medical testimony of three pathologists who agreed that he had been struck on the back of the head, which was consistent with accounts given by witnesses.

The jury had also been told that despite vomiting in his cell, Mr Douglas was not taken to hospital until more than 12 hours after he was injured. However, they were unable to reach a verdict of unlawful killing and Brian Douglas’ death is officially as a result of ‘misadventure,’ although the Coroner stressed the need for better training in the use of batons. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner was asked to consent to disclosure of statements taken by the investigating officers but refused on spurious grounds. No disciplinary action was taken against either officer after a PCA supervised investigation and the Crown Prosecution Service brought no charges. Given the surprising nature of the verdict, another worrying aspect is that the jury was largely drawn from Eltham, South London – the scene of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence

The suggestion that Brian Douglas was violent was made by alleging that he had been carrying a knife and CS canister despite the eye-witnesses who denied such claims. This incident highlights the usual stereotype of black people as violent and/or drug dealers that have common currency with those who have little or no contact with black communities. Brian Douglas’ brother Donald commented after his brother’s death:

I fear that the numbers killed in police custody over recent years without redress may have helped to shape the attitude that informed those officers when they brought down that baton on my brother’s skull’. (Independent 21.08.96)

The overwhelming impression that families have expressed to INQUEST in cases where police officers have restrained black men is that both immediately after a death and in the subsequent investigations, there have been attempts to trawl for any information to discredit the character of black people that are killed, presumably to in some way justify the police’s actions. For example, families have repeatedly complained about being questioned, at the beginning of a PCA-supervised inquiry, about personal details such as what the individual who died was like and so on. Those we support quite rightly fail to see the relevance of such questions in an examination of the behaviour of the police.

Despite the recommendations of the Macpherson Report, and assurances that the Metropolitan Police’s attitudes have changed, the treatment of the family of Roger Sylvester, who died after being restrained by eight officers in January 1999, show that little has been done to satisfy the relatives of healthy young black men who have died following an encounter with the police.

© INQUEST 1998,1999 Please credit INQUEST when using this material for purposes of quotation or reproduction

Brian had a son, and abrother, Donald, and a sister, Brenda Weinberg.  His mother is Jasmine Elvie.

  For a similar story, see Wayne Douglas

 

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This page was last updated on 29 June 2015

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