Ten years ago fourteen year old Danielle Beccan was shot dead travelling home from the Goose Fair which is held in Nottingham every October. It was the latest in a series of incidents of gun crime in the city and ultimately proved to be a high-water mark in terms of how Nottingham was viewed across the UK. It had been the subject of national attention as far back as 2000 thanks to a decision to routinely arm officers patrolling certain areas of the city- the first on the British mainland to do so. Now it serves as a shining example of a city that has slashed the number of offences involving firearms and everyone deserves an enormous amount of credit for the impressive turnaround.
Shortly after Danielle was murdered, a memorial vigil took place in the town centre, and I think although on one level it was intended to show solidarity with the Beccan family, it also served another purpose. It was as if the city was collectively coming together and conveyed a signal that this was a problem for Nottingham. Not a problem for black people or certain ethnic groups of certain areas, but an issue for everyone and affected every single citizen of the city. This was a powerful message and in many ways goes on to explain the approach of the police force which did not follow the lead set in London by introducing a new sub-autonomous unit to tackle the problem.
One of the significant things that the local force Nottinghamshire Police did was to pay particular attention to the people actually supplying the firearms into the city. It is no coincidence that the fall in the number of recorded offences in Nottingham can be directly attributed to some very high profile convictions of individuals associated with the distribution of firearms, among other offences.
Last Saturday a public meeting took place in Tottenham, north London. The meeting was called by Tottenham Rights co-ordinator Stafford Scott after the family of Mark Duggan discovered that the jury in the original inquest into his death were not provided with all of the relevant facts. It was the death of Mark at the hands of police marksmen that ignited the biggest social unrest seen in the UK for a quarter of a century.
A number of highly damning revelations were made that evening, but the most astonishing related to Trident, the Metropolitan Police unit tasked with tackling gun crime within the black community. Stafford Scott, addressing the audience gathered in Tottenham, outlined the events leading up to the shooting of Mark on Ferry Lane who had been under police surveillance during the final 48 hours of his life. In particular he analysed the exchange between Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, subsequently convicted and sentenced to seven years for supplying the weapon, and Mark on Vicarage Road in Leyton:
“The handover of, whatever it was, took place in Vicarage Road in front of the Trident officers. They didn’t do anything because Mark was being set-up by their man.”
This is an explosive allegation and can be substantiated by the fact that Trident officers insist that the reason why they failed to witness the exchange was because the cab carrying Mark Duggan turned instead into Burchell Road. Yet the GPS system on the minicab transporting Mark confirmed that this did not happen and that the vehicle indeed went to Vicarage Road. The reason this seemingly innocuous discrepancy is so important is because it adds weight to the suggestion that Trident officers had a chance to intercept the firearm before Mark left Vicarage Road. There was an opportunity to arrest Hutchinson-Foster at the same time, so why was this not done?
The brother of Mark Duggan, Shaun Hall, also addressed the meeting and equally highlighted this crucial discrepancy and questioned the nature of the relationship between Hutchinson-Foster and Trident:
“…Trident officers witnessed the handover but deny doing so, why? Could it be they’re desperate to conceal the identity of the gun supplier, because he’s working for them? After they killed Mark…why didn’t they go back and arrest Kevin Hutchinson-Foster? He’s on parole, they know his parole officer, but they fail to make contact. Kevin Hutchinson-Foster is only arrested once the IPCC conducts a forensic analysis of the gun found at the scene. This is on October 24th…thirteen weeks to be precise after he’s been identified as the supplier of the weapons.”
When Hutchinson-Foster was charged he was placed in solitary confinement and this potentially amounts to another piece of the puzzle which paints a very disturbing picture, suggesting that he was in need of some kind of protection. Placing him within the general population was assessed as being a risk too great.
Trident was established in 2000 and was disbanded (as we know it) last year. Could it be that investigations from those campaigning for justice for Mark Duggan have threatened to expose a highly toxic brand of corruption within a unit of the Metropolitan Police? The official reason provided by the Mayor of London was that it was in order to “tackle gun crime in London and knife crime as well”, but this did little to quell the increasing concerns.
I have been suspicious of the Metropolitan Police since I was a child and it is no secret that I think the organisation is beyond reform and needs closing down. So I am not somebody who can be easily shocked when coming to terms with new revelations about an institution which I have labelled as being the most corrupt force in Western Europe. Yet even I found this all to be appalling and extremely distressing. I’ve had a week to digest the news and it still resembles being hit by a truck.
Some people in the last three years have used the expression “State execution” when referring to the death of Mark Duggan. If these revelations represent the facts of what really happened that fateful August evening then they were mistaken to deploy such a phrase. This was never an execution administered by the State. This was an unlawful killing committed by criminals. I echo the calls made by Stafford Scott last weekend- we must have a public inquiry. We need to establish the truth and scrutinise the nature of the relationship that existed between Trident and Kevin Hutchinson-Foster.