One for the Crime…

Next in her series of library indepth posts, cataloguer and book reviewer Jo takes a look at our Criminal Justice section.

Analysis of the section title ‘Criminal Justice’ brings me to wonder whether the two concepts (crime and justice) are exact opposites of each other. Are they mutually exclusive? Why not simply ‘Crime and Justice’?

Just as in the well-known phrase, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, so one man’s crime can be another man’s justice, and indeed vice versa. How else could you explain miscarriages of justice, judicial decisions based on prejudiced information or opinion, vigilantism, or the ramifications of political protest, whether violent or non-violent?

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pacifist and won the Nobel Peace Prize; Malcolm X on the other hand rejected non-violence and advocated Black self-defence; from his point of view, all other avenues had been exhausted. Both were assassinated.

At times, the wrong kind of justice has been meted out, by the courts and judiciary. This is the heading of the first subsection of the Criminal Justice section at the Resource Centre. In news as recent as 4th June this year, the coroner Judge Keith Cutler who presided over the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan (shot dead by police in 2011, an act that sparked riots in Tottenham and across the UK) listed eight concerns over the case in his Report to Prevent Future Deaths including a warning to police not to confer after such an incident.

In Courts and Judiciary you can find The Blair Peach Case: Licence to Kill by David Ransom for the Friends of Blair Peach Committee. 32 years before Mark Duggan, although in different circumstances, Clement Blair Peach, a New Zealand teacher and an activist, was killed by police during protests against the National Front in Southall, London in 1979.

The book contains photos and testimony of some of the ten witnesses who saw Blair Peach hit over the head with what appeared to be a truncheon – Amanda Leon, Mrs Balwant Atwal, Joginder Charna and Charanjit Charna. It reproduces a poster, reading ‘Wanted: For the murder of Blair Peach’, displayed during a picket of Scotland Yard, which caused the police to threaten contempt or criminal libel proceedings against the 12 campaign supporters.

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In fact, in 2010, the Metropolitan Police published documents relating to their report on the case which revealed that Blair Peach was ‘almost certainly’ (TheGuardian.com, 27 April 2010) killed by a member of their elite riot squad.

Criminal justice indeed. Then there are the publications that inquire into the legal process of the police, courts and judiciary – the criminal justice system. One book’s title poses the question, A Fair Hearing? and is subtitled Ethnic Minorities in the Criminal Courts (Stephen Shute, Roger Hood and Florence Seemungal).

Here’s an interesting one. The Scarman Report: The Brixton Disorders, 10-12 April 1981 – a polite way of saying, the full-on Brixton Riots of 1981, ignited, among other problems, by Operation Swamp and the sus laws (Stop and Search) that led to over 1,000 people being stopped by the police in six days. This was an attempt to curb street crime in Brixton, the situation inflamed by the socio-economic problems of unemployment, poor housing standards and tensions between the police and the population of Lambeth.

The Criminal Justice section contains a copy of Scarman’s report, which, the back cover tells us, was considered ‘one of the greatest social documents of our time’ by the Daily Mirror, but ‘mere tinkering’ by Darcus Howe writing in Race Today, and ‘a very small and misleading contribution’ by Ted Knight, the then leader of Lambeth Council.

Further along the shelves are books that deal with Crime and Delinquency. This section includes The Hounding of David Oluwale by Kester Aspden. Eighteen months after this man’s body was discovered in the River Aire near Leeds, a ‘lengthy campaign of harassment by two Leeds policemen was uncovered’. Joel Dyer’s The Perpetual Prisoner Machine: How America Profits From Crime sits close to The Assassination of Theo Van Gogh by Ron Eyerman and Out of Order? Policing Black People, edited by Ellis Cashmore and Eugene McLaughlin.

Lastly, in Racial Violence and the Far Right we find White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (Allen W. Trelease); Inside the Klavern: The Secret History of a Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (David A. Horowitz); Encyclopedia of White Power (Jeffrey Kaplan); and, thankfully, other books like Fighting Fascism by Keith Hodgson, which not only explain elements of race-related crimes, but empower people to personally effect positive change.

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