Black Lives Matter campaigners join sit-in in Birmingham of relatives of student who died in 2011 after being restrained by police
Activists have occupied the lobby of the Crown Prosecution Service offices in Birmingham, calling for police officers to be prosecuted over the 2011 death of a student.
On Friday, about 20 protesters chanted “Who are the murderers? Police are the murderers”, “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter”, waved placards that read “shut it down”, and recited the names of black men who had died after coming into contact with the police.
They vowed not to leave until a senior representative of the CPS spoke to them.
Desmond Jaddoo, coordinator of the Justice for Kingsley Burrell campaign, said the protest was the start of more direct action. The sit-in included members of the Black Lives Matter campaign, who were wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts or displaying banners with the slogan.
A CPS area business manager, Karen Sawicki, came to the lobby more than two hours into the sit-in to accept a letter that the protesters asked be passed directly to Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, highlighting the delays in reaching a charging decision.
“We need justice now as justice delayed is justice denied,” the letter said.
Burrell’s sister Kadisha said afterwards: “I think today definitely went well – we managed to have our direct action in a peaceful way. Getting a reaction from the community to let them know that Kingsley’s death hasn’t been in vain – it goes to show it’s a serious issue, what happened to Kingsley.”
Burrell, a student and father of three, died in March 2011 from a heart attack four days after being detained under the Mental Health Act. He was 29.
His sister told a rally in front of Birmingham Cathedral before the CPS protest that the family had campaigned for justice ever since, adding: “What happened to Kingsley, nobody should go through that ill-treatment. He was treated like a dog. He was treated like an animal.”
She and their mother, Janet Burrell, joined those occupying the CPS offices.
Jaddoo told the Guardian the case had been “shrouded in delays” from the outset.
He said: “It took 18 months for them to release his body for burial, and four years to get to inquest.”
The inquest recorded what Jaddoo described as a “damning verdict of negligence” against agencies including the police, but the family was concerned by the evidence given by three officers and complained to theIndependent Police Complaints Commission that they appeared to have perjured themselves.
The IPCC passed a file to the CPS for a charging decision last October. The family met the CPS on Tuesday and told the demonstrators they expect to hear in the next fortnight whether charges would be brought against the officers. Kadisha Burrell said: “It doesn’t look promising at all.”
She added: “We want them to prosecute: there’s more than enough evidence … we’re anxious. We can’t wait any more.” She denied her brother had mental health problems.
The CPS had previously declined to bring charges against the officers. It said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute after the IPCC’s initial investigation into the death.
Janet Burrell told the Guardian about the wait for the CPS decision. She said: “You can’t move on with your life. Your life’s left on hold, you’re constantly waiting, waiting in vain for answers.
“I’m hoping we get the right answers. The state has a duty of care to protect vulnerable young people. I just want to know why my son’s not here today … My son called the police for help and ended up dead, and that was the result, and nobody can tell me the reason why.”
Her son’s inquest last year heard he was taken into custody after calling police to say he was being threatened with a gun in Birmingham city centre. After CCTV showed that he was not being followed, he was detained. There was a violent struggle with police officers in the back of an ambulance and Burrell had a heart attack that led to brain damage, the inquest heard.
Burrell had been left handcuffed on the hospital floor for five or six hours before being assessed, and had wet himself. At one point he had a covering put over his face.
Jurors at the six-week inquest found that neglect by police officers and ambulance staff who forcibly restrained him caused his death. The verdict led his family to call for a public inquiry.
The IPCC, which investigates deaths in police custody, launched an investigation in April 2011 during which four West Midlands police officers were interviewed under police caution, a spokesman said. Dorset police force carried out a separate investigation into medical staff.
More than two years later, the IPCC passed a file to the CPS for a decision on whether three officers should be charged with gross misconduct on the grounds of honesty and integrity. The CPS decided there was insufficient evidence prosecute in June 2014.
The officers gave evidence at the inquest, leading to a complaint on behalf of the family to the IPCC, which again investigated and passed a file to the CPS, which has not yet announced a decision.
A CPS spokesman said on Friday that officials had met the family three days earlier to update them on the case. He added: “The CPS has been considering this matter since it was referred to us by the IPCC in October 2015 and are mindful of the impact this continues to have on the family.
“We are still considering the evidence passed to us and will make a decision in due course.”
Jaddoo said the case highlighted “consistent inequalities and injustices that the black community face[s] when coming into contact with the police”.