BLACK LIVES MATTER
THE DEATH OF JOY GARDNER, 1993
Most of us have seen the 9mins of footage of George Floyd slowly being asphyxiated to death at the hands of the police in America, and we’ve seen the world rise up and say enough is enough. It was people power that finally saw the dismantling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston that was pulled down by protesters and thrown into the river. Despite 19,000 people dying on his boats, Bristol STILL had a memorial standing ‘proud’ in the city.
No matter how far we’ve come as a society, there has always been an undercurrent of accepted racism – from Enoch Powell‘s ‘River of Blood’ speech, to Amber Rudd and her ‘low-hanging fruit’ targets during the height of the Windrush scandal… it has been in plain sight yet met with apathy and acceptance. In more recent years, overt incidents have increased due to a return of the far right views of a Conservative government and outright loons like the odious Nigel Farage being given platforms on a national radio station, LBC, to air his repugnant views. (By the time I’d finished writing this post, Farage and LBC had finally parted ways.)
This week, with impeccable timing, the BBC aired a brilliant biographical drama called Sitting in Limbo, which told the story of Anthony Bryan’s fight against unjust forced deportation. It highlighted the inhumane way people are being treated, and the story I am about to cover encompasses the Windrush scandal and also a death at the hands of the authorities, with no justice or accountability at the end. It’s just one of many but highlights a lack of accountability that runs right to the very top and has been allowed to continue for decades.
When Commonwealth citizens were invited to the UK to live as British citizens in order to help rebuild the ‘Mother Country’ after World War II, Myrna Simpson was one of many who embraced the chance. In 1961, Myrna travelled from her home in Jamaica to settle in London as a British citizen in order to provide a better life for herself and her children. She initially left her children with her mother in Jamaica until she earned enough money to bring her daughter over.
Myrna tells it in her own words:
I am a part of the Windrush generation. My first vote was in this country, and here is where I made my home and family. I came to Britain when I was only a young woman, in 1961, to pursue a better life for my children and to work. We who are the Windrush generation historically made sacrifices to enable British democracy to flourish. We have earned the right to have a level playing field when it comes to immigration. The hostile attitude that contributed to my daughter’s death must be put in the context of the current Windrush scandal.
When I got to England, I didn’t sit down; I worked in the snow, frost and fog as a care assistant, washing English people’s knickers and cleaning up their messes. I couldn’t even get a proper place to live. We used to stay in one room of a house and do almost everything in that room. The landing would be where we cooked. Some people might believe we had life easy, but we bore it rough.
JOY ANGELIA GARDNER
Joy Angelia Burke was born in Jamaica on 29th May 1953. Myrna continues the story…
Joy was only seven when she was left with my mother in Jamaica. She was my first child, who I had when I was only young myself, and I didn’t enjoy her back then. But I wanted her to stay in the Caribbean until I could provide for her in England. I would send money and visit her every year.
She grew up in Long Bay, Portland, and every Sunday, without fail, went to church with her grandmother. That was the principle of our Christian family. She moved to Kingston to pursue her dreams but she got pregnant with her eldest daughter, Lisa. She wanted the best for her children and sent Lisa to a private school in Jamaica and had big plans for her future. She was strict and would buy Lisa books instead of toys so that she could start reading at an early age.
Joy went to study at St George’s College in Kingston and then she worked at a parish council in Jamaica.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Joy came over to the UK in July 1987 on a six-month visa, with the hope of following her dream to become a journalist and applied to undertake a journalism course at the Guildhall. Joy was pregnant and her son, Graeme, was born later that year.
When Joy came in 1987 she wasn’t illegal, she was legal. I paid £600-odd to bring her to this country. And when I came, 16 years before, I paid £75 for the aeroplane. She didn’t come on a boat or stow away. They maintained that she was illegal because she overstayed her six-month visa. And then they killed her…
In September 1990, she married Joseph Gardner. Her new husband wrote to the Home Office and requested that they allow her to remain in the country due to the marriage. However, within just a month, Joseph wrote to the Home Office again and asked to withdraw the request in because the marriage had ended and they were separated. Soon after, he took out two injunctions stopping her from going near his home, apparently quoting the reason as domestic abuse.
Following the birth of her son, Joy applied to the Home Office for an extension to her visa, but this was denied. Although her mother had officially become a UK citizen, the breakdown of her marriage coupled with a change in the Immigration Act, 1981 meant that Joy had effectively lost her rights to be in the UK. For reasons never been disclosed, the Home Office concluded her marriage was “a sham” and accused her of using the birth of her son as a means to gaining citizenship, and in the summer of 1992, the Home Office booked a deportation flight for her but Joy failed to turn up at the airport, stating that she had not received a letter. A second flight was booked in October 1992 but the Home Office claimed they ‘lost track’ of her.
Joy went to see her local MP and solicitors and enlisted the services of solicitor Djemal Dervish to assist in her appeal. In 1993 he wrote asking the Home Office to reconsider the Deportation Order on compassionate grounds on the basis she was studying for a degree, her family were here and she had a son who was born in the UK and had no affinity with Jamaica at all. They awaited on a decision from Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary…
28th JULY 1993 – The Raid
Early morning and Joy was asleep with her five-year-old son, Graeme, in their Haringey home at Topsfield Close. Outside, two police cars pulled up. One car contained three officers from Scotland Yard’s SO1(3) Unit (the Aliens Deportation Group – ADG), and the other car contained two officers from the local Hornsey station. Accompanying them was also an official from the Home Office with the deportation order which allowed them to seize an unknowing Joy and her young son and put them on a plane to Jamaica from Heathrow Airport at 3pm that afternoon.
I’m not excusing Joy’s aggressive behaviour, but what must be remembered is that when the raid happened, Joy was awaiting a response to her appeal.
The official version of events are subject to different opinions and accounts, but Amnesty International seems to hold the most comprehensive account based on court testimonies and so I have used that, along with reports during the trial and a documentary on Channel 4, to build the picture step by step. To make it easier to follow, I’ve coded the officers as follows:
- Local officers – LO1 and LO2 – PC Brian Adamson
- ADG Officers – ADG3 – DS Linda Evans, ADG4 – DC Colin Whitby and ADG5 – DC John Burrell
- The authorities arrived at Joy’s home (they claimed) at 7.40am. Joy allegedly refused the authorities initial entry into her home stating that she wanted to telephone her solicitor. She must have attempted to shut her front door, but one ADG officer blocked it with his foot.
- The ADG officer then cut through the chain-lock with pliers and he forced entry into her flat. Joy became extremely agitated, removed her T-shirt and began to shout that she would rather kill herself than go back to Jamaica.
- A police officer then unplugged Joy’s telephone to prevent her from contacting her solicitor.
- Joy’s son, Graeme, was (albeit momentarily) taken to his bedroom by LO1 to get him dressed and avoid witnessing any more than he’d already seen.
- Joy bit LO2 on the left arm during an ensuing struggle to restrain her.
- LO1 immediately returned to scene and she quick-cuffed Joy’s right arm.
- In response to ADG4‘s order to “deck” Joy, they dropped to the floor, breaking a chair and Joy’s watch in the process.
- Joy landed face down and was then turned onto her back.
- At this point, LO1 and LO2 held Joy’s legs.
- ADG3 laid across Joy’s midriff. In her court testimony, she described Joy as being in a “fury” and said it took all her strength just to hold her arm. She said that she played no part in restraining Joy’s legs or wrapping the adhesive tape around her head. “I had my arms across her middle, trying to hold her down. The next thing I was aware ADG4 was utilising the Elastoplast mouth restraint“.
- ADG4 was positioned near Joy’s head. He placed a body-belt around Joy’s waist, secured her wrists to the attached handcuffs and bound her thighs and ankles with two leather belts.
- ADG4 then used a two-inch-wide elastic adhesive bandage (Elastoplast) and wound it around Joy’s head several times to stop her from moving her head, biting or shouting. He said that he “put [the gag] between her teeth and wrapped it two or three times round her chin. There were two strips in her mouth but it did not have any effect.” He claims that she was “biting the tape* and still shouting or screaming” and shaking her head. (* – Disputed by evidence presented by a Forensic Scientist at the trial.)
- Despite the fact that Joy had her arms handcuffed to the body belt, and that ADG3 was laid across her midriff, ADG4 claimed in his initial report (later rescinded in court) that Joy somehow managed to pull her hands up to her mouth and remove the tape so he asked ADG3 for another reel of tape. ADG3 stated: “I simply responded to the request” for tape. A second roll of tape was produced and wrapped around Joy’s head in the opposite direction.
- Joy was then left lying face down, bound and gagged, while the officers began to gather her possessions. By this point she had 13ft of Elastoplast wrapped around her head.
- I don’t know what part ADG5 played in the struggle, but court testimony showed that all five officers were eventually involved in the struggle.
Throughout most of this, little Graeme watched on.
Something goes horribly wrong…
- With Joy now bound and gagged on the floor, one ADG officer remained at her side but within minutes it became apparent to him that Joy was in some sort of distress, so he called in a colleague.
- LO2 shone a torch in her eyes but there was no reaction and no pulse could be found.
- Initial attempts to revive Joy were unsuccessful and at 8:04 am Officers requested an ambulance, stating that Joy Gardner had collapsed and stopped breathing.
- 8:15 am: Paramedics from Tottenham arrived and found that Joy had “no heartbeat and no sign of any activity from the heart“.
- Paramedics continued working to revive Joy Gardner and her heart resumed beating at 8:40 am.
- 8:43 am: Joy reached hospital and was immediately connected to a ventilator. She had lacerations to her wrists, bruising to her arm and neck, as well as a minor head wound.
28th JULY 1993 – The Phonecall
The Chief Inspector of Edmonton Police, Mark Sanger telephoned Bernie Grant MP and said:
There is a problem in Hornsey we want to tell you about. Mrs Gardner became hysterical and violent and bit one of the police officers and had to be restrained. She suffered a heart attack and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was given.
(I don’t know if this phone call happened before or after Joy’s brother, David, was notified by police that she was in hospital.)
28th JULY 1993 – The Visit
Myrna received an unexpected visit from her son, David, that morning who told her that police had contacted him and said they needed to head over to the Whittington Hospital in London where Joy had been admitted into intensive care. Assuming Joy had been in some kind of accident, Myrna noticed a few police officers and Bernie Grant MP at the hospital, but was taken aback when she finally saw her daughter lying in a bed, covered in tubes and foil sheeting, her face bruised and a ventilator pumping oxygen into her lungs. Myrna was confused at what on earth had happened to her daughter but all thoughts suddenly left her head when she was told by a doctor that Joy’s brain was swollen and her prognosis was very poor and there was no hope of Joy surviving.
28th JULY 1993 – Solicitor’s Office
Djemal Dervish opened his post at 9:30am. He had received two almost identical letters from the Home Office (dated 26th and 27th July 1993) in regards to Joy’s case. The first stated:
The Secretary of State has reconsidered the case in light of your representations but is not prepared to rescind the deportation order or allow Mrs Gardner to remain any longer. Arrangements will shortly be made for her removal to Jamaica.
The second stated:
The Secretary of State has reconsidered the case in light of your representations but is not prepared to rescind the deportation order or allow Mrs Gardner to remain any longer. Arrangements will now be made for her removal to Jamaica.
By the time Dervish had opened the letters of notification at 9:30am, Joy was effectively already dead. Any reasonable opportunity he had to notify her of the decision, make plans or inform her young son – was taken away. Reasons for this were explained by the Home Office Minister later on. (See ‘Politics and Press’ below)
Joy remained in hospital for four days but her condition continued to deteriorate – her liver and kidneys failed and she also went into cardiac arrest. “Brain stem death” was determined before she was finally pronounced dead on 1 August 1993, but her official death date is registered as 28th July 1993.
The family enlisted the help of Jane Coker, an immigration lawyer, who put it simply:
“…in terms of when she died, it was clearly the actions of the police that caused her [Joy] to die, and whether that happened at the flat, the next day, or three days later, is not really relevant.”
Joy’s sister, Claudia, was adamant that the authorities purposely covered up that Joy’s death happened at the flat to prevent a public uproar.
Joy was eventually laid to rest at Lavender Hill cemetery on 17th December 1993.
A CALL FOR JUSTICE
On 4th August 1993, a public meeting was held where a grieving but strong Myrna spoke alongside Bernie Grant MP. She pleaded for justice for her daughter. She called for the medical staff to come forward and for an independent inquiry.
On 7th August 1993, the family joined hundreds of others in the streets marching and demanding justice for Joy. The crowd were angry and Bernie Grant pleaded for people to remain calm and dignified.
HOME OFFICE ATTEMPT TO WHITEWASH
The Home Office initially claimed the cause of death was kidney failure, but then later asserted that she had died as a result of head injuries received during the struggle to restrain her.
A number of pathology reports disagreed.
The initial post mortem concluded that Joy had died from ‘cerebral hypoxia‘ (lack of oxygen to the brain). The police questioned this and said they wanted to investigate whether Joy had an underlying heart condition that could have caused her death (backing up Mark Sanger’s claim to Bernie Grant that Joy had suffered a ‘heart attack’ during the restraint process.) The results of their separate post mortem was not made public.
In total, four different pathologists examined Joy’s body and agreed that the cause of death was cerebral hypoxia, most likely caused by asphyxiation as a result of the gag in her mouth.
To exclude all possibilities, a neuropathologist took samples of brain tissue to ascertain if the minor head injury was the contributing factor of the hypoxia, but following examination by two independent neuropathologists, it was agreed that the head injury was not the reason for the hypoxia.
An independent autopsy ordered by Myrna found that Joy had died as a result of oxygen starvation – in line with all the others.
On 3rd August 1993, Sir Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, held a press conference in which he expressed his “sadness and profound regret” over Joy’s death. He also made announcements on three key points:
- The attending ADG officers from SO1(3) had been suspended, the ADG unit – headed by Inspector Robert Gibb – had been halted and all other officers had been assigned to different tasks.
- All further Metropolitan Police involvement in deportation cases was to be halted pending a joint review by the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police into removal procedures in deportation cases.
- Joy’s case would be subject to an investigation by the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). However, this investigation did not have the powers to examine the specific role of the immigration officers involved because a PCA inquiry is only authorized to oversee investigations into complaints against police officers.
During the week following Joy Gardner’s death, Sir Paul Condon followed up his announcement by calling for any related investigation to include some independent impartial component to be incorporated. This request was refused by the Home Office on the basis that it considered the PCA to be impartial, efficient and thorough in itself.
On 7th August 1993, the PCA confirmed that Assistant Chief Constable James Conlon of Essex Police would be heading up the investigation, assisted by 12 officers, and on 13th December 1993, another protest was held outside the CPS offices because the PCA had still not completed the inquiry. The police were accused of ‘stalling’ and Myrna questioned what justice could be gained when the police were effectively investigating themselves. Trust had gone, anger was palpable and Joy’s body was still lying in a morgue awaiting the PCA inquiry’s conclusion.
POLITICS AND PRESS
Home Office minister, Chris Wardle, and the Home Office came under fire by some in the media and MPs over the delay in sending notification letters, which effectively undermined the rights of the person concerned to seek review or recourse. Wardle defended the decison as ‘standard practice’ stating that the letters were sent to coincide with the raid to prevent any further appeals and so raids could be undertaken without warning. Those within the legal profession questioned this course of action.
Needless to say, others were far more unsympathetic, with Teresa Gorman giving the ultimate victim-blaming comment:
“If she had gone quietly, none of this would have happened.”
Not content with victim-blaming, she also dished up a huge slice of stereotypical, rash, ignorant judgement too on BBC tv, by stating that Joy had been…
“…bumming on the social services for five years.”
This sort of ignorant gas-lighting was the touch-paper as anger began to mount in predominantly black areas of London. It’s also a prime example of how elitism is allowed to go unquestioned and how a narrative is drip-fed into the public consciousness via the media. Joy’s death had occurred just months after it was announced that two suspects in the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence would not face charges, so feelings were already running high.
Certain elements of the press took the same line. I mentioned Nigel Farage and his LBC slot at the beginning of the post, but back in 1993, Richard Littlejohn – a Scum columnist – hosted a radio show on LBC, and told his 500k listeners that although Joy’s death was ‘sad’…
“…if she had complied with the deportation order, she might still be alive today.”
When interviewed by The Observer in August 1993, he said:
“I don’t hate Bernie Grant because he is black. I hate him because he is a cunt. You can quote me on that.”
I thought it only right that I did.
On 10th August 1993, The Evening Standard published the version of events of the three ADG officers involved. The newspaper claimed it had been given the accounts by an ‘intermediary’, through which the officers claimed they were being made ‘scapegoats’. Their solicitors denied the officers had spoken to the press, nor authorised anyone to do so on their behalf, but this just added fuel to the palpable anger, with the police seen as spreading misinformation.
The family awaited a public coroner’s inquest for answers to some of their questions but it was never undertaken.
There has never been any independent inquiry into Joy’s death.
The Home Office announced that it would undertake an internal inquiry on procedures for deportation, headed by a senior immigration official. In November 1993 Chris Wardle released the six-page report which confirmed that the government was banning the use of tape and gags.
In December 1993, he then announced that a committee was being set up to hear complaints about the Immigration Service and ‘audit’ the way the department operated.
POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY
In February 1994, Essex Police finally completed their investigation for the PCA. They focused on the specific methods of restraint used by the police on Joy but reportedly did not inquire into the specific role of the Immigration Officer involved in the case.
The 230-page report was handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service for review, accompanied by 1,500 pages of evidence, including medical, pathological and neuropathological evidence, Metropolitan Police instructions, immigration documents, tape-recorded interviews with the officers concerned, reports in relation to a number of deportations in which the Metropolitan Police have assisted, and a range of other material.
The report was not released to the public or members of Joy’s family under ‘public interest immunity.’ The lay-person who supervised the PCA investigation, announced that he was considering “making a special report” to the Home Secretary claiming he had discovered matters of a “grave and exceptional nature“. (Under Section 97 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, such action would have enforced the PCA to make the report public.) It seems this did indeed happen because in March 1994, the report was sent to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard.
On 26th April 1994, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that the three SO1(3) police officers were to be charged with manslaughter. They were:
- Detective Constable John Burrell, age 43
- Detective Sergeant Linda Evans, age 42
- Detective Constable Colin Whitby, age 48
The immigration official and two local officers were called as witnesses.
On 21st November 1994 the three officers appeared at Bow Street. They denied the charges but after three days, the judge concluded that there was enough evidence for them to face trial at the Old Bailey.
The trial began on 15th May 1995. The prosecution’s case was that manslaughter was alleged “as a result of an unlawful and dangerous act by the officers which caused the death of Joy Gardner”. They relied on the testimony of four pathologists and neuropathologists to prove that Joy Gardner had died as a result of brain damage caused by asphyxiation.
The defence line was that Joy was ‘very, very strong’ and her death was caused by head trauma sustained as she violently resisted the officers and not as a direct result of the tape used to gag her. One of the local officers in attendance that day, PC Brian Adamson (LO2), described Joy as ‘the most violent female prisoner’ he had encountered in his 12 year career, and this was echoed across the front pages of the tabloids. Her family dispute this narrative.
Paula Lannas, a forensic pathologist, testified on behalf of the defence, stating:
“There were bruises on the scalp that indicates the head had struck a hard surface. The lack of oxygen was secondary to the head injury. The brain was injured. That led to deprivation of oxygen and death. Such a swelling would lead to cardiac arrest and the deprivation of oxygen.”
Dr. Harris, a Forensic Scientist at Huntingdon Laboratories, had examined the 13 feet of adhesive tape used to gag Joy. His testimony went against claims made by ADG4 (DC Whitby) by confirming that no teeth marks were found on the tape. He said that the tape was wrapped around her head seven times.
Although he was a lower rank, DC Whitby was in charge of the deportation that day. DS Evans had been on loan from the Diplomatic Protection Squad and was tasked with taking care of Graeme.
Whitby admitted that he may have been mistaken when stating in his original report that Joy had managed to move her hands up to her mouth and remove the first roll of tape. He rejected the claim that he only applied more tape because Joy was ‘still making a noise’. He took responsibility for applying the gag, but was adamant it did not obstruct Joy’s airways – something Evans backed up.
A representative from ADG gave evidence on the equipment used during deportations and confirmed that a body-belt (originally designed by an ADG officer), leather straps, gag and adhesive tape were part of their regular restraint equipment. ADG were considered a “law unto themselves”. They were self-taught how to use gags and were not subject to strict controls.
During the trial the judge, Mr Justice Mantell, instructed the jury to return a ‘not guilty’ verdict against Burrell as he was satisfied that Burrell had played no part in applying the gag to Joy. After nine hours of deliberations, the jury then acquitted Evans and Whitby of all charges on 14th June 1995.
The head of the Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), Mike Bennet, complained that the officers should never have been charged and the decision to do so was ‘political’ due to the fact that Bernie Grant MP had become involved. (The decision to prosecute was actually made by the CPS following the APC’s own inquiry.) He felt that to pick just the three officers involved and hold them accountable rather than all authorities was unjust. Bennet claimed that the MPF approached Sir Paul Condon to ask for his support for the three officers involved, but that Condon declined. Bennet accused Condon of doing so on the advice of someone further up the chain of command in the Home Office.
The MPF felt that the use of the equipment was the greatest issue and that those who KNEW that it was a regular occurrence should also have been taking some responsibility. This was echoed by the family’s solicitor, Jane Coker, who stated that the Home Secretary was the one with ultimate responsibility for decisions and ensuring the code of conduct was followed, so everyone involved in the chain of command was accountable.
It was very apparent that the court and the newspapers were strangely quiet on the subject of the Home Office procedures and the role played by immigration officials, despite the Immigration Service being the one that enforces a deportation order, with police in attendance solely so that they may force entry.
Joy’s family announced their disappointment over the verdict, with Myrna still consistent in her promise that she would continue in her fight to get justice for her eldest daughter. Joy’s sister, Claudia, was resigned to the fact that Joy would never get justice
POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY
Once the trial had ended, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) announced that no disciplinary procedures would be taken against any of the officers involved due to the court acquittals, arguing that one effectively cancelled out the other. They stated:
“A disciplinary charge of authority would in substance be the same as the criminal charge of which the officers have been acquitted…
“an officer cannot be tried on both criminal and discipline charges for the same offence.”
Sir Paul Condon confirmed that all three officers would been reinstated on ‘non-operational duties’.
QUESTIONS ABOUT RESTRAINTS
The trial raised questions about equipment used to restrain people during these raids. In July 1993 there were no official guidelines regarding the use of any mouth-gags in deportation cases, suggesting that the gag was an unauthorized means of restraining Joy that had been quietly allowed to creep in as the norm.
As a direct result of Joy’s death, in August 1993 the use of mouth gags were suspended by Sir Paul Condon, and were eventually banned altogether by then Home Office minister, Michael Howard, in January 1994.
Myrna drew parallels between the belt with it’s chains to the shackles and treatment of slaves. For anyone who found themselves at the mercy of the immigration officials and their equipment, it must have been triggering and frightening.
Joy’s son was traumatised by what he had witnessed that morning, and that remained with him throughout childhood. He was raised by his grandmother, Myrna, who described him as ‘withdrawn.’ In 1999, a writ was issued on behalf of Graeme and Myrna against the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, and Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon.
According to Myrna, the Home Office made no attempt to contact her or issue an apology, and she is still desperately trying to get justice for her daughter and the many others that have died in custody. In the Joy for Justice documentary, Myrna is a softly spoken, calm woman who refuses to give up.
Mr Dervish has since stated that it was his belief the Home Office consciously misled him – something others in the legal profession agreed with:
“She was totally unprepared for returning to Jamaica. As far as she knew, her appeal was still being considered when the police came knocking on her door.”
Concerns were raised during a trial in 1996 about the defence pathologist, Paula Lannas’s, work. More concerns followed in subsequent trials, and in 2001 a disciplinary tribunal heard that her work:
“consistently fell substantially short” of expected standards and there were “substantive deficiencies” in “her technical approach and medical knowledge.
I do not know the outcome of the tribunal.
Private Company Involvement
It will come as no surprise that it wasn’t just the police doing the dirty work of the Home Office. The job was also outsourced to an unregulated private company in Eastbourne – Airline Security Consultants Ltd (ASC) – who were effectively expected to police themselves. Chris Wardle stated that the government placed it’s faith in ASC “on the strength of its track record and experience.” The truth was, up until 1989, ASC was a firm exporting medical equipment, not human beings.
Just one month after Joy’s death, another woman from the same area was deported at the hands of ASC personnel. She claimed afterwards that sellotape had been used to bind her legs and mouth.
Once Sir Paul Condon disbanded the ADG division, it effectively sent the job of deportations directly into the hands of private companies like ASC – companies that were not subject to proper regulations – thus leaving deportees at their mercy and in an even worse position that before. This was proved just 10 months after Joy’s death, when an outraged Jeremy Corbyn MP called for answers after Elizabeth Blanchard, 37, had allegedly been cuffed and gagged in May 1994 whilst being transferred from an Oxford detention centre to Banbury police station. Elizabeth ended up at Whittington Hospital – just as Joy did before her – reportedly unconscious. The immigration service denied that Elizabeth was gagged.
According to announcements in The Gazette, ASC was wound up not long afterwards.
Immigration Service & Home Office
These two departments were responsible for serving the deportation order on Joy and Graeme, and on every other person affected by the immigration procedures, but when things went wrong, as they did with Joy, they were never held accountable, never scrutinised or publicly investigated. The immigration officer involved never faced any sort of disciplinary hearing or questioning and the department never offered any explanation.
On 27th April 1994, the Immigration Service and Metropolitan Police undertook over 100 dawn raids in London under their new joint initiative, Operation Elgar. Chris Wardle defended the action stating that it had exposed “…a blatant disregard for the immigration laws.”
In 2002 this operation was still ongoing and television crews and photographers were invited by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to watch as they rounded up and deported a large amount of people to the Czech Republic. The ‘stunt’ was immediately condemned for ‘making a spectacle out of people’s misery.’
Nobody Held Accountable
Jane Coker explained it perfectly when she said:
The police investigated the police. The CPS, who were normally instructed by the police, were charging the police, and all those problems that arise when you’ve got people who are usually on the same side suddenly pitted against each other, that leads to all sorts of allegations and rumours about documents going missing, somebody getting the sack, somebody not getting the sack who should have got the sack, shredders working late into the night, and we don’t know what’s happened with Joy Gardner’s case and until there is an inquiry, and until every document and every piece of evidence is disclosed, we won’t ever know.
Three officers were in a management position within the ADG Unit at the time of Joy’s death. One of the officers, DS Chris Newman, was eventually cleared of neglect-of-duty charges in connection with his supervision of the three police officers who attempted to arrest Joy Gardner. The other two management officers never faced charges as they had already left the police on early retirement (no explanation was ever forthcoming about why that was allowed to happen, which is something Jane Coker highlighted in Justice for Joy.) ACC James Conlon was facing a complaint by one of the charged ADG officers but I do not know what the outcome was.
Unfortunately the Joy Gardner case, the whole deportation process and the role played by officials has never been fully and impartially investigated. The matter has been quietly swept under the carpet…
That was until George Floyd’s death. Floyd may be dead, but he leaves a legacy. It was because of the subsequent BLM movement that I discovered the story of Joy Gardner and decided to cover the story.
Sadly for Joy, her death was prior to camera phones and social media. There were no mass calls for justice, there were no world-wide protests. Bernie Grant and Amnesty International did their best to elevate the family’s cause but Joy’s death never received the response and publicity it deserved. Just as Joy was silenced, the close relationship between government, police and press has always managed to keep a lid on the worst outrages and encourage a narrative.
The BLM movement has finally brought racism back to the forefront of the world’s conscience. This is progress and it’s important progress. There’s no place in the 21st century for racism and bigotry, and the overt racism displayed by the current government should be called out for what it is. Our own Prime Minister is quoted as using terms such as ‘piccaninnies’, ‘watermelon smiles’ and ‘letterboxes’ yet it’s simply brushed aside, and he appears on programmes like This Morning pretending he’s a bumbling buffoon whilst Phil and Holly giggle at him and take a selfie, instead of calling him out on his appallingly track record.
George and Joy’s deaths may have been decades apart but there are parallels to both their deaths.
Joy Gardner was a human being and nobody had a right to take her life.
George Floyd was a human being and nobody had no right to take his life.
Wearing a uniform does not give you carte blanche to take someone’s life, nor does it make you superior. I long for the day that people can look at another person and see just that – a person. Not colour, just the human being in front of them. I want a media that recognises that every life has as much value, so when a black child disappears off our streets, the case receives as much coverage and funding as that of, say, Madeleine McCann.
I hope the next generation can achieve more than my generation has, but right now we have a duty to ensure our children understand, learn and accept.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
The docu-drama, Sitting in Limbo, highlighted how appallingly the Home Office still handles deportation to this day, and gave the shocking statistics on the Windrush scandal alone between 2012 and 2017:
- 850 people were detained;
- 83 were wrongly deported;
- At least 13 died before the Home Office acknowledged their mistake.
- By May 2020, there had been 1275 applications to the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
- Only 60 so far had received any compensation.
- Anthony Bryan has still only received part of the compensation he is entitled to.
On 9th June 2020, Boris Johnson released a video about the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations sweeping across the country (and world) at this time. He begins his video with the following statement:
I have a specific request to Mr Johnson – prove you do care in four simple steps:
- Release the PCA report into Joy’s death. It’s nearly 30 years – ample time in accordance with the Public Records Act.
- Get on with rehousing and compensating all those who lost their homes and belongings at Grenfell.
- Speed up the compensation process for all those caught up in your government’s repugnant Windrush debacle.
- Apologise for your own track record of racism.
I will leave the final words to two different artists…
They put a leather belt around her
13 feet of tape and bound her
Handcuffs to secure her
And only God knows what else,
She’s illegal, so deport her
Said the Empire that brought her
Dave – Black – The Brit Awards 2020
‘The least racist is still a racist…”
- Tories Hostile Immigration Police
- Imagining Crime by Dr Alison Young
- Amnesty International
- The Guardian, 3 August 1993
- The Guardian, 3 November 1993
- The Observer, 28 November 1993
- The Guardian, 8 December 1993
- The Guardian, 27 April 1994
- The Guardian, 28 April 1994
- The Guardian, 3 June 1994
- The Guardian, 16 May 1995
- The Guardian, 18 May 1995
- The Guardian, 19 May 1995
- The Guardian, 3 June 1995
- The Guardian, 6 June 1995
- The Guardian, 15 June 1995
- The Guardian, 16 June 1995
- The Guardian, 17 June 1995
- The Gazette
- Justice for Joy – Channel 4 documentary, 1995
- The Times Archive