‘The Brixton Defence Campaign says boycott the Scarman Inquiry’

in Race and riots in Thatcher’s Britain
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This chapter addresses various responses to the Brixton disturbances; the authorities and media focused upon criminality and law and order aspects, leading to repeated calls for the police to be further equipped to respond – but, due to the scale of events, a public inquiry was established. Hence, this chapter discusses Lord Scarman’s inquiry through in-depth examination of recently released inquiry records, such as police radio messages and witness statements, and papers of grassroots political organisations, to explore numerous accusations of police misconduct not included in his Report, addressing some of the gaps between submitted evidence and what was published as official record. Scarman chose not to examine such accusations, suggesting his inquiry could not provide necessary safeguards and that allegations should be directed through the police complaints system; however, this system had lost the faith of marginalised groups, who believed it was ineffective. Conversely, many local groups, such as the Brixton Defence Campaign established to support those arrested in relation to the disorder, vociferously boycotted the inquiry as they believed it would be a ‘whitewash’ and that any evidence provided would actually be used against black defendants.



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