This week, a jury at the Royal Courts of Justice in London ruled that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed by police on 4 August 2011. His killing on a street in Tottenham in London, while alighting from a mini-cab that had been encircled by police cars, was seen by many as an act of police brutality and the catalyst for the 2011 English summer riots.
A gathering of what seemed to be mostly white, middle-class demonstrators appeared alongside Duggan’s family outside the Royal Courts of Justice to hear the verdict. After it was delivered, there were reports of the jury being chased from the court. When a police chief delivered a statement about the verdict, and why it was the right one, the demonstrators drowned him out by chanting ‘Murderer!’ and ‘No justice, no peace’.
Many in the mainstream media have joined in with the denouncement of the outcome of this court case. Some have echoed the description of the verdict given by Duggan’s family: that it was ‘perverse’. Labour MP Diane Abbott took to Twitter to say she was ‘baffled’ by the verdict. One commentator said the verdict confirms that the ‘marginalised’ live in a ‘parallel universe… for what is seen as justice by the mainstream is experienced as an injustice by the marginalised’. Lee Jasper, former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s adviser on race and policing, went further, saying the verdict indicated that it was now ‘open season on black men’.
Anger and resentment are of course understandable from the grieving family and friends of Duggan. But it is depressing that so many in public life are treating this case as an opportunity to express their own feelings of detachment from and weariness with the institutions of authority, primarily the police. If anyone lives in a ‘parallel universe’, it’s the observers who are seeking to paint the Duggan verdict as proof that Britain still labours under an institutionally racist regime of brutal policing.
This is objectionable firstly because it suggests that the jurors themselves were implicit in a racist conspiracy to exonerate the killers of Duggan. 10 Londoners have performed an important civic duty in ruling on very difficult and narrow issues of fact. These were complex judgments, requiring nuanced and impartial reasoning. Their lengthy deliberations, coupled with their failure to agree unanimously (the verdict that it was a lawful killing was only a majority decision), shows that they took their duties seriously.