Beware! The Police Federation is seeking revenge

Winston Silcott will receive £50,000 from the Metropolitan Police because he was wrongfully arrested and maliciously prosecuted. The case did not go to court. The police, acting on the best legal advice, decided they could not win and paid up.

Silcott, you will remember, was charged with the murder of PC Keith Blakelock, following a violent confrontation between young blacks and the police in Tottenham in 1985. He was convicted and sentenced, but the conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991, after tests revealed that evidence against him had probably been fabricated by the police. The police officer in charge of the case was arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice, but found not guilty.

Blakelock was hacked to death in the midst of fire and gunshots, and other forms of extreme violence between young blacks and the Tottenham police. It was a horrible end to a decent man's life. But there was little or no investigation into the murder. Silcott was stitched up. Young men were bullied into signing statements involving themselves and him. A senior police officer once confided to me that he hoped such an investigation would never be repeated.

Yet both Ann Widdecombe, the shadow home secretary, and the Police Federation seem to wish to deny Silcott the benefits that the legal system affords, because, they say, he is currently serving a prison term for another murder, committed in 1984. Silcott, on the other hand, denies that he is guilty of that murder, too.

The actions of the Police Federation have always contributed to the continued oppression of blacks. It describes the canteen culture of abuse against black police officers as mere banter. Black police officers had to form their own association to represent their interests, which were being stifled in the Police Federation.

All this has been standard fare for a long time. Most of my life as an activist has been spent in this area. By 1981, young blacks had had enough. Each and every day you could witness some skirmish between police and black people. Protests to the Home Office were largely ignored. The Police Federation denigrated people such as myself as politically motivated trouble-makers.

I edited the journal Race Today at that time. I went on a tour of haunts where young blacks gathered - youth clubs, hostels, shebeens. I published my findings in the Times, of all places. I warned that young blacks were of the view that the authorities would take notice only when a policeman was murdered. I wrote it some time before the Blakelock killing.

Within days of the article appearing, I went shopping in the West End of London with a colleague to purchase a pair of shoes to attend a funeral. I was arrested for attempting to steal from a woman's handbag. A young police officer had seen me, he said, trying to steal from handbags along Oxford Street. At the station, he repeated this garbage, and the inspector in charge looked at the constable, and then me, sighed and said: "Darcus, please go home." That was the culture of the constable on the beat. It was a constant source of persecution of young blacks.

It all came to a head in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Now we are on the verge of huge changes, but Widdecombe and the Police Federation wish to stand in the way of progress. The Police Federation is encouraging Blakelock's wife to sue Silcott. Widdecombe is a supporter.

I say only this. The Police Federation and the right wing of the Tory party seek revenge for the defeat of a certain current in the police exposed in the Lawrence inquiry. As one young Brixtonian told me: "This time, it will be a horse of a different colour." To which, I add, the only colour it could be is red.

Danger looms once more.