INQUEST: Cherry Groce whose police shooting sparked the 1985 Brixton riots
AN INQUEST has begun this morning (June 30) into the death of the woman whose shooting by police sparked the 1985 Brixton riots.
Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce was left paralysed from the waist down following a bungled police raid on September 28, 1985. The mother-of-six, who spent most of her life in hospital, died in April 2011. A coroner later established a link between the shooting and her subsequent death.
The police were searching for Groce’s older son, Michael Groce, who was not at the family home and did not in fact live there. Five of Groce’s children, aged eight, 11, 14, 18 and 21 years at the time, witnessed the raid and the aftermath of their mother’s shooting.
As a result of the shooting Groce suffered injury resulting in paralysis from the waist down. She was subsequently confined to a wheelchair.
The inquest, which is being held at Southwark Coroner's Court in London, will look at adequacy of the planning and operation of the police raid that led to Groce’s shooting.
Groce’s children have waited 29 years for this inquest. They have also faced several hurdles along the way, including seeing the officer cleared of charges related to their mother’s shooting.
LONG WAIT: Chuka Umunna MP with Lisa Lawrence, Lee Lawrence, Rosemary Spencer and Charmaine Laville outside Downing Street
They also had to fight government officials to obtain public funding for the necessary legal representation. They were granted this funding in April after threatening legal action and a three-week campaign during which 130,000 people backed their petition asking for the family to be granted financial support.
Lee Lawrence, Cherry Groce’s son said: “We have fought long and hard to be heard and get answers. It is thanks to each and every one who signed the petition to grant our family legal aid, that we will be properly represented in court. We have had to carry the weight of what happened to mum for almost thirty years but we will not rest until justice has been served. We owe it to her so that she may finally be able to rest in peace knowing that we did all we could to get to the truth. I pray justice prevails.”
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, added: “The shooting of Cherry Groce was devastating for her and her family. But it also raised serious questions for the public at large about the oppressive policing of the black community and the use of lethal force by our police services generally: questions which remain as pertinent now as they were three decades ago. When citizens are shot and seriously injured by police officers, there must be a robust and fearless inquiry into the planning, operation and aftermath of the use of force to ascertain whether its use was lawful and necessary.”
Clare Richardson of Bhatt Murphy, solicitors for the family, said: “The passage of time since Mrs Groce was shot in her home 29-years-ago cannot be a reason to obscure the need for rigorous public scrutiny into all the surrounding circumstances. Our clients now look to the Metropolitan Police to ensure that they finally own up to their responsibility for those events: this means that they should approach the inquest with the courage to allow the kind of scrutiny that they have so markedly failed to provide over these decades.”
Following Groce’s shooting, Lawrence and his other young siblings were put into care while she recuperated.