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Family fight for justice

WAITING FOR ANSWERS: Kadisha Burrell-Brown with Charles Walker MP

AS THE family of Kingsley Burrell marks the third anniversary of his death on March 31 they are still waiting for answers about how the young father called police for help and ended up dying in a Birmingham hospital four days later.

The Burrell-Brown family have borne the turmoil of the past three years with great dignity and patience: they were forced to wait 17 months before they could bury their 29-year-old son.

And now they face yet another wait – to see if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will indeed prosecute any of the four police officers who were previously arrested and bailed on suspicion of his manslaughter.

A decision is due any time now after a file from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was passed to the CPS last October. A second file compiled by Dorset Police about the actions of non-police medical staff has also been submitted to the court prosecutors.

THREATENED

Kingsley, a trainee security guard, from Hockley in Birmingham, was out walking with his young son on March 27, 2011 when he dialled 999 claiming he was being threatened by a gang.

Officers who arrived at the scene detained Kingsley under the Mental Health Act, despite him having no record of mental illness. He was sectioned and taken to the Mary Seacole mental institute in Winson Green.

Three days later police were called to the unit following ‘an incident’ and Kingsley was transferred to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he died on March 31, 2011.


KILLED: Kingsley Burrell

His sister Kadisha, who has led a tireless campaign for justice on behalf of the family, said: “We are currently waiting to see if any of the officers who were involved with my brother are going to be prosecuted. It’s an extremely frustrating time for us but we will not be silenced.

“The CPS has told us they will let us know by the end of the month. If there are no prosecutions, then the case will go right back to the pre-inquest hearing stage and we will have to start all over again.”

The family had originally planned to stage a peaceful march to mark the anniversary of Kingsley’s death, but they are now considering holding an event later in May depending on the outcome of the CPS decision.
In the meantime, Kadisha has been working with Charles Walker, MP, who she met at the first national conference on black mental health in Wolverhampton last summer.

Walker, Tory MP for Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, seems an unlikely champion for black mental health, but the grieving families he met at the conference have prompted him to make this a personal crusade.

Leading a debate in Parliament in December, Walker said: “African Caribbeans account for about three per cent of the population, but approximately 20 per cent of deaths in custody.


BACKING: Supporters of the Burrell-Brown families marching in Birmingham in 2012

“This has been a running sore and an open wound for 30 years, and it is incumbent on us, the political class, to address it, because if we do not, whatever side of the House we are on, we have no hope of engaging with this community constructively. They have lost trust in us.”

However, a new Street Triage scheme which started in the West Midlands in January to ensure people with mental health issues are kept out of police custody and receive the right treatment, is already being hailed a success.

The pilot project involves mental health nurses and paramedics joining police on callouts where people need immediate mental health support.

The setting up of the scheme was led by the family of Mikey Powell, who died of asphyxiation 11 years ago while being held at a police station in Handsworth, Birmingham.

Powell’s cousin, internationally renowned poet Benjamin Zephaniah, said at the launch of the scheme: “I’m sure if this had been available for Mikey, he would still be alive today. He needed someone to talk to him and calm him down, not arrest him.”

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