BY CHRISTINA WHITE
A CATHOLIC PRIEST iS backing a national campaign to ban CS gas.
Fr Ray Collier, a Columbian Father, was incensed at the unlawful killing of Ibrahima Sey, who was asphixiated by the gas in an east London police station in March. The Newham Monitoring Project, with which Fr Collier is involved, supported Mr Sey's family in its efforts to win a verdict of unlawful killing.
Fr Collier told the Herald that his involvement with the Project began as a means of understanding the degree and effect of racism in London. "When I first came to London six years ago I wasn't au fait with racism. We decided to work specifically with groups addressing these issues. The Newham Project are a local organisation whose membership covers all ethnic groups and faiths, and when Ibrahima died, the family came to us looking for help."
An inquest at Snaresbrook Crown Court last week a verdict of unlawful killing. Mr Sey, an asylum seeker, was taken into police custody on 16 March this year. He was taken to Ilford police station, where officers claim Mr Sey became violent. The inquest was told that officers forced Mr Sey to the ground and handcuffed his arms behind his back. An officer sprayed CS spray into his face and Mr Sey was carried face down into a custody suite. After showing no signs of response an ambulance was called. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
Fr Collier said he was delighted with the inquest verdict but stressed that the campaign had only just begun. "We campaigned to get a verdict of unlawful killing and that has been achieved. The case will now go to the Crown Prosecution Service. What they will do with it we don't know, but we will fight to have CS spray banned."
Disturbingly, he said, "it's a fact that the majority of 'pilot studies' which have been chosen for the use of CS spray are overwhelmingly poor, ethnic minority areas."
Fr Collier has called for the Home Office to review asylum legislation and believes the Church should not shy away from these "sensitive issues".
He said: "I view this as part of my vocation. As a Church, today, we have a duty to go out into the community to get back in touch with God in our everyday lives. God is challenging our values, asking us about our priorities and our perspectives.
"We need to reflect on that message and send it back to the Church."
• RICHARD HARRIES, the Anglican Bishop of Oxford, met Home Secretary Jack Straw on Monday to discuss concerns about police racism.