“A male in the property was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm and taken into a police van outside the house. The other residents were escorted out of the property while a search was conducted…”
Such is the dispassionate, almost robotic, tone of a Metropolitan Police statement made in response to a shocking incident last Friday night involving my client Alice Mina Agyepong and her young family; but sometimes ‘dispassionate’ can shade into ‘disingenuous’, for what that carefully crafted statement fails to make clear is that the “male” who was arrested on suspicion of possession of a firearm, was in fact Mina’s 12 year old son Kai…who had been doing nothing more than playing with his toy gun in the living room of his house. The disingenuous and defensive nature of the Police statement is further reflected in the choice of words used to later describe Kai – “the youth” and (inaccurately) “the teenager” – words which obviously tend to convey an impression that Kai was far older than 12, perhaps a young adult rather than, as he is, a child.
It seems that a passerby telephoned the Police after peering in through the living room of the family’s home and seeing Kai playing (alone) with his plastic toy gun. The rest of the family (Mina and her two daughters) were then awoken in terrifying circumstances as armed Police stormed the house, training their – very real – firearms on Mina and her children and forcing them to march outside with their hands up, where they were detained in full view of the neighbourhood whilst Mina’s house was, in her words, “ransacked” by the Police, who were doubtless hoping to find something – anything ? – that would justify such a gross and disproportionate invasion of the family’s home.
During this time, Kai, a Year 7 pupil at Maria Fidelis Catholic School was kept handcuffed in a Police vehicle before being eventually “de-arrested” when the Police established that they had terrorized the family for no purpose other than to arrest a child for playing with a toy in his own home…
Major questions will need to be answered by the Metropolitan Police as to how this everyday event escalated into an armed raid, during which deadly force could so easily and tragically have been unleashed upon Mina and her children. Even as it stands, with the physical force being ‘confined’ to the handcuffing of a 12 year old boy, the emotional and psychological impact cannot be underestimated. For a family to have the safety and sanctity of their home violated in such a way, is literally the stuff of nightmares.
And not least amongst the questions to be answered will be to what degree the Police response to the report they received was escalated because of the colour of Kai’s skin. Given the knowledge we already have in relation to disproportionate uses of force and Police powers generally upon black people, this is a very real concern.
I have accepted instructions to act on behalf of Mina and Kai to assist with their Police complaint, and, in due course, to commence a claim for compensation against the Police. Mina also feels, quite rightly, that people need to know about this incident so that the full spotlight of public scrutiny can be shone upon the Police. As a result, she has provided interviews to ITV, BBC and Channel 4 news.
As I have said before, media attention upon cases of suspected Police misconduct and wrongdoing is a crucial part of the power which civil society has to balance out the power of the Police, and to avert future cases of error and abuse. I am happy to be playing my part in this case, but so too is every responsible citizen who learns of the case and reflects upon it, and asks the questions which hold the Police to account.