I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, December 30, 2013


Prejudice is a thing that comes in all shapes and sizes. I guess after the abuse my lads experienced a couple of Sundays ago thanks to the colour of their skin, I have been rather hyper alert to it. It’s a bit like when you have a near miss when driving. For the next thirty minutes or so you find yourself beset with a kind of ultra-caution. Check the blind spot, check the blind spot and check the blind spot again. Then after a while you get back to merely checking the blind spot once.

The last fortnight has been a bit like that. Obviously it has been a case of scanning the mirror for blue lights rather than compulsive attention to the blind spot. I haven’t been pulled again. Instead I have received a helpful letter from our local Chief Superintendant of Police. She was disappointed that I chose the route of this blog to air my grievances and concerns instead of going to her personally. I can understand this and I fully sympathise. And by not picking up the phone an arranging an appointment with Kate Thompson, I guess I have shown a prejudice of my own. I have met her before on a couple of occasions and I was favourably impressed. The ‘word on the street’ about her is pretty good too. The word is that she is a good cop. So what prejudice guided me to choose the blog road instead of a call to the Chief Superintendant?


I did everything by the book in the days and weeks after Hillsborough. I followed official channels. I trusted the system. I had faith.

Well, I guess everyone knows what happened next. 23 three years of cover up happened next. It stripped away my faith in the system. It was instrumental in me choosing to adopt the Wikileaks approach this time around. It made me prejudiced.

To be prejudiced is to pre-judge. To make your mind up about someone in advance. To guess in advance how they will behave and react. My post-Hillsborough prejudice told me that the police would use any official complaints procedure to bury away the facts abut what happened to the lads for weeks and months until they would gather dust in some lost filing cabinet.

Maybe instead of following the instinct of my prejudice, I should have had faith in Kate Thompson and not tarred her with same brush as the officers of the South Yorkshire Police of the 1980’s.

But I didn’t.

I allowed my prejudice to gain the upper hand and for that I owe an apology and I am more than happy to offer it up in this chosen public domain.

Sadly my lack of trust in the police doing the right thing runs deeper than Hillsborough. Having been with Carol for almost a quarter of a century, I have absorbed the experience of far too many incidences when her family was treated with appalling prejudice thanks to the colour of their skin. All too often, the police played a shoddy role in such incidents. All too often the police were responsible for the incidents in those shameful days before the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Carol and her family were good people treated very badly. It leaves a bad taste. It leaves distrust. It leaves prejudice.

This goes to show that prejudice works on different levels. Sometimes we develop a prejudice as a result of something that has actually been done to us. I was at Hillsborough. I was lucky to survive it. I saw how the South Yorkshire Police behaved that day. I reported it. And my words along with the words of thousands of others were buried. Instead, a pack of lies were told and the blame was laid at our door.

The result. Prejudice.

I wasn’t there when the police behaved so appallingly to Carol’s family in the 70’s and 80’s. Instead I have heard about it. And it has added to my prejudice. It’s a second hand prejudice, but a prejudice all the same.

The other day I finally managed to lay my hands on a hard copy of the document that was circulated to the 22 members of the Dumfries ‘Pubwatch’ scheme asking them to vote on a banning order for my two sons. I have taken a photo and posted it below.

Yeah, yeah. More Wikileaks!

It is the very essence of bureaucratic prejudice. Ghastly and mundane. It represents an attack on two individuals; an attack carried out in secret. The way it casually besmirches their reputations is repugnant. I very much doubt if the club steward who wrote the words is any great lover of Shakespeare, but maybe I do him a disservice. Maybe I am being prejudiced. He would do well to consider these words from Iago in Othello
Who steals my purse steals trash. 'Tis something, nothing:
'Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

History is littered with endless millions of similarly drab and dry documents. The railroads that carried millions to Dachau and Buchenwald and Auschwitz ran on similarly blasé and dreary pieces of bleak officialdom. The clerks who filled out the paperwork in triplicate had long since ceased to see living, breathing human beings. They had cashed in their humanity for a pension scheme. Their prejudice had become completely ingrained. I doubt if they saw each individual document as a death warrant for a real person with dreams and ambitions. Instead they saw a mere number. A face from a cartoon. A Christ Killer. A Kike. A Yid. A bad person. A person who deserved everything they were about to get.

Poll ID:277 is that kind of document.

What does a person reading this poisonous little document learn of my son?

‘On 16 December 2013, a steward within a member premises allegedly observed Courtney Frankland within a toilet cubicle snorting some sort of white powder. Frankland was with Dyonne Green at this time. Police were contacted and both were searched by police. No drugs were found.

Both persons have been put forward for a ban by the member premises.’

This wasn’t the first draft. In the first draft there was no use of the word ‘allegedly’. That of course was added by Constable Adam Potts who was doing his bit to make sure that the Pubwatch member, ‘Chancers’, didn’t accidentally land themselves in any hot legal water.

So let’s pick apart the prejudice

One person – the steward - made a statement and not so much as a shred of evidence was found to back up that statement. The police could hardly have tried any harder to find some sort of evidence that the steward was telling the truth. But they failed. There was no evidence to find.

At this point did it occur to them that out of a hundred people in Chancers at the time only two were mixed race? Did it occur that this might have had something to do with the steward making up such a fairy tale?


Instead his words were allowed to become gospel. His words were briefly scanned by Constable Adam Potts who duly helped out with the addition of the word ‘allegedly’. Did it cross Adam’s mind that the evidence suggested that the steward had got something wrong? Obviously not. He instinctively took the steward’s side and put his name to the steward’s words. Why? Only Adam Potts can answer that one. I can only speculate that Adam has a low opinion of young lads who are out on the town on a weekend night. A prejudice. A prejudice that persuaded him to blindly take the word of the steward at face value despite his colleagues finding not so much as a shred of evidence to back the allegation up.

So Poll ID:277 became a living and breathing thing out there in the ether. Members of the 22 pubs and clubs involved in the scheme were asked to cast their votes.

By the time I received the document, 6 had cast their votes.

Three had voted for Courtney to be banned from every one of their premises for three years. One voted for 2 years. One for a year. One for 6 months.

Did any of them take a moment to consider the implications of what they were doing? Seemingly not. On the basis of a single completely unsubstantiated allegation, they casually decided to exclude my son from socialising with his friends for three years. Wind the clock back to when you were 21. Social life is a big thing at that age. Imagine if you had been banned from most of the places in your home town at that age. For three years. For nothing. It’s a big, big deal. Every time you get a call from friends asking if you fancy going out, you have to say no. Can’t come I’m afraid. I’m banned. Until 2017.

For nothing.

Did Adam Potts stop and think about that?

Did the ones who cast their vote think about that?

Did they think about the huge impact they were about to have on a young man’s life? Or did they just click a button and forget all about it? Did they allow their ingrained prejudice to guide their fingers?

Last week the Queen signed a royal pardon for Alan Turing some 63 years after his death. So what has that got to do with anything?

Well, here’s a question for you. Name me the person most responsible for Britain prevailing over Hitler?

Easy. Winston Churchill.

So name me the person after Churchill most responsible for Britain prevailing over Hitler?

In my book that person was surely Alan Turing. He was the mathematical genius who headed up the team in Hut 8 of Bletchley Park who cracked the German’s Enigma code. At this point in the war Hitler’s U Boats were on the verge of shutting down the Atlantic supply lines and starving us into surrender. Cracking the Enigma code told us where the U Boats were hiding. Once we knew that, we started to sink them. At last the convoys started to make it through and the tide of the war turned. Without the genius of Turing, we might well have lost in 1942.

After the war he more or less invented the computer. Not a bad CV.

So why the Royal Pardon?

Well Alan Turing was gay and that wasn’t allowed in those days. There was huge and ingrained prejudice against homosexuals. It was illegal of course. And anyone who was found to be gay was assumed to be a subversive. A security risk. A closet communist. A traitor in the making. After all, two of the Cambridge Spies had been gay.

So all of Turing’s efforts suddenly counted for nought. The security services hounded him mercilessly. He was kept under constant surveillance and harassed constantly. Eventually he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. There was no evidence that he slept around and was about to hop into bed with a flaxen haired KGB toy boy from Vladivostok. Instead he was in a long term relationship. Every one of his acquaintances spoke of his fierce patriotism and his loathing of Nazism and Bolshevism alike. Did that count for anything? Did it prevail over prejudice? Did it hell.

They offered him a hell of a choice: prison or chemical castration. He chose chemical castration. But they still hounded him. They banned him from his work and followed him everywhere he went.

After two years of this he could take no more and he committed suicide. He was one of the greatest Britons of the 20th century, but blind prejudice drove him to his death. And now 63 years later we are pardoning him for a crime that doesn’t even exist any more.

Imagine how many nasty, evil documents like Poll ID:277 must have filled cabinet after cabinet as the security services drove Alan Turing to his grave. Did any of those bureaucrats take a step back and think about the man and all he had done? Obviously not. The prejudice prevailed

It almost always does. 


Saturday, December 21, 2013


There has been a huge response to my blog a few days ago which told the shameful story of how my two sons were treated by the local police last Sunday evening. Part of this response has been both surprising and enormously encouraging. Messages of support for the boys have poured in from all quarters. Both local and national politicians have unhesitatingly made commitments to vigorously investigate what was done. As I have been out and about going about my work this week, I have been stopped time and again by a wide variety of people, some who were known to me, others who were complete strangers. Every one of them asked me to pass on their best wishes to the boys: every one of them expressed their absolute disgust at the race driven humiliation that had been inflicted on the lads.

This really heartens me. I won’t say that it is unexpected, because it isn’t. Things have changed in Britain and they have changed for the better. When I first walked into Anfield in 1972, any black player would be subjected to 90 minutes of monkey chanting and derision. Now? I hate to think what would happen to any fan who dared to hop up and down doing a chimp imitation. I wouldn’t be great. A stay in hospital would be likely care of the fans. A lifetime ban would be inevitable care of the club. A day in court would be scheduled care of the police.

What has slightly surprised me has been the spontaneity of the support shown. It has been warm, genuine and unhesitating and I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks on behalf of all of us, particularly the lads.

On the other side of the coin, the reaction to my blog has been altogether more predictable. It has been nasty, spiteful and tawdry. When I write one of these blogs, the final act is to left click on the ‘Publish’ button. When I clicked last Monday, I did so with my eyes wide open. It would be nice to think in a country where we have enjoyed the luxury of free speech for hundreds of years, those who we pay to provide the essential services of the State might be grown up enough to accept criticism. Sadly this is seldom the case. Just look at the fate that has befallen all of the whistleblowers inside the NHS and the care system who have stepped forward to reveal the appalling way people are sometimes being treated. In almost every case they soon find themselves unemployed and ‘black balled’. Even when their allegations are fully proved, usually thanks to the better side of the media, they still find it all but impossible to get another job in the field.

Once anyone takes the decision to blow the whistle, they have to accept they will pay a heavy price for doing so. It is a tragic fact and one our country should be ashamed of. As things stand, many of the brave ones who blew the whistle on the shameful practices of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital remain unemployed outcasts whilst several of those who were in charge when all those people died have been promoted.

Sadly there seems to be a widely held feeling that if anyone raises their head above the parapet and publically criticises the police, they will almost certainly find their life will become more complicated. I certainly had few illusions in this regard. I doubt if any one of us who survived the killing cages of Hillsborough’s Leppings Lane End in 1989 will ever find a way to find any confidence that the police will do the right thing.

So what has happened so far since I left-clicked ‘Publish Blog’?

Again I will have to focus on myself and Courtney as there have been charges against Dyonne, though these charges seem to be a very moveable feast in every respect. Let’s just say that he was arrested for one thing and strip searched accordingly. When the search rendered the original reason for his being marched out of a nightclub in handcuffs null and void, he was verbally charged with an entirely different offence and released a few minutes before the 6 hour detention without trial deadline. As it turns out, the two charges that have finally been passed along to the Procurator Fiscal are entirely different again. They are charges that were never mentioned to him at any time during his incarceration.

So be it and enough said.

Yesterday we found out that Dyonne and Courtney had been mentioned in a circular generated by a local organisation called ‘Pubwatch’. It appears that ‘Pubwatch’ is a local partnership between the police and local pubs and clubs. The basic idea is that if an individual misbehaves in one place, then all the other places in the town should know about it. Once the information is electronically shared, then all the pubs and clubs involved in the scheme take a vote, firstly as to whether the person should be banned from all premises, and then secondly on how long the ban should be.

So fair enough I guess.

I tried all day yesterday to get my hands on a hard copy of the document, but thus far I have had no success. It is amazing how secretive people become when there is the whiff of a racial scandal in the air. One member however was good enough to read the statement aloud to me over the phone and I noted it down to the best of my ability. This will be 90% correct.

‘Courtney Frankland was allegedly caught sniffing a white powder in the toilets of a member premises. He was arrested and searched for drugs. No drugs were found. He was not charged. Dyonne Green was also there. He was also arrested and searched. No drugs were found but he is being charged with XXXXXXXX’

This is the statement that was sent to a majority of the pubs and clubs in the town this week. The wording leaves little to the imagination, don’t you think? ‘Allegedly caught’. I guess it is quite hard to be ‘allegedly’ caught sniffing white powder in the cubicle of a public toilet. You are either caught or you are not caught. When this statement is examined in the light of what came next, it seems rather ridiculous. Picture a cubicle in a public toilet. It is hardly an extensive space is it? It is also for the very most obvious reasons an enclosed space which gives the user some privacy. So the only way to witness a person sniffing white powder in a public toilet is either to lift yourself up to peer over the door or to force the door open. Assuming the door is locked, and let’s face it, most people who are intent on sniffing white powder in the cubicle of a public toilet will tend lock the door, then your next course of action is to kick the door in. The sniffer will then have a matter of seconds to get rid of the powder on the top of the toilet, any drugs on their person, any residue on their nose and top lip, and whatever they have been using to do the actual sniffing. No easy task! So people who are caught involved in this activity tend to be ‘actually’ caught rather than ‘allegedly’ caught.

Is this how things played out in Chancers last Sunday evening? Not remotely. Courtney was at no time in a cubicle. He was leaning against a sink and talking on his phone. It was Dyonne who was in a cubicle and he was grabbed and smacked against the wall by three bouncers as he stepped out. This is rather clearly evidenced by the fact that the toilet door was not damaged by being kicked in and nobody showed any interest in securing the cubicle to collect evidence.

So what will someone who doesn’t know Dyonne and Courtney draw from reading the information that was shared around? Well I guess the first thing they will do is check who has put the information forward for public perusal. Constable Adam Potts. OK. A serving policeman. And most of us have a fair degree or respect for our policemen. So if a policeman submits written information stating that an individual has been ‘allegedly caught sniffing white powder in a toilet cubicle’, then it leaves little room for doubt. We have all watched plenty of films where the devious and wicked drug dealer manages to flush away all evidence of his wickedness in the seconds before the police crash through the bathroom door.

The statement then goes on to reveal that Courtney was arrested and searched before being released. However it is hard not to conclude that Constable Adam Potts believes that proper justice was not achieved. For surely if Constable Adam Potts felt that Courtney’s arrest and detention was in fact groundless, then there is no way that he would share the details of the event with most of the pubs and clubs in the town. If I was a landlord and I read that statement, my understanding would certainly be that in the eyes of the police this Courtney lad is as guilty as sin and that he had simply been too quick witted to get caught. Which in turn suggests that he must be a pretty serious and experienced drug user to have managed to dispose of every shred of evidence in the seconds before the bouncers kicked in the door. Do I want him in my club? I don’t think so. So what that he was released without charge? This happens all the time. ‘Allegedly’ caught! Aye right. He was ‘caught’ caught. They just couldn’t prove anything. And that of course is why the good Constable Adam Potts is letting us know all about it.

Having failed to get my hands on the document itself, I decided the next step was to try and discuss the matter with Constable Potts himself. Dyonne and I went along to Loreburne Police Station yesterday evening to see if we could discover if he had actually been charged with anything. The desk officer could not have been more polite and informative. He checked the system and informed Dyonne that two charges had indeed been sent to the Procurator Fiscal for their consideration, though not the charges that Dyonne had been told about whilst he was in custody. He then showed great patience in explaining how things will now progress and how any charge is only really ‘formal’ when the Procurator Fiscal sends out a letter outlining their intention to proceed with a prosecution.

OK. That was fine. It was a first rate example of a policeman interacting with the public he serves with both good manners and commendable clarity.

It was time to find out more about the Pubwatch issue. There was a poster on the wall explaining the reasons why a person might be banned from the local places of entertainment who are involved in the Pubwatch partnership. I didn’t take a proper note, but basically the poster warned that you are at risk of a ban if you are violent, if you are caught using or selling drugs or if you commit acts of vandalism.

The desk sergeant had little working knowledge of the Pubwatch scheme so he asked us to take a seat whilst he summoned Constable Adam Potts himself. After a few minutes we were able to put a face to the name on the statement. Constable Potts was in all respects a thoroughly pleasant young policeman who was friendly and polite at all times. He explained that Pubwatch really isn’t a police thing at all. It is a private partnership of licensed premises.

OK. But if that was the case then why was his name so clearly attached to the statement? A policeman's name.

Well. Yes. That isn’t quite the thing. Apparently it was a member of staff from Chancers who actually wrote the statement and then submitted it electronically to the Pubwatch system. Constable Potts explained that he is in fact no more than a facilitator. He runs an eye over any statement and, so long as he is happy with it, he sends it forth into the public domain. If he is unhappy with what has been written he can stop the information going public. In this particular case, he explained that he had added the word ‘allegedly’.

Oh really?

So the actual statement written by Chancers was ‘Courtney Frankland as caught sniffing a white powder in the toilets of a member’s premises’. As in 'caught' caught. bang to rights caught.

Well, yes. No grey area there then. Nice that the polite young constable is going out of the way to make sure that the staff at Chancers don’t accidentally step over any lines which might put them on the wrong side of the law.

But what about all of the information about the lads being arrested, searched, then released in Courtney’s case and charged in Dyonne case? How on earth would the Chancers staff know about any of that? That must have come from you guys?

Well. Yes it did.

Pubwatch is obviously a very cosy partnership indeed.

I pointed out that the facts of this case were actually rather simple. A night club bouncer had told one story. Courtney had told another story. Both stories were completely different. On the basis of the bouncer’s story, the police attended the scene, handcuffed Courtney, very publically marched him through the club and streets, subjected him to a full strip search and then released him without any charge whatsoever.

Despite this lack of any proof or charge, Constable Potts was still obviously inclined to take the word of the Chancers bouncer. After all, it had been in his power to stop the Chancers statement being made public. I asked him why this was. A bouncer needs to undergo a couple of days of training to get a licence from the Council to man the doors of the town’s pubs and clubs: it costs £100 or so. To become a TA soldier in the British Army involves many weeks of vigorous and intensive training for which the Army is respected the world over. So why does that £100, two day licence count for so much and thousands of pounds of Army training count for so little? Constable Potts said it wasn’t like that. But he didn’t explain why he had decided that Courtney was a wholly inferior person to the bouncer; a person whose word was not to be trusted.

After a few minutes, another officer appeared at the desk and asked Constable Potts to for a quick word. They had a quick word. And then we resumed our discussion on the ins and outs of Pubwatch. The constable pointed out that Courtney could appeal any banning decision should one in fact be issued by the members of the scheme.

This is really British.

You are accused of something, arrested and no evidence is found that the accusation is true and so you are duly released. Fair enough, though it leaves a pretty bad taste when the reason for the original suspicion is obviously the colour of your skin. But then it is apparently perfectly OK for a serving policeman to tell the publicans of your home town that you have been ‘allegedly caught sniffing white powder in a toilet’. And if the publicans decide to take what the officer has said at face value, then you will be banned from every one of their premises for as long a period as they deem fit. Finally at this point you can appeal and try and prove your innocence. They don’t want to hear your side of events before making their decision. They make their decision purely non the words of Constable Adam Potts.

As in guilty until proven innocent.

I put this to Constable Potts. He said it wasn’t like that. I suggested it is a pretty tough outcome for a serving TA soldier who has clearly been arrested and incarcerated for no other reason than having the wrong skin colour. He didn’t like that. It made him jumpy. I don’t suppose I was particularly surprised.

It was clear that there was no more to be said. We stepped out of the police station into a night of gale force wind and driving rain. My car was only fifty yards or so down the street. We got in. I started up and pulled out. As we drove past the station, a Police van pulled out behind us. Half a mile later my rear view mirror was filled with flashing blue lights.

Surprise, surprise.

How odd to be pulled up for what looked like some sort of traffic violation by a police van. In my experience traffic cops go around in cars, not vans. But not to worry. Maybe it is down to the cuts.

I got out and was asked to sit in the back of the van. I did so.

Surprise, surprise.

The driver of the van was none other than the officer who had asked Constable Potts if he could have a quick word. Maybe that quick word was something along the lines of ‘let me know when they leave and we will follow them: see if we can pull them for something.’

Surely not.

It must have all been nothing more than pure co-incidence, Allegedly.

They asked if I knew why I had been pulled over and I told them I had no idea. They pointed out that I have a faulty back window wiper. Indeed I have. I hadn’t noticed or I would have fixed it the day after I posted my first blog.

They were absolutely nice as ninepence and we talked a lot about the weather and how rotten it was. They explained that they could give me a ticket, but on this occasion they were choosing merely to point out that my windscreen wiping equipment was not up to the mark. Which was good of them. Then they ran all the checks to make sure I was not an Al Queda suspect of anything. Finally they smiled warmly and wished me the best for the rest of the night.

And then they allowed me to resume my journey home.

Message delivered and delivered with a smile.

Just so I know who is in charge. We can pick you up whenever you like sunshine. So don’t make a nuisance of yourself. There’s a good chap.

The message has been received loud and clear guys. And it is nice to live in Britain where such messages are delivered with a polite smile. I guess it would be rather different in Tehran, Tver or Tel Aviv.

So what next? Fix the windscreen wiper. Get an MOT done on the old Volvo a month early to make sure there is nothing else. Soon it will become clear that this kind of thing is unlikely to dissuade this particular father from making a nuisance of himself when his sons are subjected to racially motivated humiliation. Maybe they will then have a go at intimidating the lads’ mum. Maybe if they manage to scare the mum, then she will put her foot down and demand the dad shuts his mouth and leaves it be. Well best of luck with that one lads!  We once had a guy pull a knife on us in a taxi on a dusty back road in Gambia. I have never seen a woman less scared in my life. In fact I was scared for the safety of the guy with the knife! Carol isn’t a person who scares easily. She had many years of experience of this kind of stuff in the 70's and 80's. You can maybe imagine the kind of memories all of this is bringing back. 


Will this be the last blog on this issue? I doubt it. Once again I urge anyone reading this to please send it around. The only way this kind of nasty stuff can be stopped is if a light gets shined on it.    

A bright light.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


On Sunday morning Nelson Mandela was laid to rest. Billions tuned in to watch. Black people. Brown people. Yellow people. White people. He was the most loved human being on our troubled planet. A hero. An icon. A man who took on evil and prevailed.

He was a man who put us all in touch with what Lincoln called ‘The better angels of our nature’. He made us believe that the bad guys don’t always have to win.

Above all else, he persuaded millions to judge their fellow human beings on the basis of their character and personality instead of the colour of their skins.

When they sent Nelson to Robben Island in 1963, it was perfectly OK to tell a nigger joke at the bar of any pub in Britain. Try it now. You might just get locked up. And Nelson was part of that narrative. A huge part.

You would really think that on the very day we bade him farewell that even the most racist of people would take care to keep their bigotry under wraps.

Well, you would think that.

But it wasn’t the case on the streets of Dumfries on Sunday evening. It wasn’t the case for my two sons. They were subjected to the kind of treatment that Nelson Mandela broke a million rocks to dispatch to the dustbin of history.

My sons were deemed to be guilty of the crime of being the only two coloured guys in the room.

Here are the bones of it. And it was 15 December 2013 by the way. It wasn’t an episode of ‘Life on Mars’.

The lads were out on the town celebrating Tottenham 0 – Liverpool 5. Did they have a few drinks? Sure. Were they legless and out of control? Nope.

At 11.30 they entered a local nightclub called Chancers. It was seasonally full. There were about a hundred people inside. 98 were white. 2 were brown: mixed race. My two.

Before getting their drinks in, they headed into the Gents. As you do when you have spent a few hours celebrating Tottenham 0 – Liverpool 5. Is going to the Gents in a nightclub a crime? Not the last time I looked.

At this point I will have to edit my oldest son, Dyonne, out of the tale. There is a chance that he might be charged. So I will play safe. He has no proper idea yet of what he may or may not be charged with. What he at least does know is that is nothing to do with drugs, violence, terrorism or treason. So instead I will focus on my youngest son, Courtney.

At about 11.45 Courtney was standing by a sink talking on his mobile phone when first the club bouncers and then the policemen came into the Gents. Mob handed. Spoiling for a fight. Courtney had his hands cuffed tight behind his back and nobody was much in the mood to explain why. Things were confused. One minute he was talking on his phone. The next minute he was in handcuffs. There was talk of suspicion of drugs.


Where was the clue that provoked the club’s bouncers to storm into the Gents and ring the police? Well you would think it must have been a hell of a clue. Compelling. Because if it hadn’t been compelling, the police would surely have asked for the bouncers to accompany them to a quiet office away from prying eyes and eager ears. I am not familiar with the exact architectural layout of Chancers, but I feel pretty confident that they will indeed have some sort of office. In the quiet and calm of the office, the policemen could have taken a detailed statement from the bouncers. And then they could have taken a detailed statement from Courtney. And then they could have weighed up each set of facts and decided how to proceed. Maybe they could even have called the ranking officer at the station and sought a second opinion.

So what would the bouncers have had to say?

Courtney arrived in the club at just after 11.30pm

He went to the Gents.


Where in those two mundane facts was there anything to provoke a call to the police station requesting immediate attendance? Does entering a club and going into the Gents automatically suggest illicit drug use? Is it enough to summon an overstretched police force at their busiest time?

Well I guess not. I figure the majority of the 98 white people who were in that club took time out to visit the toilet at some stage of the evening. And I dare say their visiting the toilet wasn’t deemed to be suspicious enough for the police to be called in.

But Courtney wasn’t one of the 198.

He was one of the two.

He was a 21 year old mixed race man and therefore a different set of rules applied. The bouncers couldn’t settle with idea of a brown man going to the Gents. Because they were obviously of the firm opinion that brown people are bad people. Criminal people. Drug using people. So when a brown man goes to the Gents, you get onto your walkie talkie and call in the cavalry.

And the cavalry came. Within minutes. It was the kind of ultra rapid response that would do justice to any major incident. Maybe Al Queda should think twice if they are planning a spectacular in Dumfries. Be warned. Our boys in blue are quick off the mark. When a brown man walks into the Gents in a nightclub they are on the scene in the blink of an eye..

The officers chose not to take the option of a measured assessment of the situation in the privacy of an office.

Instead, without a moment’s hesitation, they cuffed Courtney’s hands behind his back and marched him out of the Gents.

And they marched him straight across the dance floor where 98 sets of eyes watched his each and every step. A brown lad with his hands cuffed behind his back. A brown lad being led by two uniformed policemen. White policemen.

Courtney has joined the Territorial Army recently and he spends his days out on the streets recruiting for Queen and Country. So that made a really great impression. Hands cuffed and a policeman on each arm. A brown man in cuffs. I think the word is stereotype.

Outside and onto the street. Would it be a ride in a van? No. He was to walk all the way. Hands cuffed behind his back. A policeman on each arm. Just another brown lad headed for the cells. That was what the pedestrians on the street saw. That was what the passing cars saw. They saw the stereotype. And this is a very small town where gossip thrives like flies on a cow pat.

They marched him into the station and informed him that he had been arrested on suspicion of drug offences. They took his name. They took him into a cell. And then they made him strip. They checked every square inch of every item of clothing. Then they checked every square inch of him. I’m going into no more detail. None needed really.
Bend over.
And outside in the corridor a couple of the female officers were finding the whole thing really funny. Now why does that sound familiar? Private Lynndie England? Abu Graib Prison? Oh yeah, naked brown men in cuffs can be really, really funny.

The officers claimed the justification of ‘reasonable suspicion’. Apparently if you go into a night club and then use the Gents it is deemed to be ‘reasonable suspicion’. And this ‘reasonable suspicion’ makes it perfectly OK for policemen to cuff your hands behind your back, show you off as a captive in front of hundreds of eyes, and then to humiliate you in a stark police cell.

Sound familiar Nelson? I guess they must have done the same to you on Robben Island. Many, many times. White policemen in bare cells. Break down and humiliate. Demonstrate who is in charge.

For what?

For being guilty of the crime of not being white.

And so my son joined a club of many millions. A club with many distinguished members’ names up on the board. Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King. Malcolm X. Steve Biko. Men found guilty of the crime of not being white by white men in uniforms. Men stripped and humiliated. Bend over… spread….

And the titter of female laughter from the corridor outside.


They didn’t find anything for the simple reason that there was nothing to find. They must have been sick. How can it be that a coloured lad DOESN’T have any drugs on them. Or a knife. Or a gun. Or a suicide vest.

How can a 21 year old brown lad in fact be a serving TA soldier who was doing no more than celebrating Tottenham 0 – Liverpool 5?

So did they apologise when they let him go?


Why should they? They had ‘reasonable suspicion’ on their side. He was brown. He was male. He was 21. He had gone into the Gents.

However they did tell him not to return to the club.


No comment.

Don’t go into the club. Don’t sit at the back of the bus. Don’t use the water fountain. Don’t take up your place to study at the University of Old Mississippi

Don’t get uppity.

Your type don’t warrant a reason.


Courtney went back to the club to get his jacket and to find his mates inside. At first the bouncers said it was OK for him to go in. But a few minutes later they changed their minds. They said that the police had called them up and the police said that Courtney wasn’t allowed in the club.


Don’t you get uppity boy.

Don’t push it Kaffir.

Know your place.

Well thanks to the likes of Nelson, my son Courtney doesn’t know his place. He’s going to get uppity and he’ll have his mum and dad at his shoulder every step of the way. And the ghosts of Nelson and Steve and Martin and Malcolm will be at his shoulder every step of the way. Because to let them get away with it on the very day that we said our goodbyes to Nelson would be a betrayal of every sacrifice he made for every single one of us. Courtney is a tough lad. He always has been and a couple of months of intensive army training have made him tougher still. He was able to take the humiliation in his stride. But like he says, what about other young brown lads who might walk into the Gents in a Dumfries nightclub? What if they are foreign visitors? Students at the University or workers up at the hospital? Is it OK to let things lie and make it easy for white men in uniforms to abuse and humiliate young brown men for the simple crime of not being white?

No it’s not OK.

And it never will be.

But Courtney will now probably have to get used to making sacrifices of his own. How many times will he get stopped on the street? Will a trip to the cells become a regular thing? When he gets his licence, will he get pulled all the time? And will his mates start to wonder if going out on the town is more hassle than it is worth? Will they be deemed to be guilty by association? Will they also get marched up to the station for the same treatment? Christmas is days away and both lads would like to go out with their mates, but they can’t bleach themselves. This is their home town, but it doesn’t feel such a safe place any more. Not when you get treated like this for using a gents toilet. To their credit, the local paper are keen to run the story. To shine a light. But right now Courtney is wary of his photo appearing in the press. He fears that bit would be too much like pulling the tiger’s tail. Instead he will be lodging an official complaint and telling his story to our local MSP and Council Leader. Democracy is supposed to stop this kind of thing. We’ll see. As a Hillsborough survivor I find it hard to find much faith in Democracy’s ability to come down hard on appalling police behaviour 

But this is not going to be filed away in a cabinet in a basement storeroom.

This is coming out into the light.

In your name Nelson.

In your name.         

Monday, December 16, 2013


Last week Anfield rose to its feet to give a minute’s worth of applause to Nelson Mandela. A tribute in the form of a minute’s applause is a new thing and to be honest it usually tends to feel bit contrived. To not clap would draw dirty looks, so everyone claps. Everyone kind of mentally ticks off the seconds and the referee’s body language tends to speak of unease. As a rule of thumb the man in black gets the whistle blown after twenty seconds or so and everyone breathes out a silent sigh of relief.

But it wasn’t like that for Mandela. The ref could have hung fire for five minutes and nobody would have got tired. As I clapped, I looked around me. Football isn’t a young man’s game any more. Most of those in the stadium were like me. White middle aged men with thinning hair, thickening waistlines and over stretched credit cards. When you take a step back, it can be seen as slightly odd that such an audience should hammer out such prolonged and thunderous applause for a guerrilla leader from a country far away.

I guess there were a few reasons for forty thousand of us creating a rumble of appreciative sound that probably rolled all the way across Stanley Park to Goodison. Liverpool has always been a city of the left: a haven for rebels with or without causes. We spawned John Lennon and Derek Hatton, so Nelson was always going to be seen as one of us.

As we applauded, I guess many of us allowed our minds to wander back to the early 80’s when Thatcher sat in Downing St and spat her venom at the beleaguered city. ‘Free Mandela’ T shirts were part of the fabric of those times. We would never have equated the brutality of the Apartheid regime in Pretoria with the vindictive Tories in London. But we could feel a degree of kinship with oppressed masses of South Africa. Back in those days, we Scousers were also viewed as a kind of lesser people. What do you call a Scouser in a suit? …. Yeah, yeah… the accused. London fans would always show up at Anfield with fresh £20 notes to wave gloatingly in our faces.
‘Hey rock ‘n Roll…Scousers on the dole….’
‘Feed the Scousers… let them know it’s Chritmastime…’
‘….In their Liverpool home… they look in a dustbin for something to eat…. they find a dead rat and they think it’s a treat…”

The unemployment and poverty of the city was something that was fair game to turn into Saturday Night humour. In a way, in those days of Yosser Hughes, Liverpool was seen as Britain’s very own Township. A British Soweto on the banks of the Mersey. A place of poverty and problematic people who were always kicking off. A place to be policed with batons.

So no wonder Nelson felt like one of our own. I wonder if this partly explains why he chose Liverpool as his team? I would like to think so.

Many of us clapped because it took us back to a time when we were much younger, a time when our anger was collective. Back then the bad guys were easy to spot. Back then there were also a few good guys around who warranted T shirts. Sure there were walls, but the walls were there to be kicked down.

Back then, there was still room in the world for a hero. And in the end surely that was the real reason why the sound of forty thousand plus pairs of hands was so overwhelming. We were applauding the passing of the last hero.

Will there ever be another? Maybe, though it is hard to see how. Heroes fight the odds. They take a tilt at windmills. They lay it on the line for the greater good. They know full well that things are unlikely to end well, but they forge ahead regardless.

Thank God Nelson proved to be the exception to the rule. Almost uniquely, he got to die of old age rather than raw violence. Most are not so lucky. Not Mahatma Ghandi. Not Martin Luther King. Not Bobby Kennedy. Not Che Guevara. Not Steve Biko. They burnt as bright as shooting stars on a crystal clear winter’s night.

Then they were stamped on. Stamped out. Crushed like beetles under hobnailed boots.

Sometimes mass public mourning can be contrived and tawdry. Self satisfied. Tabloid driven. Like the whole reality TV style gushing that went on and on after demise of Princess Diana. But this was different. This was real. None of us needed the tabloids to tell us to mourn the passing of such a genuine hero.

And once he is put into the ground this morning, the world will be a much poorer place. For so long as Nelson still lived and breathed, there was at least one genuinely great human being in our midst. Now? Well obviously there are endless thousands heroic men and women in every country of the world. But their heroism will be kept secret. They will wage their wars against oppression behind closed doors. We can find them in the obscure reaches of Twitter, but never on the Ten O Clock news. Unlike Nelson.

And many thousands such heroes will fade away in the empty hours of the night like Steve Biko. They will quietly bleed out on the damp concrete floors of basement dungeons. Far from the light. Far from the public view.

It would be nice to think that the world has moved on to better and brighter times. It would be nice to think that the serial lunacy of the 20th Century has joined the Dark Ages as a time passed. In the early 90’s a new dawn was supposed to have washed a warm light across the world. The era of the bad guys was over. No more Apartheid. No more Bolshevik communism. No more Maoist communism. The men in the white hats had finally prevailed. It was to be the time of the free market: democracy and McDonalds for all.   

And for a while it seemed like this Disney fantasy of the triumphant corporations of the West might just come true. They had a poll in Russia in the mid nineties and included the name of Uncle Ben on the list of available candidates. He pulled in over 70% of the vote. The Russians saw this avuncular black man as the guy who had put affordable food on the shelves instead of the rotten cabbages of the communist era. But the time for optimism came and went. Now if Uncle Ben got on a bus in Moscow he would be beaten with iron bars wielded by Neo Nazi skinheads who would film the whole thing on their mobile phones and post it on YouTube. 

The new globalised world has made it easier rather than harder for evil men to thrive and prosper. The brutality of the last century was largely down to warped ideologies: Nazism, Bolshevism, Apartheid. The likes of Hitler and Stalin were into their hate for hate’s sake rather than getting their grubby mits of a pile of cash. Now the times are different. This is the time of the gangster. Drug gangsters and financial gangsters or just plain and simple gangsters.

When things kicked off in Syria, it was estimated that the Assad family owned 70% of all the wealth of the country. Every night the news shows us the catastrophic and unending misery that has been caused by a single rotten to the core family hanging on to its treasure. In poorer than poor North Korea, the ruling family has managed to rack up an off shore fortune of $4 billion. Last week there was a family falling out, though it seems to have had little to do with Christmas. The uncle was executed and the official government statement to the people branded him as ‘despicable human scum: worse than a dog’. When your government comes out with this kind of stuff through official channels you really know that you have problems! Mugabe has £10 billion stashed away. And how Nelson must have hated the sight of President Zuma and his lackies with their snouts in the trough.

And for every one of these new century gangsters, there is a queue of accountants and bankers from the shining towers of the City of London waiting at the door. Send us all of your ill gotten gains boys and we’ll wiz it around the world for you. For a modest consideration, we will keep all of your trinkets and baubles safer than safe. We’ll turn your blood money into an electronic whirlwind that can never, ever be traced. Oh and there’s more. So much more. You see, our chaps now own all of the world’s media. Lock, stock and super duper barrel. You can get along with your dirty deeds and we’ll make sure nothing ever sees the light of day. So long as you keep sending us your money, we will make sure that the curtains continue to be drawn tight closed.

Think about it.

On 21 March 1960 a crowd of 5000 took to the streets in the South African township of Sharpeville to demonstrate against the Apartheid regime. The police opened fire and executed 69 people. These were the days before 24 hour rolling news and Twitter and hundreds of satellite channels. And yet within hours of the sound of gunfire on a dusty South African street, the news had shot all the way around the world. The story made the front pages from Moscow to Manchester to Milwaukee. Of course it did. A minority regime determined hang on to power had resorted to cold blooded murder to make it happen.

And 69 people is a lot.

It is 50 more than the government cavalry hacked down at Peterloo in 1819.

It is 55 more than the Paras shot dead on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

But when you look at it in a different light, 69 isn’t all that many at all. In the last 20 years or so, over 4 million civilians have been murdered in the Congo as a variety of gangsters have fought it out for territory rich in copper and coltan and uranium. The Eastern Congo is the Klondike of the new century and it has been cursed by being home to troves of underground treasure that have generated the greatest genocide since Hitler and Stalin. Is it on the news every night? No. Not even close.

Which of course begs the question, why?

Is it because the 4 million dead are almost all dirt poor black people? Christ I hope not. If that is indeed the case, then we really have gone backwards to a frightening degree. After all the 69 who were gunned down on the streets of Sharpeville were also poor black people and their fate warranted headlines around the globe.

Or is it actually all about all those billions and billions of pounds worth of copper and coltan and uranium; billions which flow through those gleaming towers of the City of London leaving fat commission payments every step along the way.

Maybe there is indeed a new Nelson Mandela somewhere out there in the killing fields of the Eastern Congo. Maybe he or she exhibits the same courage, charisma and heroism as the great man who was laid in the ground this morning.

But we are unlikely to hear about this new hero because the copper and the coltan and the uranium will always come first.

In a hundred years time, will historians look back on this Sunday in December 2013 and say “that was the day we buried the very last hero” ? 

We can only hope it is not so.