Editorial 93c Venner Road, "History Today" Sydenham, 20 Old Compton Street London SE26 5HU. London W1V 5PE. 0181 659 7713 E-Mail A_Baron@ABaron.Demon.Co.UK March 8, 1999 Sir, Marika Sherwood's article "LYNCHING IN BRITAIN" contains several serious distortions if not outright inaccuracies. She is correct when she defines a lynching as a mob action without due process, but most lynchings are (or hopefully were) the result of summary justice meted out by a mob which did not wait around for the courts, or, as for example in the case of Leo Frank, when a mob felt that the sentence passed by the court was too lenient and only execution would suffice. Whilst we should all rightly deplore lynching, racially motivated murders, or alleged racially motivated murders, are no more lynchings than sex murders, or any other category of senseless violent crime. On page 22 she, or the picture editor, reproduces a photograph taken outside the inquest on the Deptford Fire of 1980. In spite of repeated attempts by "anti-racist" groups to make political capital out of this tragedy there was never any evidence that this fire was politically or racially motivated and no conclusive evidence that it was arson. The best available evidence indicates that the fire was caused by someone at the party, and some years after the fire a report to this effect was in fact sent to the DPP. Deplorable though police attitudes can be at times, they were faced here with a wall of silence which severely hampered any efforts to get at the truth. The murder of Stephen Lawrence was likewise no manner of lynching, and it is quite likely that if in this case the victim hadn't been black his assailants would have found some other excuse to kill him. The case of "Uggie" Oluwale was a particularly sad one which I remember well although I was only 12 or 13 years old at the time. Uggie was a tramp who was beaten out of sheer sadism, and again it is quite likely that he would have suffered the same fate had he been white. The claim that 39 blacks (presumably this means anyone who is not white) have died in police custody since 1971 is a meaningless statistic. As the non-white population of this country is now considerable it would be unreasonable to expect there to be no such deaths, and literally hundreds of thousands of people are arrested in this country every year. Deaths in police custody can mean almost anything, including people who die from alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses or even suicide. Finally, Marika Sherwood's reference to researcher Paul Gordon is a dead giveaway. Paul Gordon is, among other things, the co-author of "New Right, New Racism", which was published by Searchlight Publications in 1986. Miss Sherwood's article, like Mr Gordon's book, is a political polemic, and one unworthy of publication by a scholarly magazine. Yours sincerely, A Baron
Re the above, the Deptford Fire also known as the New Cross Fire or (disingenously as) the Deptford Massacre, actually happened in the small hours of January 18, 1981. Again, there has never been any credible evidence that the fire was caused by an outside agency; the best evidence is that it was a tragic if avoidable accident.
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