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Satpal Ram - A Briefing on his case

The attack
Satpal was 20 years old when he was attacked in a restaurant in Lozells, Birmingham in November 1986. He was eating with two friends in a Bengali restaurant when a group of six white people arrived. The group had been drinking and started to behave aggressively. Racist abuse was directed at Satpal's table and others in the restaurant. Things came to a head in an altercation about the music being played by the waiters. Satpal asked them to turn up the volume, and Clarke Pearce, Satpal's attacker, said 'we don't want any more of this fucking wog music'. In the course of the argument that followed, Pearce smashed a glass on the table and stabbed Satpal twice, in the face and wrist,trying to protect his face. The other five in Pearce's group were throwing whatever they could get their hands on at Satpal. Pearce was a big man, 6ft 2in in height and thirteen and a half stone, whereas Satpal is a small person, at that time nine and a half stones. Satpal was pushed up against a corner with no means of escape, a table in front of him and people on both sides and a wall behind him. After having been badly stabbed twice, Satpal used a small knife from his work that he opened boxes with in a warehouse to defend himself.

Both men were wounded in this attack on Satpal and both men were taken to hospital. Satpal received treatment for his wounds. Clarke Pearce, however, refused medical treatment, pulled out his drips and died of blood loss in the operating theatre.

Satpal went into hiding for a few days after this, fearing the consequences of a white man's death. During this time, the police placed heavy pressure on Satpal's family and assured them that the facts of the attack would be addressed in court. After some days of police harassment of his family, Satpal gave himself up.

The trial


a) Legal representation

Satpal's barrister changed his defence of self-defence to one of provocation, after meeting with Satpal for only a 40-minute meeting before the trial. Satpal was not called to give evidence on his own behalf. This meant that the actual nature of events was not discussed. Instead, the main evidence came from friends of Satpal's attacker who painted Clarke Pearce as an innocent victim rather than a violent racist.

b) Interpretation for witnesses

Although the main independent witnesses were Bengali-speaking waiters, no interpretation was provided in court. Instead the white judge said that he would interpret for the Bengali-speakers. He could not speak or understand Bengali. West Midlands police wrote statements on behalf of the Bengali-speaking waiters which the waiters themselves later disowned. No interpreters were used to take these statements. The waiters were not given the opportunity to describe the violent attack upon Satpal.

c) an all-white jury

An all-white jury convicted Satpal of murder after a mere 20 minutes deliberating. This jury could not be considered to be a jury of Satpal's peers.The whole trial lasted only 3 days! In the context of Birmingham at the time, this must be seen as a politically motivated conviction. Satpal was given a tariff of 10 years by Lord Laine.

The context
a) No-go areas in Birmingham

After the uprisings in Handsworth and Lozells in 1985, a racist local press and local politicians depicted Handsworth and Lozells as no-go areas for whites. This whipped up a popular hysteria about dangerous black people and the threat to white rights and ways of life. In this context, black people in Birmingham became more vulnerable than ever to police harassment and racist attacks.

b) Racial violence

Satpal had good reason to believe that he was in fear of his life. After the uprisings in 1985, there was a rise in racist attacks across Birmingham. Satpal is attacked in 1986, the period when these revenge attacks were taking place.

c) Pearce family

The Pearce family was well known for their racism and violence. They lived in Newtown, a largely white estate that backs on to Lozells. Newtown was notorious for its levels of racist violence and the Pearce family was well known for their involvement in this gang violence. After the attack on Satpal and Clarke Pearce's death, members of the Pearce family attempted to run down Satpal's family and friends and intimidated witnesses. They even tried to attack Satpal in court.

4. Appeals

Satpal last came up for appeal in 1995. Once again, Satpal was not allowed to give evidence on his own behalf. The Bengali-speaking waiters who witnessed the original events were not called to give evidence. Instead, the appeal judges decided that Satpal was guilty on the basis of the original, flawed, trial evidence. The appeal judges said that they were not able to pass judgement on the professional practice of one of their colleagues.


5. Treatment in prison

a) Segregation

Satpal has spent an excessive amount of time in segregation. Often, prison officers have attacked Satpal in his cell and then put him in segregation on a disciplinary charge. He has faced a number of concocted charges, including a mutiny charge before his last appeal (created in order to disrupt the appeal process and later thrown out) and an attempt to plant drugs in his cell.

b) Strip-searching

Satpal has suffered many kinds of attack from prison officers. Even when he is in segregation, isolated from other prisoners, he has been subject to continuous strip-searches. These have included violent anal examinations, during which he has been held down by a number of officers. Satpal views these events as sexual assaults, designed to terrorise him and break his spirit.

c) Ghosting

Satpal went to prison when he was 20 years old.So far he has been in 60 prisons. Often he has been moved from prison to prison each month, always being kept in segregation. This makes it impossible for Satpal to settle in a place, form relationships with other prisoners, or engage in activities that would prepare him for release. These constant moves have made it difficult for Satpal to maintain proper contact with his family and supporters and to keep his own legal papers in order. Often, prison officers will destroy Satpal's possessions in the course of the moves.

d) Categorisation

Satpal remains a category B prisoner after thirteen years 6 months in prison. This implies that he is a violent man who continues to pose a threat to society and is an escape risk. Satpal has been in prison since he was nineteen because he had the audacity to defend his own life. Career criminals progress through the system of decategorisation to reach parole, but Satpal is regarded as too dangerous to rehabilitate.

e) Rehabilitation

After so many years in prison, there is little indication that Satpal is being prepared for release. He is kept in prisons far away from his family and friends - in particular this makes it almost impossible for him to receive visits from his elderly mother. He has never been considered for day or weekend release. He has had access to education facilities only rarely. Even if the authorities do not accept Satpal's innocence, they have a responsibility to try to reintegrate him into society.

6. Key tasks and Key contacts

Satpal is coming up for parole,the process started on the 1st December 1999.

Letters of support can be sent to-

Usha Prashar,

The Parole Board,

Abell House,

John Islip St.,

London

SW1 P4LH

For further information,
contact Satpal's solicitor
Gareth Peirce
14 Inverness St
Camden
London NW1 7HJ

Contact Campaign Team: satpalramcampaign@hotmail.com