Met pays out to black brothers wrongfully searched and handcuffed outside London home in 2020

By Alma Fabiani

Published Dec 1, 2022 at 12:00 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

The Metropolitan police has settled a complaint by two black brothers who had been stopped, searched, and handcuffed outside their family home in Chingford, east London, on 13 April 2020.

The two victims, Nicholas Peart, 24, and Leon Peart, 20, have been described as Christians who regularly attend church, have never smoked tobacco, let alone done any drugs. “We go to church, we follow the law,” Nicholas told The Guardian. “The only reason [for the arrests] I can assume is race.” The Met has obviously denied this claim.

The incident took place on Leon’s 18th birthday, when strict lockdown restrictions still applied to the whole of the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, both of them worked in a supermarket, which meant that they were classified as essential workers and were allowed to leave their house to go to work. Their mum, Jacqui, an NHS employee, also classed as an essential worker.

Nicholas explained that he was sitting in his car, waiting for his brother and mother outside of their house. The three of them were planning on getting some petrol to fill up the vehicle’s tank before driving it to work the next day.

According to documents from the police, the violent crimes taskforce said they were initially investigating why Nicholas was out of the house. One officer even claimed to have seen items linked to drugs. No fine was issued, but Nicholas was rapidly handcuffed and a search began.

When Leon finally came out of their home, he noticed that his brother was in handcuffs and ran back in to get their mother. More documents from the Met showed that the police believed this was a possible drug deal in progress between the two men.

“Drug paraphernalia was seen inside the vehicle and as [the] subject [was] being spoken to, an unknown male looked to be approaching the subject’s vehicle and ran [out of] sight of police. Believe to be a possible drug deal,” the report read.

One officer explained that Leon was handcuffed because he was “bigger than me and clearly much stronger,” adding: “I was aware that gang nominal[s] and drug dealers regularly carry weapons and have been assaulted doing similar style stops on numerous occasions.”

“It was embarrassing to put me in handcuffs in front of my neighbours. Beforehand, I had a good view of the police. I always said hi to the local officer. This has diminished my view of the police,” Nicholas explained after recounting the event.

Meanwhile, Leon said that, instead of celebrating his birthday, he was left in tears. Speaking about how officers handcuffed him at the time, he revealed: “They twisted them and the metal digs into your hands. I think it was racist and because of my skin colour. There’s no change in the Met. Words are cheap, once we see actions we can start to believe their stories.”

Jacqui also shared how the unfair situation made her feel: “It was distressing for me as a mother. I thought my son was being attacked in the front garden. I came out of the house and saw a police officer grabbing my son.”

What’s worse is that, when the family complained, the system was not interested in finding the truth. “They were trying to cover their own backs,” the older brother added. One officer involved in the arrest, Paul Hefford, was also a key player in a hate message group, which led him to be fired from in July 2022.

As found during a Met disciplinary panel, the private WhatsApp group contained countless racist and discriminatory messages—including some anti-black, anti-Muslim, and some abusing the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. Hefford was the second-most frequent poster to the chat group containing police officers.

And it seems the Pearts weren’t the only victims. According to The Guardian, the first few months of lockdown saw the Met stop and search more than a quarter of all black 15 to 24-year-olds in London, with 80 per cent found to have nothing on them.

Research recently published by the Children’s Commissioner for England also revealed that, between 2018 and 2020, officers in the Met police service conducted intrusive searches on 650 young people aged between ten and 17, with a disproportionate amount being black boys.

After PC Hefford was sacked, alongside PC Sukhdev Jeer, speaking about the Pearts’ arrest, Met deputy assistant commissioner Bas Javid explained that “following this, we took the decision to settle the claim without admission of liability. Based on the accounts of the two other officers, we did not accept [that] the men were stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin.”

Solicitor Carolynn Gallwey, who represented the brothers, said: “The bigger problem here is that their experience is at least in part the result of a toxic culture within the Met which sees black Londoners disproportionately stopped and searched by police on the street every day. This is what the commissioner should be tackling.”

Next week, the Met will have to defend itself in court once more, against two other brothers, Liam and Dijon Joseph, who say discrimination played a part in their 2018 arrest for bumping fists on a street in south London.

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