Lee Lawrence was just 11 years old when his life changed forever. He had fallen asleep in his mother’s room and was awoken by a loud noise. She went to investigate but moments later he heard a gunshot.
His mother, Dorothy “Cherry” Groce, had been mistakenly shot by police officers in an incident which left her paralysed and sparked the Brixton Riots of 1985.
Now 45, Lee remembers his mother crying out that she could not breathe – words which now resonate with those uttered by the black American George Floyd as a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its ad hoc visit to the United Kingdom, which took place from 13 to 23 May 2019, together with the response of the United Kingdom authorities.
Dad-of-two Lenny McCourt died after falling ill following his arrest, having been sprayed with an incapacitant, handcuffed, and transported in the back of a police van from his home in Ash Crescent, Seaham, to cells in Peterlee.
An inquest into his death was told the 44-year-old most likely died after suffering heart failure, yet it took five minutes after arriving at Peterlee to remove his cuffs and efforts started to revive him – and Coroner Andrew Tweddle ruled officers failed to provide adequate first aid.
At that hearing, his sister-in-law Tracey McCourt represented the family, after they were told they were not entitled to any legal support in the wake of Lenny’s death in September 2010.