Monthly Archives: November 2013

Letter to Attorney General, asking him to review sentences handed down in Ebrahimi case

Dear Mr Grieve, 

As co-ordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network we would like the Attorney General to review the sentences handed down today to Lee James and Steven Norley in the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, a disabled Iranian man who was falsely accused of paedophila by a mob, and then burnt to death two days later in July 2013. 
 
James pleaded guilty to murder and was given a sentence of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was given four years. 
 
It is not thought that the police or the Crown Prosecution Service had asked the judge to enhance the sentence because of disability hostility, which would have meant that the judge could enhance Norley’s sentence under sec 146 of the CJA 2005 and James’s sentence under LASPO 2013 (the first of its kind). At any rate, the sentences are perceived by disabled people and other affected groups to be extremely low, given the overwhelming violence and sadism in the murder. 
 
The reason we believe that increasing the sentences is critically important is that Mr Ebrahimi was falsely accused of paedophilia, as have been a number of other disabled murder victims, a trend first highlighted by Katharine Quarmby in her book Scapegoat (2011) and then further identified and stressed in Hidden in Plain Sight, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in 2011. 
 
The report stated of the false accusation of paedophilia against disabled people that police should “recognise the high level of risk faced by disabled people who have been labelled as ‘paedophiles’. This was not done by Avon and Somerset Police – if it had been done Mr Ebrahimi would not have been returned to his flat after being threatened by a mob chanting ‘paedophile’. The report further stated that this false accusation was ‘used as a term for targeting a disabled person, sometimes with extreme violence’, as happened in the Ebrahimi case and in at least seven other prominent cases identified by Quarmby and the EHRC. As this is, therefore, a recognised form of disability hate crime we call on the Attorney General to consider enhancing these sentences as hate crimes. This would mean that the murder would be the first one to reach the 30 year starting point under LASPO for a murder motivated by hostility towards a victim’s disability. (The Disability Hate Crime Network worked with Paul Maynard MP and Kate Green MP, the Shadow Disability Minister, to help effect this reform.)
 
We hope that the Attorney General will urgently review these lamentably light sentences in the light of this evidence. 
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Co-ordinators, the Disability Hate Crime Network
Respond
 

Why Bijan Ebrahimi’s murder should cause the British legal system to ask itself some hard, hard, questions

An innocent Iranian, Bijan Ebrahimi, is dead, another name to add to the grim list of disabled people falsely accused of sexual crimes they didn’t commit- and then cruelly murdered. I grieve for him and his family. I share an Iranian heritage too, on my birth father’s side. (If you want to read about my own story, and how I came to live in the UK,  you can do so here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Water-Anglo-Iranian-Kindle-ebook/dp/B00E00BEZQ/ref=la_B004GH8LS6_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383565614&sr=1-4)

The Ebrahimi family, like so many others, have lived through the turbulent history of our country and Mr Ebrahimi is reported to have had refugee status in the UK. They – and Bijan, perhaps, in particular, as a disabled person, should have found solace and comfort in the UK, as I have done. Instead, their beloved Bijan is dead and he shouldn’t be. He needn’t have died. The British legal and social care system failed him, and I, as a campaigning journalist, will do my best over the next few months, to raise the profile of his case and try, as best I can, to bring some closure to the family who clearly loved him so much. At the Disability Hate Crime Network, on Facebook, co-ordinated by Stephen Brookes, Anne Novis, me and others, we will continue to follow the case and hold the criminal justice system to account. We will not forget Bijan Ebrahimi, and as a number of us hold advisory posts within the criminal justice system, we will do our best to make sure that what happened to him will be a wake-up call to our legal system.

I know, from my friend Anne Novis, whose seminal work in raising the false rape allegations against disabled murder victim, Albert Adams, kickstarted much of my research, that the Metropolitan Police Service is already looking at Bijan Ebrahimi’s case, and asking what lessons it should learn from it. Stephen Brookes and Ruth Bashall – both great disability rights campaigners –  are going to share their thoughts about the case at the College of Policing tomorrow. Let’s hope those lessons are spread far and wide – throughout the British legal system.