Features / Judah Adunbi

Judah Adunbi: the long battle for justice

By Ellie Pipe , Thursday Oct 11, 2018

When innocent man Judah Adunbi was tasered in the face by a police officer while walking his dog in Easton in January 2017, it sparked outrage across the nation.

Speaking to Bristol24/7 for the first time since that fateful day and his subsequent 18-month battle for justice, the respected elder admits the ordeal has taken its toll on his health, but says he will not stop fighting for change for younger generations.

It is a few weeks on from the outcome of first a criminal trial and then a misconduct hearing – both of which found the officer responsible, PC Claire Boddie, not guilty.

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With quiet composure, Judah (also known as Ras) reflects on lessons that can be learnt.

His sadness and disappointment are palpable, but to show anger would be to risk undoing the work he has dedicated decades to – trying to break down barriers between the police and Bristol’s black community.

On the morning of January 14 2017, the former police race relations advisor was walking his dog near his Easton home when he was targeted by two officers, who apparently mistook him for a wanted man.

A still from the video taken when PC Claire Boddie tasered Judah in the face

When Judah attempted to walk away, Boddie tasered the grandfather-of-five in the face at close range.

“It’s extremely depressing, when we have put so much work in, to see this,” says Judah, who was instrumental in setting up an advisory group in the 1990s to help train and educate officers, and forge better relations between the police and Bristol’s black communities.

“We are not living in the time of physical forced slavery, we are living in modern times and if we are not subjected to slavery, then we should be treated equally with everyone else.

“If you are going to treat us like a common criminal, we are going to use strong language. Treat us with respect and we will show it back.

“The reason they are using an excuse of looking for someone else is because I’m a black African person. This matter has been going on since the late 60s and we have been trying all this time to get this matter addressed.”

Judah says he and the wider community were bitterly disappointed, if unsurprised, by the outcome of the trial and misconduct hearing and he is now pursuing a civil case against PC Boddie.

The officer was found not guilty in both a criminal court and misconduct hearing. The Independent Office for Police Conduct also concluded that PC Boddie had no case to answer for misconduct in relation to the allegation that she discriminated on the grounds of race.

Judah says police need to be responsible for their actions

During the court case, it was brought up that Judah did not react politely to officers and refused to give his name. But he says that he was not addressed in a polite manner, but treated like a criminal from the outset.

“We need policing by consent and they need to be responsible for their actions,” he tells Bristol24/7.

“I said to the male officer ‘do not put your hands on me’, but he came in and tried to grab me on my left shoulder. All I did was remove his hand from my shoulder and she tasered me.

“If I was going to use violence, I would not have removed his arm and stepped back. The work we have been doing to train the police over the years seems like a waste of time.”

Trying to sum up the words to describe how it felt when the taser barbs hit his face, Judah says “it felt like I was being put through an electric chair, like they use in America. I thought they were trying to take my life”.

His son is still unable to watch the shocking footage shot at the time of the incident and Judah himself says he now has a heightened sense of fear every time he walks down the street

The 65-year-old is unable to fully lift his right arm because of a previous incident when he was targeted by police on Stapleton Road around 10 years ago – another case in which police wrongly identified him as Royston MacCalla, the same wanted man officers mistook him for in January 2017.

He says he was left humiliated in his own community and physically injured when officers forced him to the floor. He made a complaint at Trinity Road police station and was later offered compensation, but he has been left with long-term injuries.

He says he could have taken further action but didn’t pursue the matter further, mainly because of his working relationship with Colin Port, the chief constable at the time.

The long battle for justice after the events of January 2017 have taken their toll on Judah, but he says he won’t sit back and let these incidents continue to happen.

“My nerves have been damaged and the delay in trying to get justice has affected my health,” he tells Bristol24/7.

“This is something I will fight all the way until this matter has been addressed. I will not have people targeted because of the colour of their skin.

“I have sacrificed myself to a degree. The main reason I went forward with this was because of all the people up and down the country who do not have my support network and education to speak out. It’s about young people who do not have the same chance to challenges things.

“Young black men growing up in Bristol in the 60s, 70s and 80s were given criminal records for crimes that were never committed.

“All the suffering I have seen and watched over the years, I said ‘we have got to do something about it’. I gave my assurance to my uncle who passed away that I will work with them [the police], but they have got to show that they are willing and honest and want to address this situation. We cannot have this situation going on. People in institutions are listening, but they are not acting.

“It’s unfortunate that this section of the British community have been victimised in no uncertain terms and I will do whatever it takes to put a stop to it. I have got a lot invested in our community and my intention is to create an environment that is going to respect and coexist.”

 

Read reactions from anti-racism charity SARI, Judah’s solicitor and the police: ‘Police discrimination against black communities is not yet history’

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