The Metropolitan police has settled a complaint by black brothers who were stopped, searched and handcuffed outside their family home.
Nicholas Peart, 24, and Leon Peart, 20, both black, are Christians who regularly attend church and say they have never smoked tobacco let alone taken drugs. They told of their feelings of trauma and humiliation after about 20 minutes in handcuffs when arrested outside in Chingford, east London.
“We go to church, we follow the law,” Nicholas Peart said. “The only reason [for the arrests] I can assume is race.” The Met denied that claim.
The incident happened on 13 April 2020, on Leon’s 18th birthday, when strict lockdown measures were in place because of the pandemic. Leon said that instead of celebrating his birthday he was left in tears.
At the time the brothers were working in a supermarket and classed as essential workers, as was their mum, Jacqui, an NHS worker. Nicholas said he was sitting in his car before getting petrol so he could get to work early the next day. His brother and mother were going to join him for the drive.
In documents the police, from the violent crimes taskforce, say they were initially investigating why Nicholas was out of the house. No fine was issued. Another officer claimed to have seen items linked to drugs and Nicholas was handcuffed and a search began.
Leon came out the house, saw his brother in handcuffs, and ran into the house to get his mother.
Documents from the Met show police saying they believed this was a possible drugs deal in progress with the two brothers at the centre of it. “Drug paraphernalia was seen inside the vehicle and as subject 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.”
One officer explained Leon was handcuffed because he was “bigger than me and clearly much stronger”, adding: “I was aware that gang nominal and drug dealers regularly carry weapons and have been assaulted doing similar style stops on numerous occasions.”
Nicholas Peart said: “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 said when the family complained, the system was not interested in finding the truth: “They were trying to cover their own backs.”
Jacqui Peart said: “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.”
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% found to have nothing on them.
Leon said his handcuffing and treatment left him in tears and the Met – which under new commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is vowing to change – should apologise: “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.”
One officer involved in the stops, Paul Hefford, was a key player in a hate message group, and was dismissed from the Met in July 2022, two years after the stop.
A Met disciplinary panel found the group contained numerous “racist and discriminatory” messages, which were anti-black, anti-Muslim, some abusing Meghan Markle, and that Hefford was the second-most frequent poster to the chat group containing police officers.
The Met deputy assistant commissioner, Bas Javid, said: “One of the three officers involved was dismissed over an unrelated matter in June 2022. His statement could no longer be relied upon. 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 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.”
Waltham Forest council, which covers Chingford, said it would ask for an urgent meeting with the Met about stop and search.
Next week the Met will defend itself in court against claims from two other brothers, Liam and Dijon Joseph, who say discrimination explains their stop after bumping fists on a south London street in 2018.