Monday, 25 April 2011

Update , The PAS' racist managing solicitor, Matt Evans

Barely coherent but OK...
Dear Ms Amer Salahuddin / Ms Farah Damji

Thank you for you e-mail dated 23rd March 2011 has been passed to me as Chairman of the trustee's of PAS.

I note that you wish to make a complaint with regard to Mr Matthew Evans and secondly, in relation to the constitution of our panel members for our forthcoming debate.

We do take every complaint very seriously and do have a system in place to investigate every allegation made.

Before I commence an investigation may I request that you provide me with any other information you wish for us to consider in relation to:

1. The conduct and the substance of your complaint against Mr Matthew Evans.

2. Any further detail in your complaint in relation to the panel. I do understand your concerns raised. However, I should state, for the purposes of this e-mail that we, the trustees, and the key staff members have been discussing and considering this event for some time and considered a wide variety of people to approach for this debate.

3. Any further information you wish to bring to our attention at this stage.

If you could provide with any further information by the 6th April 2011, I will forward all this information to a member of the trustees to investigate the allegations made.

Should you wish to discuss this matter with me direct then please do not hesitate to contact me on my e-mail or alternatively on 020 7485 5588.

Yours sincerely

Rikki Garg
My response, on attende....

Farah Damji
London NW5 XXX
Rikki Garg Esq

Dear Mr Garg

I write in response to your recent e mail. First of all let me clarify that it is only I, in my personal capacity who is bringing this complaint, not Mr Amer Salahudin, who happens to be a man and a co-director of Kazuri Homes to Matthew Evans. In the interest of clarity perhaps it’s better to use my personal e mail which is henceforth.
I am glad to hear that you investigate all complaints thoroughly and look forward to a satisfactory outcome and resolution of this complaint. According to your own statement filed at the Charities Commission one of your stated missions is
“To relieve and rehabilitate persons held in penal establishments in the United Kingdom.”
I fail to see how that can be accomplished in any way when the people at the helm of your management structure make racist and insulting comments when they have been caught in lies that they cannot substantiate.   
I don’t understand what you mean about the “conduct of my complaint”, I assume you mean the conduct of Mr Evans. I wrote to him initially as a member of Women Moving Forward which is the campaigning arm of Women in Prison, you can see more about us here
The PAS has a history of issues with equality and diversity. There are no black or ethnic minority trustees and you seem unable to produce black or ethnic minority panellists in spite of the UK prison population comprising over 50% black and ethnic minorities.  How does this make you an effective charity  championing the challenges  of ethnic minority prisoners, your captive market, when most of the work that you undertake is on behalf of BME prisoners?
The complaint relates to two issues, you have a full copy of all the correspondence between us.
This was never about me, I am not in London on the date of your event,  May 4th 2011 I have to be away for  work but I wanted there to be a panellist who could represent  the real experience of prison, not some female academic’s arm’s length anodyne and at best second-hand and narrative version of this massively important issue, prisoners’ votes.  I wanted someone from Women Moving Forward to represent what real women who had experienced the sharp end of the criminal justice system felt about this issue. We are the ones who count, but yet again you collude and silence and further engender abuse of women prisoners through exclusion and institutionalised racism? By not including women and BMEs in your panels, you collude in the continued punishment and silencing of the most vulnerable and least listened to sectors of society.
I would like to see the governing documents of your charity and also what your race discrimination policy is. I would specifically like further clarification on what harm to beneficiaries and, in particular, vulnerable beneficiaries the attitudes held by your most senior solicitor might have and what can be done to ensure that he never makes a comment like that again.  
1)      Whilst my initial correspondence  resulted in a response that was  polite, though patronising, from Matthew Evans,  ( I don’t think inviting me to come in for a chat was a particularly wise thing to do, I was asking particular questions and would not be placated by tea and a chat) it soon descended into dismissive and rude  dialogue. A person in his position, who has the responsibility for the casework and legal outcomes and representations of thousands of black and ethnic minority people, should not revert to abusive and racist stereotyping. I have never carried a machete, I have never been charged or convicted of any crimes to do with carrying weapons or violence. Because I was born in Africa, he thinks he can make such mercenary and ill-advised comments.  Clearly he realised it was the wrong thing to do, as soon as he sent it, he tried to retract it, but I had already sent it to friends who work in race and diversity. Please ask him exactly what he meant by that comment.

2)      I ask specifically  how you came about choosing the panel that you did, was it, as it appears picked on the “star” quality of the panellists, a couple of whom I know and like, but nevertheless do not meet any diversity criteria.  Evans claimed he had asked members of the BME community to attend, but none were available. When pressed for those names   he tried to evade this very simple issue, attempting to terminate the e mail conversation. So please clarify for me who was considered and asked, what responses they gave and the reason they would not participate. Naturally this should all be backed up by actual evidence such as e mails or telephone records as quite frankly I do not believe anything Matt Evans says or does is in good faith.

3)      You state that you the trustees have been discussing this event for some time so this should also be minuted from meetings and I would like to see the minutes of those meetings, in the public interest, to see which candidates from ethnic minorities were mooted and how they were contacted and their responses as to why they would not be able to participate.

Your “charity” has serious credibility problems. You do not have a single black or ethnic minority woman working as a trustee or in a senior position. I understand from others this has been an ongoing problem  for the PAS, and in 21st Century England, there is no room for exclusion, discrimination or institutionalised, subtle  racism such as that displayed by Matthew Evans in this encounter with me. This is not the first time that the Prisoners’ Advisory Service has been called into question as to its Race  Discrimination and Equality Policy.  I do not accept such behaviour, from anyone and neither should any woman who ha the unfortunate experience of coming into contact with him.  He has displayed an astounding level of ignorance which should preclude him from having such an important position.  Therefore I request the information requested without delay.
Part of your commitment as a charity is to have a clear complaints process, accessible to the public. This is not the case. Please advise when this will be investigated, how long the process will take and what the appeals process is as I smell the putrid whiff of a cover-up  lingering over your response which was unnecessarily defensive and muddies the waters  in the interests of clarity. Obfuscation is not going to get you anywhere. I want to know why Matthew Evans thought he could address me like that, on what that comment was based if not my ethnicity and / birthplace and documented evidence of the alleged BME representatives you invited to be on your panel.
This should not be a difficult investigation to undertake, if I do not have an outcome within ten days of this letter I will take it further to the Charities Commission which have already  been put on notice  about my allegations of racism , sexism and  your exclusion policy regarding BMEs and specifically women,  and to the HRC.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly
Farah Damji

CC:  Imran Khan, solicitor;  Chantal Beede, Legal Services Commission; Councillor Duwayne Brooks Deputy Chair LGA and councillor, Lewisham;  Mushtaq Lasharie;  Joel Bennathan, QC,  Tooks Chambers;  Colin Moses, Chairman Prisoner Officers' Association; Jonathan Aitken;  Eric Allison, The Guardian; Rabinder Singh, Barrister, Matrix Chambers; 

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