Racial abuse case against Newham officer PC MacFarlane dropped after second jury unable to reach verdict

Following two trial outcomes that resulted in a ‘hung jury’, the case against Newham police officer PC Alex MacFarlane, for racially abusing Mauro Demetrio, has been formally discharged today.PC MacFarlane admitted it was his voice on a recording telling Mr Demetrio in the back of a police van in August 2011 that “the problem with you is you’ll always be a nigger”. However, he claimed in his defence that he thought Mr Demetrio had “low self-esteem” and his words were intended to help calm him down and “examine his lifestyle”. He denied he was trying to demean or assert authority over Mr Demetrio.

Maria Demetrio, mother of Mauro Demetrio, who sat through both court cases spoke of her family’s sadness at the verdict:

“I’m deeply disappointed with the outcome but really proud of my son for taking his complaint ‘all the way’. Even though this officer was not found guilty, I hope this case will make other police officers think twice in future before using racist language or abusing their powers.”

Estelle du Boulay, Director of Newham Monitoring Project, which supported Mr Demetrio, said today:

“It is extremely rare for a police officer to be prosecuted and ever rarer for juries to find officers guilty; against these odds a hung jury verdict is still a significant achievement compared to an acquittal. However, we are worried that the message this sends out to the public is that racism in the police force can be acceptable and that police officers are above the law.

We commend Mr Demetrio on his bravery in raising his complaint and highlighting an experience that reflects those frequently reported by black communities but rarely taken seriously. We hope others will not be discouraged but will continue to fight racism, as clearly there is still a long way to go.

A particularly disturbing aspect of this case, which to us as anti-racist campaigners was beyond credulity, was that an experienced police officer could argue he used racially insulting language in attempts to ‘calm’ a black detainee down. This kind of conduct should never be condoned and this needs to be made clear to all officers.

It is of particular irony that this case occurred in August 2011, in the wake of the shooting of Mark Duggan and uprisings across the UK. At this time, tensions between black communities and the police were at the forefront of public consciousness. It appears that rather than heed the warnings about ignoring community alienation, these valuable lessons fell on deaf ears.”