Eldred Taylor-Camara of MTC Solicitors
A black trainee solicitor felt "humiliated...vulnerable and targeted" when police stopped him for "looking suspicious", while he was on his way to visit a client.
Eldred Taylor-Camara, who works on criminal matters for MTC Solicitors, had travelled on a train to Lewes to see a client in prison, when he was questioned by British Transport Police.
Officers asked the trainee (who was wearing a suit) to provide ID and account for his journey with specific details including timings, where it had started, and the purpose of his trip. The trainee gave answers but was left “stressed and physically shaken”, according to a report in The Independent.
When Taylor-Camara asked the police why he was being questioned, he said that officers told him he had appeared to look “lost” which “raised their suspicion”.
The trainee believes that he was racially profiled by the police, and said officers were unable to provide a “robust explanation” as to why they subjected him to “extensive questioning”. The police said that "intelligence" had informed them of an “extremely violent” drug dealer who was in the area, and the trainee matched the description.
Mr Taylor-Camara said that he “felt vulnerable and targeted,” and that he was "concerned by the glaring mistakes made" and the approach by officers "purportedly acting on intelligence."
“The justification for the stop was unnerving," said the trainee. In his view, it demonstrated that police were disassociated with "those in the public who are likely to encounter this kind of treatment – specifically, people who are black and male."
The trainee made a complaint to British Transport Police but it was not upheld. In his letter to the force, Taylor-Camara said: “The conduct of the officers left me feeling intimidated and publicly humiliated. Despite my formal attire and explanation that I worked for a solicitor’s firm, I was treated with suspicion and subjected to extensive questioning.”
The trainee acknowledged: “That’s not to say that people in formal attire don’t commit crimes, but using that as a basis to approach me in a busy station isn’t acceptable."
He concluded: “Due to the conduct of the officers and the inadequacy of the response to my complaint, the only plausible rationale that I could draw at the time is I was stopped because I am a young black man”.
He said that he wanted to spread awareness about the issue, to highlight that "those who are trying to pursue a professional career" are not afforded "protection from being profiled". In 2020, a black barrister was repeatedly mistaken for a defendant in court.
A BTP spokesman told RollOnFriday that "officers were conducting an operation tackling county lines activity at Lewes railway station" on 24 October, and "intelligence" had "indicated that a person of interest involved in organised crime may be at the location that day."
“A man who matched the description of the person of interest was stopped at the station and asked to provide an account of why he was there," said the spokesman. "Officer enquiries involved asking the man a number of questions and checking the details he provided on the Police National Computer. Once these checks were complete and officers were satisfied with his account, he continued with his journey."
The complaint made by Taylor-Camara “was subjected to a thorough investigation", said the spokesman, and "body worn footage of the stop was reviewed by senior officers and accounts were taken from all the officers involved. The result of this investigation was that the service provided was acceptable and no further action was taken."
“Our officers who patrol the railway and engage with passengers every day are not there to cause distress, but to ensure everyone is safe and that the network remains a hostile environment for offenders to operate in," he added. "Stopping passengers to speak to them is part and parcel of that, and we will always provide our full rationale for doing so.”