Murder victim’s family and former Director of Public Prosecutions lead call for justice for Barry Smith – This article is part of our collab. with TRAVELLERS’ TIMES
The family of murdered English Gypsy Barry Smith is leading calls for his case – and other Gypsy and Traveller attacks – to be treated with greater seriousness by the criminal justice system.
This follows the sentencing on June 15 of two men and one woman found guilty of the murder of Mr Smith in Kilburn, near Derby, in October last year. Vincent Aitken, 44, must serve a minimum of 22 years and 118 days; Nathan Doherty was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years 118 days and Emma Aitken, 19, will serve a minimum of 12 years.
by Katharine Quarmby
The body of 48-year-old Mr Smith was discovered outside Kilburn Welfare Social Club, Chapel Street, on the morning of October 6th last year by local dog walkers. He had been beaten to death using pool cues and a fence post and his body had been set alight. Police from Derbyshire Constabulary described it as a particularly horrific crime scene.
The sentences were not enhanced for race hate as the judge decided that the crime was not racially motivated. But the family believe that there was a racial motive and are devastated by the light sentences – which would have been far higher if the race hate element had been recognised.
The force investigating the murder, Derbyshire Constabulary, did consider that there might have been a race hate element and flagged it as such to the trial judge. The judge agreed that comments made by Pamela Aitken, wife of Vincent Aitken, to Mr Smith, and for which she was sacked from her job, were racist; however, he said that the attack itself was not motivated by racism towards Barry Smith ‘as a Gypsy’. Pamela Aitken was charged with assisting an offender, but was not convicted.
Barry Smith’s former wife, Dawn Smith, who still counted her former husband as a close friend, told Travellers’ Times: “We got treated badly as a family. There was no other reason why Barry was attacked except racism. He was attacked because he was a Traveller and it’s been pushed under the carpet because he is a Traveller as well. If you had seen the hurt on his children’s faces, at the verdict and the lack of recognition of the race hate element – you would never have forgotten it.”
The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald, also has concerns about the case: “It seems the criminal justice system is still not recognising hate crime, even where the facts seem plain. But where it fails to do so, it fails in its most basic duty to protect people from violence and abuse.”
The new Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC MP, wrote to the family on 29th July 2014 to let them know that he had decided not to refer the sentence received by Emma Aitken to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentencing Procedure. Jeremy Wright wrote that because of Emma Aitken’s youth and the fact she had spent almost a year remanded in custody, the sentence of 12 years was not unduly lenient.
The family do not agree. Nor do many Traveller representatives, feeling that she has got a very light sentence for taking a life – and that all three murderers have got away with a race hate crime – which would have seen their sentences doubled. This case and the manslaughter of Johnny Delaney, a teenager from an Irish Traveller background 11 years ago, Traveller representatives believe, demonstrate that race hate legislation is not being used to protect Travellers.