Like Satpal Ram, Winston Silcott is serving a life sentence for murder, protesting his innocence, and blaming his predicament on racism. Silcott was convicted of murder at about the same time as Ram. Actually, he was convicted of two murders.
Silcott is black, and was what might be termed a wide boy, and a bit of a jack the lad. Not a crook exactly, but someone who liked to dabble. He also had a penchant for knives, and like Ram was not afraid to use them. Silcott stabbed to death a young boxer named Anthony Smith in a club, ostensibly in an argument about drugs. He was remanded in custody, but was granted bail on application to judge in chambers. (1) In October 1985, while he was out on bail there was a riot on the North London housing estate where he lived, Broadwater Farm. A police officer, Keith Blakelock, was hacked to death, and Silcott was one of a group of men and boys who ended up in the dock for this murder.
Prior to the Keith Blakelock murder trial, Silcott was convicted of the murder of Anthony Smith and gaoled for life. All press coverage of this trial was quashed by a blanket ban under the Contempt Of Court Act. (2)
Silcott was duly convicted of the murder of Keith Blakelock, along with two of his co-defendants, and there was much controversy over the fact that he had been granted bail on a murder charge. Things did not end there though, a campaign was launched on behalf of the “Broadwater Farm Three”, and in 1991, the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of all three defendants. (3)
The only evidence against Silcott had been statements extracted from other suspects, most of whom were young and at least one of whom was educationally sub-normal. And there was Silcott’s own, unsigned confession, which it was later established by forensic tests had been made up out of the whole cloth by the police. This is in stark contrast to the evidence against Ram.
Silcott though remains in gaol vainly protesting his innocence for the murder of Anthony Smith and crying racism. (4) Ram, it will be recalled, pleaded provocation at his trial, but now claims self-defence. And crying racism, of course. (5) Silcott’s original claim was Not me, guv, but after his conviction, and especially after he was cleared (rightly) of the Blakelock murder, he has changed his story, admitting that he did indeed kill Smith but claiming that he acted in self-defence. (6)
Like Ram, Silcott blames his lawyers both for their bad advice and for his current predicament.
Like Ram, Silcott has his supporters, including the Observer journalist David Rose, who wrote a half decent book on the case. (7) Like that of Ram’s supporters though, Rose’s whitewash will not suffice. According to Rose himself, Anthony Smith suffered truly appalling injuries: his face and abdomen were slashed, he had a lacerated lung, and had been stabbed in the heart. (8)
The claims of racism in Silcott’s case don’t wash any more than they do in Ram’s; true, Silcott was demonised by both the police and the media as the black beast. (9) But unlike Clarke Pearce, Anthony Smith was black. David Rose and his ilk should ask his family if they consider Silcott to be yet another victim of the racist criminal justice system.
Winston Silcott has now been parolled. Prior to his arrest for the murder of Anthony Smith, Silcott was to some extent a career criminal - unlike Ram; he was certainly a bad man. Unlike Ram, Silcott had a genuine axe to grind, against the police, if not against the criminal justice system. Whatever may be said of Silcott, his behaviour in prison was in stark contrast to Ram’s. Silcott has two basic grievances: his genuine grievance over his fraudulent conviction for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock, and a specious grievance over his conviction for the murder of Anthony Smith. It is to his credit that he pursued both grievances through legitimate channels, and was described as a model prisoner.