Justice for Belly Mujinga
Justice for Belly Mujinga
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Who am I?
My name is Lusamba Katalay. I am the widower of Belly Mujinga. I am fighting for justice for Belly who died of Covid 19 on 5 April 2020.
My wife, who worked as ticket officer for Govia Thameslink Railway, contracted Covid after being coughed on by a man in the station who stated that he had the virus. No one has been held to account for Belly's death.
I am fighting so that our daughter, Ingrid (now 12 years of age), and me can find answers, and justice.
What's at stake?
Some say the health and safety of frontline workers and in particular BAME frontline workers is at stake in this case. The #BlackLivesMatter movement made Belly the focus of a lot of their campaign, just as George Floyd was the main focus of the US campaign.
But I think it is even more than that. It is about whether Britain is to be a nation that looks away, when frontline workers complain of assault or racism. Whether we are to become a “nothing to see here” country.
Racial harassment at work has doubled since 2017, but there is nothing to see here. Black workers are disproportionately dying on the frontline, but there is nothing to see here. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities recently said that there was no institutional racism to see here.
Of course, if we believe them when they say that there is nothing to see here, repeatedly, and for long enough, we will become blind to the truth of what is happening in our society. Blind to what happened to Belly and many other frontline workers.
What happened to Belly
Belly was a kind-hearted, intelligent person who graduated with a degree in Journalism. She broke barriers by becoming the first female sports journalist in her home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eventually, she had to leave her home for security reasons and settled in the UK determined to make a new life for herself here.
Belly worked for the post office and then as a ticket officer for Govia Thameslink Railway (“GTR”). She was dedicated to public service.
In February 2020, she raised a complaint of racial discrimination against her supervisor. This complaint was ignored.
In March 2020, she made a video about her covid health concerns at work. The employer knew she had a respiratory medical condition. She should have been shielding. GTR did not provide their frontline staff, including Belly, with masks at that time and had also forbidden their staff from bringing their own masks to work and wearing them at work.
On 21 March 2020, Belly was due to be working inside the ticket office at Victoria Station. However, the supervisor about whom she had complained of racism, sent her outside to work on the concourse.
On the CCTV you can see that a large white male approached Belly and her colleague, Motolani, on the concourse here at Victoria Station. He asked them what they were doing outside the ticket office.
As he towered over them, he informed them that he had Covid and then began to shout and cough at them. He wasn’t wearing a mask and did not cover his mouth. They both recoiled as he showered them with spittle.
The assailant then walked away, pointing at them in a menacing manner, and joined a queue of one, and stood waiting to buy a ticket for his mother, who wished to travel up north.
However, his anger at Belly had not subsided and he doubled-back and shouted and coughed at her and Motolani for a second time. They took a step back, frightened.
He then went back to the queue again and bought his ticket.
Belly left her post and after observing him went to wash off the spittle.
Both Belly and Motolani hid in the ticket office afterwards traumatised and Motolani begged their managers for them not to be sent out again, but management sent them out allegedly threatening to declare them unfit to work if they refused.
GTR never informed the police about the assault even though they were sufficiently concerned about the “safety incident” that they requested the CCTV evidence from 21 March 2020 from Network Rail on about 8 April 2020, three days after Belly died of covid.
When the British Transport Police (“BTP”) became involved they interviewed the assailant. He apparently said he did not have covid, as his employer had tested him on 25 March 2020. He said his coughing was “involuntary” and he had been in a hurry.
However, you can cough on someone once in an involuntary manner, but most decent human beings would cover their mouths and he did not, and it cannot be involuntary if you double back and do it again. Also, when people are in a hurry they do not double-back. And why did he feel the need to vent his spleen only at these two black African female staff? What had provoked his wrath?
Although he said his employer had carried out an antibody test on 25 March 2020, and his was negative, it was announced by John Newton, the testing chief, on 6 April 2020, that none of the antibody tests worked properly and when they did they only identified covid, and tested positive, in the most severe covid cases.
The police officer told me that something had definitely happened, when she saw Belly take a step back on the CCTV footage when being accosted by the white male. That gave me hope that they were taking the assault seriously.
However, and despite knowing about that fundamental flaw in the testing regime at that time, the BTP did not insist that the assailant had a further test and closed down their investigation. They just took his word for it. He was white, spoke well and seemed like a decent sort buying his mother a ticket, and Belly was black.
It is clear that the white male assailant worked for a well-connected employer as antibody tests were not available to the general public or most employers at that time on 25 March 2020, so given his very upright posture, and manner, this is probably either a white man from a privileged background or one who has had quasi-military or police training.
The BTP concluded that there was nothing to see here.
But do we really believe that if a black male had coughed and shouted at two white female staff and then returned to do the same again, putting the fear of God in them, BTP would have said that there was nothing to see here?
So who is the assailant and why is the police protecting him? They won’t disclose his name to my lawyers so that my family can sue him for the harassment and assault.
Why I will keep fighting for Justice for Belly
When someone you love dies before their time, they scream for justice from the next life, and until justice is achieved my grieving family will have no respite, and we will only be able to live a shadow of our lives, in a world in which justice does not exist. One in which justice can no longer be achieved, or hoped for.
I do not want that world for my daughter or anyone.
Make no mistake, racism is on the rise at work, in our schools and on our streets.
So we all have a choice – is there nothing to see here, or everything to see? Every single time we say that there is nothing to see here, and we deny a black family justice, racial equality dies a little. Every time we look away, we become part of the problem. Every time we close our eyes to the truth, the light of hope and justice dies a little.
Why am I raising funds?
The next steps in the campaign for justice will be those that involve court proceedings and litigation. For that I need a legal team to support me. I am raising funds for that reason.
The following steps and litigation is contemplated:
As the BTP are refusing to disclose the assailant’s name I will probably have to go to court to force them to do so;
Once I have the name, I intend to sue the assailant in the civil courts for the tort of assault and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. I will also consider a private criminal prosecution;
If the Coroner agrees to hold an Inquest, I will require a legal team to present my case. If the Coroner refuses, I will need to consider if there is sufficient evidence to seek a Judicial Review of that decision;
If the Government agree to hold a public inquiry, I will require a legal team to present my case. If the Government refuses, I will need to consider if there is sufficient evidence to seek a Judicial Review of that decision; .
I am also considering a claim in the civil courts against GTR for allegedly not operating a safe system of work and under the Fatal Accidents Act.
My lawyers (Equal Justice solicitors and the barrister Elaine Banton of 7 Bedford Row) have acted for me to date on a pro bono (free) basis and have also agreed to act at significantly discounted rates in respect of the contemplated litigation, but I also will have to pay court fees and there is a chance that if I lose, I would have to pay the costs of the other side.
I may also have to take on significant opponents who will deploy uncompromising QCs and strong legal teams.
I need to fundraise so that I have some protection against these legal costs.
How much I'm raising and why
I am initially seeking to raise £50,000.
I have instructed Lawrence Davies of Equal Justice solicitors, an award-winning human rights lawyer, to fight our case (www.equaljustice.co.uk)
We are seeking to raise funds of over £50,000 to cover our initial legal costs on the above contemplated litigation.
Our first step is to raise £22,000.
If there are any unused funds left from the Justice for Belly campaign we will establish a Belly Mujinga trust that will fund all victims of racism at work, and hopefully by that action we can take a step forward on racial equality.
What are the next steps?
The next steps will be:
Obtaining the assailant’s name from the BTP and then suing the assailant;
Responding to the Coroner’s decision;
Responding to the Government’s decision on the public Inquiry;
Writing a letter before claim to GTR.
Please also sign the petition at change.org and join the 2.1 million who have already done so.
Please support the Justice4Belly campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
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