The parents of Reagan Asbury, Ryan Passey and James Brindley speak out...
From Birmingham Mail. Original Report by Mike Lockley, 10 March 2019.
LOOK closely at the worn faces, look into their eyes, red and heavy with grief.
These families are the forgotten victims of knife crime, a cancer that grows with each day. Yet every one of them is condemned to a life sentence of near unbearable heartbreak.
They are articulate, caring parents whose tears have been tainted by bitterness.
Each one believes they have been been let down by a system that bends backwards to uphold the rights of the perpetrators of a violent epidemic sweeping our streets. Their rights, they maintain, have been buried under a tide of legal bureaucracy that they dub perverse.
They want change – and they want your help in making it happen.
In an unprecedented move, the parents of Reagan Asbury, Ryan Passey and James Brindley bravely agreed to meet in the Sunday Mercury offices.
Sobbing, each spoke with moving candour of young lives – lives that offered so much – needlessly lost.
They have no forgiveness. They are burdened by hate.
Those acid emotions will be understood by every parent who reads their words.
* James Brindley, a caring individual on the cusp of starting his own business, was stabbed in the heart only yards from his family’s Aldridge home. It was attack on the 26-year-old without reason: He was last seen desperately trying to calm his assailant.
James should still be with us.
* Reagan Asbury, a promising footballer, was knifed after violence erupted during a Walsall Town Hall boxing show. His mother was present as medics desperately attempted to save the 19-year-old’s life. Last week, his killer – cleared of murder, but convicted of manslaughter – appealed his 14-year-sentence. He was unsuccessful.
Reagan should still be with us.
* Ryan Passey was knifed at a Stourbridge nightspot. The 24-year-old’s killer was cleared of both murder and manslaughter after telling a jury that the fatal blow was an accident. He fled the scene of the crime and flung the weapon in bushes. Ryan’s devastated parents still cannot comprehend the verdict.
Ryan should still be with us.
Mark Brindley, James’ father, said: “Our criticism is not a criticism of the police or the Crown Prosecution Service, it is a criticism of the system.”
It is, specifically, a criticism of the “12 good men” jury system, individuals who may lack the legal expertise to grasp the complexities of a lengthy trial, even when guided by a judge.
“It is the validity of a jury of peers that we are fighting,” added Mark. “It seems logical there should be a mixture of peers and professionals on a jury.”
The families’ campaign – and the Passeys have placed their demands under the banner “Ryan’s Law” – is far-reaching and sweeping.
And the Passeys have a point. The families of those who lost their lives cannot make a jury explain the verdict it reaches.
They feel passionately that an individual who exercises his “no comment” right in a police station should be condemned to silence in a court room. In short, defendants who decline the opportunity to speak to police should forfeit their right throughout the often long legal process.
Jason Connon, the Passeys’ friend and spokesman for the Justice campaign, said: “We are asking The Secretary of State for Justice to amend the law around perverse jury decisions to increase the transparency of the jury process and remove the blanket ban that prevents juries from disclosing information about their decision-making.
“We want The Secretary of State for Justice to introduce a new system to allow jury decisions to be challenged and looked at again. Victims, and the public, must have confidence in a criminal justice system that is there to serve them.
“We are asking for these reforms to empower victims and help restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
He added: “Currently, victims are given no information about the rationale for a jury’s decision. Justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done. Open justice is an important principle of our justice system. Confidence in the jury process and our wider justice system depends on its ability to serve and protect the public.”
All three families are sickened by the excuse of social deprivation and lack of opportunities – an excuse many who brandish knives hide behind.
“I grew up on a council estate,” said Jason. “We did not have a lot, we were poor. I left school without many GCSEs, but got my qualifications.
“I worked hard. Those values were given me by my mother and father. Being poor does not give you the right to carry a knife.”
The sea of despair surrounding knife crime can only be drained by greater deterrents, the families stress.
Julian Asbury, Reagan’s father, said: “It should be a five-year sentence for possesing a blade in public. A knife should be the same as a gun. Children are carrying them in schools.”
The changes these families crave will not help them. They are tied to a treadmill of all-consuming grief. But they may help others.
James Brindley’s mother Beverley said: “We have lost three beautiful human beings, young people with everything to live for. Our lives are over.”
And that is the haunting reality of knife crime.
A blade does not just drain the life from its target. its cuts deep into the heart of many, many others.
Ryan Passey’s loved ones are currently attempting to gather 100,000 signatures on a petition demanding legal change.
If you want to sign, see www.change.org/p/justice-for-ryan-passey-ryan-s-law
THESE are the the key changes the three families want to see:
* The right to challenge a verdict reached by a jury that is considered perverse by a family
* The inclusion of legal professionals among the 12 jury members
* The right to quiz a jury over how a verdict was reached
* An automatic, and lengthy, custodial sentence for those caught carrying knives in public
* Those who refuse to comment during police interview should lose their right to speak from the dock
* The family of victims should be given the right to see all evidence, whether considered permissible in court or not