The Black Solicitors Network (BSN) and the Law Society have responded to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota last week.

Floyd, a 46-year old black man, lost his life after being arrested by four Minneapolis police officers on 25 May following an allegation of using a forged bank note.

During the arrest he was restrained for almost nine minutes by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who used his knee to apply pressure to Floyd’s neck.

Chauvin failed to alter the unorthodox restraint technique despite Floyd’s repeated complaint that he was unable to breathe.

Floyd’s death has sent shockwaves across the US and sparked rioting in many states, as well as a number of European cities including London.

The BSN said: “We are horrified by the manner of the death of Mr George Floyd at the hands of those who are meant to protect and to serve. We express sincere sympathies and condolences to the family of the late Mr Floyd and expect all those responsible for this cruel and inhumane act, like any other citizen, to be prosecuted and rigorously dealt with in accordance with the law.

“We stand in solidarity with Mr Floyd’s family and with those seeking justice on his behalf and for the other black men and women in the United States that have met similar fates.”

The statement went on to point out that: “Sadly, the issue of racial injustice is not confined to the US. Decades and years of enquiries, reviews and reports, from the Scarman Report 1981 and the McPherson Report 1999 through to the Lammy Review 2017, highlight structural inequality in policing and our justice system.

“The recent Public Health England report (COVID 19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes) further highlights the deathly impact of social inequality on black communities. We will continue to fight for race equality and a level playing field for all.” 

The Law Society released a collective response to the tragedy, from its president Simon Davis, vice president David Greene, deputy vice president Stephanie Boyce and chief executive Paul Tennant.

“As well as expressing sadness and sympathy it is vital we use this difficult time to reflect on the actions we must all take to tackle discrimination, as individuals, firms, businesses and communities”, it said.

“The Law Society and the solicitors’ profession strive to ensure access to justice, equality for all under the legal system and to promote the rule of law. Racism and all forms of discrimination and prejudice have no place in our justice system – or in any other aspect of society.

“We will continue to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, combat any instances of racism or prejudice in the sector and stand against injustice”.

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