With actress Honor Blackman and actors from the National Theatre during a public meeting on secret evidence
I have always had a strong interest in civil liberties since my work when I was younger for the National Council for Civil Liberties (now the campaigning organisation Liberty). The riots that took place in Bristol, London and Liverpool in the 1980s when relations between the police and Black and ethnic minority communities were at a low. Discriminatory police practices were common and a generation of young people grew up not trusting or believing in the Police.
When I first came to Parliament in 1987 I spoke out against Stop and Search laws which infringed on the civil liberties of young Black men. Since the tragic murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence and the McPherson report that followed it, the police have been forced to re-evaluate their equality policies and the situation has improved.
I am concerned that anti-terror laws brought in since the September 11th attacks will have the same detrimental effect on relations between the police and Muslim communities. In particular, I have campaigned against pre-charge detention. After September 11th the length of time someone could be held without charging them from 14 days to 28 days. At that time I voted in support of increasing the detention. My decision at that point was based on what the Government were telling MPs about the terror threat to this country.
I hosted a meeting at the House of Commons called The Fire Next Time: Stop and Search in Black Communities on July 15 2013. I was delighted to see such a big turnout and was grateful to the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP for attending the debate. You can read more about it here: