The Mangrove Nine trial resulted from conflict between the police and the black community in Notting Hill that had escalated from the end of the 1960s onwards. The Mangrove case began when around 150 black people protested against long-term police harassment of the popular Mangrove Restaurant in Ladbroke Grove.
The protest, policed by hundreds of police, led to nine arrests and twenty-nine charges. The nine arrested and charged were were Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Critchlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Althea Lecointe Jones, Rothwell Kentish, and Godfrey Millett. The charges included having an offensive weapon, affray, incitement to riot, and police assault.
The high profile trial at the Old Bailey lasted for two months finishing in December 1971 with all nine acquitted of the principle charge of incitement to riot, while five of the nine, including Darcus Howe and Frank Crichlow, were acquitted of all other charges. The police would eventually, in 1992, pay record damages of £50,000 to Crichlow for false imprisonment, battery and malicious prosecution.
During the trial, Darcus Howe, and his fellow defendants along with barrister Ian McDonald developed a legal strategy that included a direct appeal to the rights of Magna Carta: that the defendants should be tried by a jury of their peers, that is an all black jury. The attempt failed but, according to historians, contributed to the defandants being able to vet and dismiss jurors and raise key issues about the law and racism. The case made legal history when it delivered the first judicial acknowledgement of ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan police force.
An echo of the Mangrove Nine’s argument can be heard in Dame Rt Hon Lady Justice Arden’s lecture, ‘Magna Carta and the Judges – Realising the Vision’ on June 2011:
The view has been expressed over several decades that there ought to be a more diverse judiciary, that is, a judiciary which is more diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.26 No one suggests that the judiciary should be precisely representative of the population but people are bound to have more confidence that their concerns have been properly and fully considered if the judiciary includes people from their section of society among its own members and the judiciary’s own composition reflects the fact that those groups too play an important role in society (pp. 16-17).
A documentary film, The Mangrove Nine (directed and produced by Franco Rosso),was made in 1973, and includes interviews with the defendants recorded before the final verdicts.The Mangrove Nine film portrays interviews with the defendants recorded before the final verdicts were delivered at the trial, as well as contemporary comments from Ian Macdonald and others. See clip.
Bunce, Robin, and Paul Field,“Frank Critchlow: Community leader who made the Mangrove Restaurant the beating heart of Notting Hill” The Independent, 23 September 2010.
Bunce, Robert and Field, Paul, “Mangrove Nine: the court challenge against police racism in Notting Hill” The Guardian, 29 November 2010.