Death of Joy Gardner

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Death of Joy Gardner
Joy Gardner.jpg
Joy Gardner
Date 1 August 1993 (1993-08-01)
Location Crouch End, north London
Cause Cerebral hypoxia, cardiac arrest
Burial Lavender Hill Cemetery, Enfield, north London.
  • Detective Sergeant Linda Evans
  • Detective Constable John Burrell
  • Detective Constable Colin Whitby
Charges Manslaughter
Verdict DC Burrell cleared on the orders of the judge.
DS Evans and DC Whitby found not guilty.

Joy Angelia Gardner (née Burke, 29 May 1953 – 1 August 1993) was a 40-year-old Jamaican mature student living as an undocumented migrant in London, England.[1] She died following an attempt by police officers to detain her for deportation.[2][3]

During a police raid on her home in Crouch End, London, she was restrained with handcuffs and leather straps and gagged with a 13-foot length of adhesive "Elastoplast" tape wrapped around her head.[4] Unable to breathe, she collapsed and suffered brain damage due to asphyxia. She was placed on life support but died following a cardiac arrest four days later.[5] In 1995, three of the police officers involved stood trial for Gardner's manslaughter, but were acquitted.[6]

The case became a cause célèbre for civil rights and justice campaigners, and for the first time brought wide public attention to what the Modern Law Review called "the inhumanity of the methods used routinely in the execution of deportation orders".[7][8] Despite continuing pressure by campaigners, no coroner's inquest or public inquiry into the circumstances of Gardner's death has been held.[9]


Joy Gardner[edit]

Joy Gardner was born in Long Bay Beach, Jamaica, in May 1953.[10] Her mother, Myrna Simpson, emigrated from Jamaica – then still a British colony – in 1961, with the intention of sending for her child once she had achieved some financial stability, a common and accepted practice at the time.[1][10] Simpson subsequently became a British citizen.[1] Prior to 1981, Gardner would have had the right to British citizenship through her mother, but changes to immigration legislation in the British Nationality Act 1981 meant this was no longer possible.[11]

Gardner first travelled to England in 1987, leaving an adult daughter behind in Jamaica.[10][12] She entered the country legally using a six-month visitor's visa, but overstayed when the visa elapsed.[13] As well as her mother, Gardner's half-brother, three uncles and two aunts were also living in England at the time.[14] In 1990 she applied for British citizenship but the application was eventually denied and a deportation order was issued in April 1992.[13][12]

Aliens Deportation Group[edit]

The Metropolitan Police Service's (MPS) Aliens Deportation Group (ADG) was a specialist squad of uniformed police officers belonging to Scotland Yard's Specialist Operations branch. The squad was composed of a Detective Inspector, a Detective Sergeant, and seven Detective Constables.[15] They were tasked with accompanying immigration officers - who had no power of arrest - who were serving deportation orders where violent resistance by the deportee was considered probable. The squad operated in groups of three, with two officers then accompanying the deportee on their flights out of the country.[15]

Police raid[edit]

At 7.40 am on 28 July 1993, three officers from the ADG, accompanied by two officers from Hornsey police station and an official from the UK Immigration Service, raided Gardner's home with orders to "detain and remove" her and her 5-year old son for immediate deportation to Jamaica.[15][16][17][18] The officers had with them a 4-inch wide restraint belt with attached handcuffs, and leather straps and rolls of adhesive tape to restrain her thighs and ankles.[19] When Gardner resisted the officers' attempts to place her in the restraint belt, she was overpowered, shackled, gagged, and adhesive tape was also wrapped around her head and face.[4][20][21] She suffered respiratory failure almost immediately and was taken to the Whittington Hospital, North London.[12][22] She died on 1 August 1993 due to cerebral hypoxia and cardiac arrest, without regaining consciousness.[21][23]

Manslaughter trial[edit]

On 15 May 1995, three police officers from the Aliens Deportation Group stood trial accused of Gardner's manslaughter. On 2 June 1995, Detective Constable John Burrell was acquitted on the directions of the judge, Mr Justice Mantell.[24] Detective Sergeant Linda Evans and Detective Constable Colin Whitby were found not guilty by the jury on 14 June 1995.[25] Following the trial, the Police Complaints Authority announced that there would be no internal disciplinary inquiry.[26]


As a result of Gardner's death, the use of mouth gags was suspended by the Commissioner of the MPS in August 1993 and banned by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, in January 1994.[27]

In 1999 Gardner's family brought a civil suit against the police for compensation.

In popular culture[edit]

The poet Benjamin Zephaniah wrote The Death of Joy Gardner about the incident.[28] Jackie Kay also wrote a poem in her memory entitled Teeth.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mills, Heather (7 March 1999). "A life without Joy". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Bowling & Phillips 2001, p. 131.
  3. ^ Scraton & McCulloch 2006, p. 7.
  4. ^ a b Chigwada-Bailey 2008, p. 126.
  5. ^ Young 1996, p. 70.
  6. ^ Evans 2011, p. 107.
  7. ^ Mansfield, Michael (Summer 2000). "Straw in the wind". Socialist Lawyer (32): 16–21. 
  8. ^ Harlow 1994, p. 624.
  9. ^ "Unlawful Killing verdicts and prosecutions: 1995". Inquest. 8 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Young 1996, p. 67.
  11. ^ Young 1996, p. 68.
  12. ^ a b c "Joy Gardner: Case History". The Times (64713) (London). 3 August 1993. p. 3. 
  13. ^ a b Torode, John (3 August 1993). "When deportation means death: Joy Gardner died after police raided her home". The Independent (London). Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Malik 1996, p. 38.
  15. ^ a b c Ford, Richard (3 August 1993). "Focus turns on aliens squad". The Times (64713) (London). p. 3. 
  16. ^ Young 1996, p. 69.
  17. ^ Duce, Richard (16 May 1995). "Police used 13ft of sticky tape to gag woman, court told". The Times (65268) (London). p. 3. 
  18. ^ Cohen, Nick (8 August 1993). "Why did Joy Gardner die?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  19. ^ Frost, Bill; Ford, Richard (4 August 1993). "Police suspended after deportation death". The Times (64714) (London). p. 1. 
  20. ^ Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin (9 January 2012). "We will repeat the past if we don't remember it". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Ford, Richard (11 August 1993). "Joy Gardner died 'after form of suffocation'". The Times (64720) (London). p. 5. 
  22. ^ Johnstone, Helen (5 August 1993). "Mother claims police taped deportee's mouth". The Times (64715) (London). p. 3. 
  23. ^ "Jamaican dies after deportation collapse". The Times (64712) (London). 2 August 1993. p. 2. 
  24. ^ Duce, Richard (3 June 1995). "Policeman cleared of suffocating Gardner". The Times (65284) (London). p. 3. 
  25. ^ Duce, Richard; Tendler, Stewart (15 June 1995). "Joy Gardner case police cleared of manslaughter". The Times (65294) (London). p. 1. 
  26. ^ "Gardner police in clear". The Times (65318) (London). 13 July 1995. p. 2. 
  27. ^ Haacke 1997, p. 37.
  28. ^ The Death of Joy Gardner Benjamin Zephaniah
  29. ^ Kay, Jackie. Teeth, Off Colour. Bloodaxe Books: 1998.

External media[edit]