« Desert Island Discs

Nazir Afzal, lawyer

2021-08-01 | 🔗
Nazir Afzal is a solicitor and the former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England. Among his notable cases, he brought the Rochdale sex grooming gangs to trial in 2012. Nazir’s parents arrived in the UK from Pakistan in 1961 and he was born in Birmingham the following year. After completing his legal training he started his career as a defence lawyer but soon realised that he preferred prosecution to defence, joining the Crown Prosecution Service in 1991. As director of prosecutions for London he turned his attention to so-called honour-based violence and brought successful prosecutions against the perpetrators of these crimes. In 2011 as chief crown prosecutor for north-west England he began investigating sex grooming gangs in Rochdale, overturning a previous CPS decision not to bring charges against the gangs. He brought prosecutions against nine men who were convicted and jailed in 2012 for the sexual exploitation of 47 young girls. Nazir retired from the Crown Prosecution Service in 2015. He currently chairs the Catholic Church’s new safeguarding body and advises the Welsh government on issues of gender-based violence. DISC ONE: Jump Around by House of Pain DISC TWO: This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush DISC THREE: Why Should I Cry for You? by Sting DISC FOUR: One in Ten by UB40 DISC FIVE: Set You Free (Voodoo And Serano Remix) by N-Trance DISC SIX: Woman in Chains by Tears For Fears With Oleta Adams DISC SEVEN: One by Mary J. Blige & U2 DISC EIGHT: Talkin' Bout A Revolution by Tracey Chapman BOOK CHOICE: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee LUXURY ITEM: A guitar CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music, radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island, and for rights reasons. The music is water down the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I my castaway this week is the solicitor and former chief crammed prosecuted for north west england, nausea after bore
in birmingham to parents who emigrate to the uk from pakistan in the early nineteenth sixties, he groped experiencing racism on a daily basis. His father told him not to expect justice in this life, yet his remarkable korea has been spent in its pursuit during his twenty four years at the crime commission service. He led the fight to bring the perpetrators of some of britain's most notorious crimes, particularly violent offences against women and girls to justice is case. File includes the rotch they'll grooming gangs, numerous so called honour killings and the prosecution of the disgraced former broadcasters jewish whole. His commitment to uphold the law without fear or favour has earned him an ob, a and an interesting mix of enemies he's been on an Al Qaeda hit list and the target of abuse from the far right. He took early retirement from the
cps in twenty fifteen, but remains as busy as ever. Chairing the catholic churches, new safeguarding body and advising the wealth government on issues of gender based violence, he says I have hope in the power of the individual, each one of us has it in them to save lives. In the days I have left, I intend to save more nazir offs are welcome to desert island discs or alone as a privilege and an honor to be with Now it is here your lawyer, two of your heroes, mahatma gandhi and nelson mandela, also lawyers, but you say you dont like them generally. Why is that? Because who is love their own language. We have our ultra vires and we have a bit more latin we throw in. We are full of words quite frankly that want to distance ourselves from the people that women should be providing support and advice to, and I don't like that. I prefer to speak as I would expect to be
received, and what about scandia mandela, where they just so heroic, got they transcended yo yo natural antipathy towards lawyers? Oh, did you like narrow approach to the job of it when you growing up we didn't have any role models and we didn't have. We are about to television channels. The only lawyer eye news, perry mason on tv earlier, a doctor I knew was doktor kildare, you know, so they were lawyers that transcended what they did, they use law as a tool for change and both in their name inspired me to, gradually. I can use law as a tool for change, and I hope that in some small way I ve been able to do that and they clearly set the path that island You go on museum. Much of your work requires empathy and an ability to listen to victims, to witnesses into police officers. To did those soft
else come naturally to you when you are starting out you're, not trained in law school to be sensitive, to show empathy to demonstrate humanity. Even hopefully you ve got it, but it's absolutely essential that we were able to listen. Are you able to understand? You never really understand a person until you can put yourself in their she's inside their skin and war. Around in it, and I have always wanted to do that, and you know I've cried a lot. during my legal korea because these people have been. Touched by real real pain. But at the same time I get tremendous satisfaction in giving I'm something that they probably lacked before, which is justice, of course, where I can hear your music choices and about to ask you for first now I happen to know that you did a bit of moonlighting as a club promoter and dj back in the nineties. Did how would you describe your style when you are tired of the decks? Are promoted them
of clubs in north london. My first move to london and camden and between seven nine p m when prevented was in the room. I decided to test out my dj Israel and the best advice I think I've ever received about DJ was from the late great the. U s who came to see me and he said to me in give it up and you re police to learn it. ask data, but this sum always got people die I'm gonna blow me. My name is like a common agenda may have to pay
and jump around. We can dedicate that, wouldn't sera, andrea, whether moment, miss eyre ourselves. We should do so is: isn't, let's go back, then your parents were from Pakistan and during the second world war, your father mohamed, worked for the british army. He was a caterer and by nineteen sixties station deter we base in cyprus and something happened to their that change the course of his life and ended up bringing him here. If somebody stole his money, it's as simple as that which, at that time, I think, was seventy one hundred pounds which, in sixty sixty one, was tens of thousands equivalent
and that person returned to the united kingdom and my father said outright. Am I'm getting my money back? I've worked for this for the last ten twenty years. He came back. He never told me how he got the money back, but he did get his money back and thought hang on a minute. Look. I've spent twenty odd years working supporting the british army I'm now here they are desperate for people to come and work here. My three eldest brothers has been born. I wasn't born yet he thought here's an opportunity for them to be educated. And to give something back to the country where you know they have wanted to build their lives, and so he brought my mother over a year later I was born and he worked in a factory where he was. in seven pounds a week and he then develop this enormous scale of of networking with immunity that they look to him because he had english language skills to engage with the authorities to write letters on behalf of people who were new immigrants. He didn't have to
Take on that responsibility, and neither did my mother, but both of them took on this extraordinary responsibility where they felt a duty to those who had come over as are now making a life in the united kingdom, and yet in time. They didn't have much confidence in the authorities, something your father made very clear to you didn't he rob has been so often on one occasion was beaten by three guys use my head as well. I came home. My father tended to my wounds and the other night, your lab desperate for him to do something tell the police do something. He said: there's no justice now be prepared to listen to us and here I had to challenge them on that, but at that time he was right and the idea that we are people from mythology. It would be listened to was anathema to minority communities, and so I was taken by what he wanted to do, which is to provide a voice tat,
those who were unheard and many many respects, that's how I build my career doing the same thing can clearly see where it came from the came from him you described your mother, one says a force of nature. She was actually extraordinary, I'm in sheep last year alone and I spent doing lockdown spent various weeks. visiting her in birmingham in and massaging her legs, then realize for the first time she was. Ninety two: how small her feet were size? Three, I struck me: why didn't? I know this about my mother because me. She was a mountain. She was enormous presence and there was one family. For example, they wanted to marry their daughter of really early fourteen fifteen year old girl, something and
he's right down the street and has its conversation with the mother and saying how day do that your child can contribute so much more. If you will let her finish her education and I was listening, there was there mere six seven year. Listening to my mom say this Of course he had an impact on me. Stand your second track museum. What are we can here? We're gonna hear kate bush, this woman's work. Obviously, with my mother's passing last year, when I was spending time of her, knowing that she was in a positive way, the song reminded me so much of what she had done and what she kept on doing without complaint she'd never complained at all. What about the fact that she was bringing up? You know six boys and a girl how she was supporting everybody else in the community and yet I dont think I showed her the love I want to do so, and this is about saying you know her work was never done, and I think we should always reflect upon how important
The winning arrives on some of the women in my life sabine and my mother has me most of all keep bush, and this woman's work. soon as the rough sell, you were born in small heath. Birmingham in Knighton sixty two, the fourth of seven children, pay me a picture if he would have life at home with the ourselves.
Up to down tiny little garden. It was chaos, absolutely adorable. You felt a pang something people were shouting and screaming. Famine, and it was an extraordinary you couldn't imagine silence in the household, then that never happened and that buzz of family and community. I stayed with me all of my life this year, when you were aids, the family took a trip to pakistan to your parents, home village, your first time visiting what did it feel like getting to know the country is extraordinary. New thirty days in van transit, vine across europe and asia, arriving in the north frontier of pakistan, and it was a phenomenal six months of immersing myself in traditions and culture in my extended family was brilliant other course. Terrible things happened
way back. We were returning across europe and asia. My seven year old, cousin Yasmine, who was with me, got ill around about germany and europe. We didn't know my father was desperate for us to get home. He had his whole family in his van and she got so ill that term a day or so later in just coming to belgium, she died. She died of dehydration, didn't you dehydrate, which these days a couple of pills. You know, but you couldn't google that back then. Could you so suddenly, I'm at term ostend, port and we're been going on a ferry to get back to england and my mother hands me my cousin.
is having my arms and says: look after her she's sleeping and I'm carrying her body without knowing that across the channel and the arriving in dover and until the authorities take her. I looked at her face. I stroked her hair Lauren nobody's in a dime I'll watch again, that's what I felt and that's where I've always felt missing. Let's take a minute for some of the music. This is your third desk where to begin, and why it's some? Why should I cry for you by sting and my father passed away from a series of strokes and for several weeks I have now moved into various important roles and I was really busy, but I was lying to myself. Actually, I didn't want to see him in the state that he was now in in the hospital, and so I didn't go and then one morning somebody's now
I have to go to Birmingham I have to go. I turned up at the hospital, he looked at me. He smiled and he passed away. It was almost like he waited. He waited for me to turn up before. He would leave the surf and I couldn't cry. I know that he wouldn't want me to cry, and I loved him, as this song says in my fashion, and this song reminds me that all of us have suffered a lot of loss in the last year or so, but the person that has left you would not want you to cry
see you stay, and why should I cry for you noisy? If so, you will considered the clever one in the family, and I know that your older brothers looked out for you. How did they do it? The situation in the seventies was perilous, really a lot of our employment and yet my elder brothers and my father will work on my mother wouldn extraordinarily hard, but they were allowing me to study you I'd, be down the library pretty much. Every day she was my google, the librarian
yeah. I was learning And- and I was being allowed to learn and that I think, is a privilege that I've, I've, never forgotten, School itself was stressful for you and you will bleeds. Why do you think you became a target figures because I wasn't really engaging with people. You know I'm a lot less hathaway study and stuff. that meant that people really want getting to know may pass from one or two people and There were many cases in which I was being bullied. Whenever I paid rugby the ball somebody would shout get the patchy I'd have to throw the board as far away as possible to protect my life, though occasions, I remember my mum bought me. A new blazer, but rather make september, should go to me in june. So before the end of time and I'm sure I tell stupidly- turned up in my new blazon the last week of time and these guys to simply grabbed ripped off
slave. I went home. I didn't tell him I'm on this and I dont like she ever knew but I got her needle and thread, and so that is all that sleeve back on. So you didn't you couldn't tell mother? That could you tell your parents about any of event? I couldn't tell my parents any of it. I think it was protecting them, but also, I suspect, a feeling, a sense of guilt. The somehow now what they ve, given their shielding me they're, providing me with all the support they have done. I can't give them a burden. Icon share. What's happening to me. Aim is, sadly, I see lord thinking back Well, that was the case for the next forty odd years that I really didn't talk to people about how I was feeling- and I think it's important for me to say- that's not a good thing, but it's how I think I managed to survive. Think we've already had this for what we chose in this area are chosen. You be forty one in ten abounding in band weren't. They
early eighties? Now, as far as this issue is concerned, and ten percent of the population are unemployed, the leinen statistical reminder of well that doesn't care still resonates today, I lost my brother to covet he's The number every piece of paper that I have dealt with this procedure is a person, and this on really tells me reminds me regularly, should always see the person and not just the number
That is the one in ten you be forty missy after after your training started working as a defence lawyer, but it didn't suit you. Why not? I just couldn't. Do it there was one occasion at sea, wham advising a ripe suspect it a police station. Before his interview, I missis tape, typical interviews that you seen in line and duty. In those days you took a statement from the victim and so I've, given him a copy of the statement, the police provided to me,
and I can see this guy literally getting off on british red herring on leave rehearsing what he had done, allegedly to that woman and his reaction to reading what she said. Just was the icing on the cake. In my, in my mind, you I couldn't say, temple plead guilty because he wasn't going to he was going to drag her through the court. Room is, as ultimately will have done, and that's his right. Absolutely but why should I be passed that I wasn't going to be party to that? I I so I walked out the door literally and, and he resigned, I had my notice in almost immediately afterwards. I'm not doing this anymore. I can't do this good for people who can and we do need people who can do the but it wasn't for me we will have some music. Then this is this number five? What have you got? I've got term set you free by and
switching colored arena, and I apologise to all my fellow tube travellers in the mid nineties, because literally the way I got myself in the mood when I'm on my way. Cotton and I was getting caught four or five days a week was listened to some trance or some dance awesome, hip, hop or some jungle and as loudly as it's possible to listen, and it was necessary when there are no big tunes about justice, although rather urine I chose music. That really me energize. That would have me bouncing around side of me and outside the court room, and this song got me in the movie Where are we?
one is that you, the entrance with Kelly arena sl in two thousand and three. You were appointed the directive pro patients for london and turn your attention to so called honour, based violence, and he said had been a man and a muslim was helpful when taken on these crimes point because the women's groups, the goods we're working survivors set me two things one is no man is talking about this subject, nausea and, secondly, no man is talking about it with government, and so it gave me an opportunity using would have influence. I had to engage with government at home office nor the other departments and also
We appreciated to engage with men who are the perpetrators in the main of this type of behaviour and to call them out What they were doing to women and girls in our country. Communities, in fact in the world, and somehow it was easier for me. May I look that way. But it's somehow easier for me to go to a particular environment, whether it's a place of worship or a community center, and to have it out with people about what they were doing. That meant that people were being harmed women being harmed than it would have been for a woman in those same circumstances you in in some incredibly harrowing cases, including the killing of bananas, moods young, kurdish women who was murdered by members of her own family because she felon but the man, they didn't proof of it. Many years, but you did eventually bring successful prosecutions against her killers You personally our success.
is like that bitter sweet hundred percent? I would rather that nobody was harmed it it. It was never in my job description that I would have to bury somebody in manassas case the charity, the kurdish women's association, because the family responsible for her death they took it. The charity took it upon themselves to bury her I have a memorial for her, which I attended. You know until recently, not long ago, I went there again to her grave in south london to remind myself. Why is that I do what I do. I do not want people in graves. I do not want people having to suffer. I want people to learn from the mistakes that we made, and there were mistakes made by a number of agencies that allowed people at banaz to die? How did you cope with
the details of that and being immersed in it and also being personally connected as you sound to you, you contributed to her gravestone. You were there attending her funeral, you have to remain professional is sometimes very difficult. As I said, a ride, the outsider occasions on which I cried, I try not to cry and the presence of other people, but sometimes you can't avoid to do that, but it's important the mai humanity comes out, but I'm not a robot that I have daughter that we have children that we want our families to be safe and secure, as,
Well, I banaz and has shoe and style, saw jade and guitar there etched on my brain learn. The names of the victims are etched on my brain. I have prosecuted thousands of homicides of all types of all communities. I have prosecuted thousands of rape cases and serious harm cases and the victims don't leave me, but they shouldn't leave me because It did leave me. I wouldn't be doing them as good service stand to your next piece of music. Is a letter can be It's women in chains by tears for fears. People can read anything they like into it of me. It's about the fact that women have been put in chains that we men and men all the time, sadly, that one too
strict, the choices that women make women in chains, tears for fears and only to Adam museum lifestyle in twenty levin. You move to manchester and you were appointed chief crown prosecuted for northwest england around time. You were made aware of gangs of mainly pakistani men operating in watch who grooming vulnerable and underage girls for sex in teeth, as no nine the crime prosecutions
This had decided not to press charges when the first victim made her obligations. What made you take the rest step of reversing that decision, the view The police and policies that time was the victim was so broken. That no jury would have a believer somehow. That was the view taken anyway by those who dealt with the case back then, but I thought I'm gonna man, I believe was the video disclosures and there was a problem because we had decided not to prosecute based on her evidence. How could I put this now? We have forty seven victims and we had nine perpetrator How could we put this before a court? How can we say to jerry members, a jury. to believe this victim. We didn't believe up. We want you to believe well. This was where I may vary. There will be do as we admit we got it wrong. She didn't get wrong. We as an institution got it wrong. The police got it wrong. We got the whole issue of grooming gangs wrong. We need to put it right,
and that's how you build confidence and that's how we were able to build a case and put the case before a jury. But it was t, really really painful taller and agencies to realize is how poor they had been. Everybody responsible for the safeguarding of these young girls had failed them. So there was back from the agencies in a reckoning to be had there, but also am bringing the prosecution's did, bring you into conflict with some members of the the south asian community. What kinds of reactions were you going up against? I added a they'll town hall, that's what I'm speaking, two three four hundred people and I'm telling them that it beggars belief. That fifteen. I your man is driving around the four year old girl from now, not appease ethnic state. Why? anybody say anything and somebody stands up in the ruling says: do you just to be grasses. I said no, I want to be good neighbours? That could be your daughter that could be a friend's daughter. You have a responsibility, more widely. And so I was doing this challenge the great news that the vast majority of people absence
the student. They were shocked by this as anybody else the thing that I wasn't prepared forlorn was the attacks on me by the far right. Now some people seem to suggest well, because I raise this case and prosecute this case that they should be carry me on their shoulders. Europe. They didn't like that. They didn't like the fact that somebody who was brown had brought this persecution because I damage their narrative was to everybody. That's brown is a bad guy. And therefore was came for me? I had far right thugs outside in my house. I had to teach my children how to use the panic alarmed that had been placed in the house. My kids could only go to school in a taxi for three months, because that was a safe and secure think for their. My whole family was under attack that must have been terrifying at one hundred percent and we had done everything right done. Everything right in that case. So why was I being subjected to this while it was only because the color of my skin there's no getting away from it? These people were determined to destroy me and they came very close to destroying me.
Thirdly, took its toll and there was a long period of time afterwards when I questioned doing the job and the great news, them. As always. My response was asked to do the job even more in twenty Well? Nine men were convicted of sexual exploiting the young girls sitting in the courtroom. On that day, What were the emotions you felt hearing the verdicts come in, there's no relation. There is satisfaction that the job has been done properly and correctly. There is satisfaction that more victims and witnesses will now, hopefully forward- and they too will get justice- satisfaction that we can do our job better, learn from our mistakes of the past I don't have any relation. I've never celebrated as a successful case, because said nobody should be home in the first place. Do you keep in touch with any of the victims that you ve helped? I have no
nobody more important in my life than the victims, the survivors that term constantly wing me up, I'm so glad they do. They email me tell me how they're doing there was a one case which is still a whole case which People may recall ABC placenta. He was found guilty of the abuse of twelve. And girls are not guilty of one. I went to see the one he was found not guilty of asset to her. I'm really that I couldn't give closure. She look me in the eyes and said you gave me closer the moment. The you believe me. My recovery started the moment. You believe me that has never left me. Stanchion track miss eyre herself, but what is it and why you taken it to the islands? I am selected the song one, which is by you too, but this is the diversion where Mary J Blige is on lead vocals. There are few things in life: when the competing prove improved by being a woman on lead vocals, so not respect bonnet,
this is a song. The means a great deal to one you with mammy jeep light, missy rafts out. You started eight determined to make a difference dogma. In so many ways do you have. Alarm yourself to feel proud of your achievements. certain can be grounded whenever I've. Any sense of pride. I remember
I did this brilliant presentation to tony blair when he was prime minister and down the street, and I came home floating on air as if somehow I was god's gift, I dunno what I felt will open the door and my four year old at the time just threw up on my shoes that brought me down to where I need to be, how do you think you'll call on the island very badly? I love my own company, but The fact that I am able to know at least see other people and engage with other people in some way, some from some distance. The thing that abe fills my eyes when I'm talking to a large group of victim survivors, all ngos wavered- maybe I love being in their company because they are the greatest people in the world and that I wouldn't be there's something I'd miss terribly. Are you practical I can look a shelf. I can do a baby. I why I wouldn't. say that I am garden rescue material, I am certainly capable of putting a few things together, but this, but this
I think I won't last a long while, more disk before we send. You, then, is here. What's your last ice and why this is crazy. Chapman. About a revolution, and we ve talked a lot about how we can deliver change and yeah I'd so important that we recognise that each one of us has a responsibility, that year. We often sale. I don't know it's too much too vague. Somebody else can deal with it, so many examples where one person has changed one other person's life, and that is a revolution for that person remember that, and the song way brings home to me and maybe a whispered tracy says that surely it can be so so loud no a bad joke zones, Don't you know talking? John,
while their standing in trying to do is wasting time see chapman talkin bout revolution soon as they after I'm gonna, send you away to the island, I'm giving you the koran and the complete works of shakespeare. You can take a notable, of your choice with you. What would you like? I would dump selector how police to kill a mocking bird. It's a story of racial injustice is the story of justice, full stop their summits in the book about how we handle. A conscience and how we handle cohesion as a great line at some Well, you know your legs before you begin, but you begin anyway. That is the most courageous thing. You can also have a luxury item to meet your stay: more enjoyable on the island to lobby. I've govern acoustic, guitar,
I teach myself how to use one. Don't give me sheet music that can't read it, but it's. I would love to be able to strum a few tunes while I'm out there and finally, which one of the eight tracks that you've shared with us today. Would you save from the waves if yachting this woman's work by kate bush because it reminds me so much of the most important woman in my life, my mother, who passed away last year. sl. Thank you so much for letting us here, your desert island discs. Thank you. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with nazir, castaway many lawyers to our island, including former judge, how the hell it cannot stop at psmith, Brian stevenson and kimberly motley and also needs
his old boss, secure storm up these. There, too, you can find their episodes in a desert, island discs, programme archive and through BBC sands. The Hello. There. I'm Simon armitage, I'm just heading down the garden path, so this might, good moment. To tell you about the new series of my radio for podcast point. The poet laureate has gone to shed the shed actually on the its being quite a lonely place this past year fulfil the obvious reason. So it's great to build a plump up the plastic cushions set up extra fold away chair and nasa life and creativity with talented and thoughtful people. Guests include yorkshire, yorkshire, shepherdess, amend owen broadcaster, dj, I'm gardener, Joe wily and smith
guitarist johnny marr put your it's one of the many not holes in the wool by searching for the poet laureate, he's going to his shed. Bc. Sounds
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.