Friday, March 06, 2009

Coroner criticises double standards by British police

Allowing police to collude before giving evidence is unbelievably bad practice

The coroner who oversaw the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian shot dead after being mistaken for a terrorist, has accused police of applying double standards in the wake of the killing. Sir Michael Wright said there was a "stark difference" in how police and the public were treated with officers allowed to confer before writing their witness statements while civilians were not.

He also pointed to confusion over the Scotland Yard command structure in the run-up to the shooting on a train at Stockwell London Underground station on July 22, 2005 and "systematic failures" in how information was handled.

His comments came as he published his recommendations to Scotland Yard and the Home Office on the case following a three-month inquest last year. He said it had become clear that officers had been allowed to work on their accounts together "for a period of many hours". "There was a stark difference between their experience and the treatment of civilians, who were required to give their accounts promptly and independently," he said. "Officers were not cross-examined on the basis that their evidence was the product of independent recollection."

Mr de Menezes was shot dead following a mix-up as police pursued suspects following a failed series of bombings in the capital the previous day. The inquest jury returned an open verdict on the shooting after Sir Michael ruled out the possibility of finding unlawful killing. But they rejected officers' evidence that they shouted "armed police" before opening fire and disputed that the Brazilian had walked towards officers before he was killed.

Sir Michael said that the "unprecedented" situation faced by officers, after the failed bombings the day before, offered some explanation for the shooting. But he said that the verdict nevertheless pointed to "systematic failures" and called for procedures on how information identifying suspects is passed on to be reviewed.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, called for "determined and continuing efforts" to prevent a repeat of the failures which led to the tragedy. The Justice4Jean campaign group said a public debate about what it called the "shoot-to kill policy" is long overdue.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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