Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Outrage as British police seek secrecy at inquest into man whose death sparked the London riots

"The United Soviet Kingdom"?

A full inquest into the police shooting of a man whose death sparked the London riots last summer may never take place after a police watchdog suggested evidence should be kept secret.

The family of Mark Duggan reacted with anger yesterday after a pre-inquest review into his death in Tottenham in August heard that sensitive material relating to police ‘decision making’ may not be disclosed – even to the coroner.

The move has alarmed campaigners, who warn of a ‘pandemic of secrecy’ coming at a time of controversial plans to extend private court hearings.

The Daily Mail has led the way in revealing growing unease at Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s proposals for an extension of ‘closed material procedures’, in which cases are held in secret.

North London Coroners’ Court was told the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) may have material about 29-year-old Duggan’s death ‘that it could not properly disclose to a coroner’.

Instead a judge could hold a special inquiry where the crucial details about why firearms officers shot the suspected gangster would be held behind closed doors.

Yesterday the Duggan family accused the IPCC of ‘delay tactics’.

If an inquest was blocked, there would still be a legal obligation to hold an alternative inquiry.

But the family fear that the case may echo that of Azelle Rodney who was shot dead by police in 2005, yet his family are still waiting for a public inquiry seven years later.

Duggan’s aunt Carole said: ‘We believe the IPCC are withholding information from us. ‘Maybe they think we will go away, come to terms with what has happened, but we are a grieving family and we will always grieve for Mark.’

Duggan was being followed in a covert operation when armed officers stopped the taxi he was travelling in and shot him dead on August 4 last year. The shooting sparked the riots that swept across Tottenham before engulfing many parts of the capital and spreading to other parts of the country.

Yesterday Coroner Andrew Walker said: ‘We anticipate that the IPCC may be in possession of material that would be relevant to the issue of police decision making but could not be disclosed even to the coroner. ‘That raises a likelihood and I want the family to understand that that may mean that an inquest cannot proceed.’

He added: ‘Underneath this we must not forget is a grieving family who need to understand what’s happened. The sooner we can identify whether the inquest is the means by which the state discharge their obligations the sooner an alternative if one is necessary can be put into place.’

Even if an inquest does take place it will now be pushed back to January next year to allow for a separate criminal trial to take place into the circumstances in which Duggan got the gun.

Yesterday the IPCC refused to explain why evidence could not be disclosed, but it is thought to relate to surveillance Scotland Yard had been carrying out.

Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, a charity providing support for bereaved people facing cases in a coroner’s court, said: ‘We share the coroner’s concern about undue delay.

The IPCC needs to move much more quickly – it shouldn’t have taken this long for them to tell the family and the coroner about their concerns about sensitive evidence.

‘While there are legal complexities surrounding sensitive material, it is absolutely vital a solution is found so that the family can get answers. Failure to do so will only lead to more distrust of the investigation process.’

Shami Chakrabarti, of civil liberties campaign group Liberty, said: ‘The least Mark Duggan’s family and Londoners deserve is a full and open hearing into how and why he was killed.

Given Government attempts to lock down our open civil courts, public confidence is hardly boosted by the IPCC falling victim to this new pandemic of secrecy.

Mark Ley-Morgan QC, representing the IPCC, said its report into the killing would be released to the parties by early autumn.

A further pre-inquest review has been scheduled for October, with a provisional date for a hearing set in January next year if the disclosure issue is resolved.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

No comments: