Friday, July 11, 2014

Scotland Yard chief apologises for 'failings' over shooting of woman which sparked 1985 Brixton riots

An inquest has just reported on 1985 events

The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has today apologised to the family of a woman whose shooting sparked the 1985 Brixton riots after an inquest revealed failures by officers.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe made the apology to the family of Dorothy Groce, known as Cherry, who was shot by police during a bungled raid at her home.

Mrs Groce was paralysed from the chest down following the shooting by armed police, who were searching for her son.

She died 26 years later in 2011 from kidney failure, which a pathologist directly linked to the gunshot wound.

An inquest jury today said the raid by Metropolitan Police and Hertfordshire Police should never have gone ahead, one of eight police failures which they found contributed to her death.

In a statement Sir Bernard said: 'Today, I apologise unreservedly for our failings. I also apologise for the inexcusable fact that it has taken until now, for the Met to make this public apology.

'Sadly, this means that the person who most deserved to hear the apology, those words ‘we are sorry’, is no longer here.

'However, Cherry’s children, her friends and others are here and they too deserve an apology. I am sorry for the years of suffering which our actions and omissions caused to your family.'

The Commissioner also described the operation which saw Mrs Groce shot as 'inadequate in both its planning and delivery' and the shooting itself as 'preventable'.

He added: 'Mrs Groce bore her suffering with dignity and her story is a powerful reminder to all officers of our responsibilities when we use force, or plan for its possible use.

'What is clear is that in this case, we, as an organisation, failed to meet those responsibilities and in doing so caused irreparable damage to a mother and her family.'

Earlier Mrs Groce’s family had said they were expecting an apology from the Metropolitan Police and would 'listen to with interest'.

Her son Lawrence Lee said his family had finally won their 29 year fight for the truth, which included a campaign for legal aid in order to be fairly represented at the inquest and the release of a police report in to the raid.

Mr Lee, who witnessed the shooting when he was just 11 years old, said: 'I always knew what happened that day was wrong and now I feel like we finally have heard the truth. 'This inquest has been the first opportunity in 29 years for us to hear about the serious failings made by police.

'It’s been very emotional and frustrating, it’s been a fight and battle for my mum her whole life and we’ve carried that fight on.

'I really hope that the police learn valuable lessons in terms of accountability and transparency. 'If they can’t hold their hands up to a historical failure, what hope do we have?'

He also described his mother as a 'care free, happy-go-lucky type of person' before she was paralysed, and said she had remained the boss of the house and centre of the family afterwards. 'She is the real hero in all of this,' he added.

At an inquest into her death, it was found that the failings by police included poor communication, which led officers to brief those carrying out the raid with out-of-date details

They were not given 'adequate information' that Mr Groce was no longer wanted by police or that he was no longer in possession of a shotgun.

Police also failed to adequately check who lived at the property, including women and children, or to carry out the correct observations on the house.

The jury concluded: 'Dorothy Groce was shot by police during a planned surprise, forced entry raid at her home and her subsequent death was contributed to by failures in the planning and implementation of the raid.'

Coroner Lorna Tagliavini said she would not be making any recommendations to the police forces because policing has drastically changed over the past 29 years.

Mrs Groce’s shooting by Metropolitan Police Inspector Douglas Lovelock sparked two days of unrest during which shops were looted and petrol bombs thrown in the south London neighbourhood of Brixton.

Mr Lovelock stood trial in 1987 charged with inflicting unlawful and malicious grievous bodily harm and was acquitted.

Meanwhile, Mrs Groce spent nearly three decades in a wheelchair and susceptible to debilitating illness.

The jury returned their verdict on the third day of deliberations following six days of evidence.

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, had also called for the police force to apologise to the family, after the family was 'completely vindicated' by the jury’s findings.

He explained: 'It is a disgrace that my constituents - all innocent victims of a grave injustice - have had to wait almost three decades to get to the bottom of what happened that fateful day in 1985 when their mother was shot by the Metropolitan Police.

'That Cherry Groce never lived to hear the jury’s findings today compounds the injustice my constituents feel. 'The findings of the jury are very welcome and resounding.'

Original report here




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