Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Asking For It?

De Menezes coroner tells jury they can't deliver a verdict of Unlawful Killing - and that Jean Charles may have been asking for it

The coroner in the inquest into the death of Jean Charles De Menezes, shot in the head without a warning by armed police according to the only impartial eyewitnesses, has told the jury in the inquest that they cannot return a verdict of Unlawful Killing based on his interpretation of the evidence, which seems to be largely the version of events given by the police involved - and one which conflicts with that of all other eyewitnesses.

He gives the opinion that anyone disagreeing with him is basing their opinions on "emotional reactions" rather than the "evidence". That's a very very subjective and emotive claim given the evidence.

It's fairly clear that the coroner has an emotional bias towards the police involved. Perhaps he's been won over by the extensive emotional displays by officers giving evidence, some crying while doing so?

They claim they shouted a warning to De Menezes that they were armed police and not to move before opening fire. Every other eyewitness present says there was no warning. The police have a fairly obvious motive for lying. What exactly is the motive of all the other eye-witnesses who were on the tube at the time? What possible motive would they have to lie?

The coroner explained that a verdict of unlawful killing could only be justified if some police officers were guilty of the murder or manslaughter of De Menezes and that the evidence shows they weren't. I'll accept it wasn't pre-meditated murder. It was too incompetent to have anything much pre-meditated about it - and that it wasn't voluntary manslaughter for the same reasons. It could well however be manslaughter as a result of gross negligence and carelessness in English law, not necessarily by or solely by the officer who actually fired the shots, but by him and his superiors to different degrees.

The coroner then goes one further by offering one possible cause of De Menezes' death which he will graciously allow them the option of choosing. This cause would be the actions of De Menezes himself - echoing police officers who claimed that De Menezes' actions caused them to believe he was a suicide bomber.

What actions were these exactly? Living in the same block of flats as the suspect and happening to leave while the lone observing officer was taking a piss? Getting on a bus? Getting on the tube? If those are accepted by the inquest as actions that could lead police to think someone was a suicide bomber who should be shot we should all be just as afraid of the police as we are of suicide bombers because we'll all be at risk of being shot in the head any time we go on public transport.

De Menezes certainly did not vault the barriers at the tube station as police spokesmen claimed to the press. Both eyewitnesses and CCTV cameras showed that was a lie - which increases the probability that the claim about a shouted warning was a lie too. Then there was the lie about wires coming out of Menezes' jacket - which, again, was shot down by non-police eye-witnesses.

Whether the policeman who fired the fatal shots is responsible or not is an open question. What isn't an open question is that the entire operation was a farce run incompetently with vague orders given by superiors like 'stop him', without specifying where or how. A lone officer was assigned to surveillance of the block of flats where one of the actual suspects lived so that he couldnt say whether the person leaving the flats was the suspect or not when he went for a piss. Is it acceptable to kill someone just in case without any actual reason to think they were a suicide bomber?

No-one as yet has been sacked or had to resign over this example of gross negligence and incompetence resulting in the death of an innocent person - which means that people who aren't competent to make life and death decisions are still making them and the same could happen again at any time. Sir Ian Blair is gone - but not because of the lies he repeated about De Menezes death, but because his own great and inflated dignity could not bear the thought that he might not have absolute control over the Metropolitan police - that he would be "in office but not in power" in his words.

Cressida Dick, the officer who gave the "stop him" order, should be sacked. Whoever allowed only one officer instead of a pair to be assigned for surveillance should be sacked.

De Menezes was allowed to get on a bus but then shot when he got on the tube. What does that tell you about the competence of the people involved when the July 7th bombings they claimed to be trying to prevent a repeat of blew up both a bus and a tube train?

And can we trust armed officers to judge whether its necessary to open fire or not when, according to all other eye-witnesses' accounts, they've lied repeatedly about the events? If the officers involved had told the truth then perhaps it should only have been Dick who should have gone. Since they've shown their own dishonesty they should go too though.

As for the coroner his own emotional reaction is crystal clear - he wants every police officer of every rank cleared to avoid upsetting any of them, whether that risks more deaths through their lack of competence at their current jobs in future or not.

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