[DEBATE] : Justice in the UK?
nicolaspv at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 2 15:17:23 GMT 2007
some articles below on the Jean-Charles story - Old Bailey judges have done their job, calling the failings of the Met "catastrophic". But the other Blair refuses to resign - and gets backing from the right-wing british govt and from the london mayor, whom I had thought to be fairly progressive (at least by british standards) so far.
Guilty, but Blair refuses to go
· Met convicted for failings that led to De Menezes death
· Tories and Lib Dems demand resignation
· Commissioner says shooting was an isolated tragedy
Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent
Friday November 2, 2007
Sir Ian Blair vowed yesterday to stay on as Britain's top police officer, despite sustained calls for his resignation, after his force was found guilty of "catastrophic" failings that led to the shooting dead of Jean Charles de Menezes.
An Old Bailey jury found the Metropolitan police guilty of breaking health and safety law in July 2005 when De Menezes was killed after being mistaken for a suicide bomber. Fining the force £175,000 and ordering it to pay £385,000 in costs, judge Mr Justice Henriques called on the force to learn lessons.
He said: "Every single failure here has been disputed. Some of these failings have been simply beyond explanation. There has been no single admission to any one of the alleged 19 failings."
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats demanded Sir Ian resign as commissioner of the Met. But he was given public backing by home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and prime minister, Gordon Brown.
Within the police service, the Guardian has learned that senior figures argued the force should plead guilty, but Sir Ian decided to fight the case. The unprecedented trial came after prosecutors said no individual officer could be held responsible for the electrician's death, but that the force should be tried for failing to protect the public from risk.
At the heart of the trial was the Met's failure to follow its own plan on the morning of July 22 2005, thereby placing the public at risk. The force was hunting suicide bombers who had launched failed attacks on the capital's transport system the previous day.
Evidence led detectives to a block of flats in south London, and at 5am a senior commander ordered surveillance officers to be posted outside with support from elite firearms officers to stop and question anyone who emerged.
But the firearms officers were not in place for more than four hours, so when De Menezes left the flats he was allowed to travel on two buses and then on to a tube train at Stockwell. It was only there that firearms officers caught up with him and he was shot seven times.
Delivering their guilty verdict, the jury made clear that Cressida Dick, who led the operation, bore "no personal culpability". Mr Justice Henriques said a "corporate failure" lay behind the tragedy. "This was very much an isolated breach brought about by quite extraordinary circumstances," he said.
But he said the failure to have firearms officers in place had led to the killing of the 27-year-old Brazilian. If the strategy had been followed, he said, it "would have prevented any suspect boarding the public transportation system and would ... have avoided this terrible tragedy".
The prosecution had outlined 19 separate failures. Sentencing the Met, the judge highlighted particular shortcomings including commanding officers' mistaken belief that surveillance officers following De Menezes had "positively" identified him as a terrorist. The control room at Scotland Yard was noisy, making communications difficult, said the judge, who added that the briefing firearms officers received was inaccurate and "unbalanced".
The judge praised the bravery of individual officers but said the force should learn lessons and questioned its tactics in the trial. He said the bill to the taxpayer could "very easily have been minimised".
After the verdict Sir Ian refused to consider resigning, saying the failings were not systemic: "The difficulties shown in this trial were those of an organisation struggling, on a single day, to get to grips with a simply extraordinary situation."
One of Britain's most senior officers told the Guardian: "The Met should have pleaded guilty. The stuff that comes out is embarrassing for the Met even if it's found not guilty." He added: "Stockwell will damage him in the end. It's his millstone and will be with him to the end."
The furore over the shooting will continue. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is considering the release of a report into the failings within days. A full inquest into the killing will take place next year, and the De Menezes family will also issue civil proceedings.
Later this month Sir Ian will face a meeting of his police authority where he will be questioned about the guilty verdict.
The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said the commissioner's position was "untenable" and the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, said his resignation was unavoidable.
The Met is under fire for its trial tactics. The closing speech of its barrister Ronald Thwaites QC angered De Menezes's family, who said it was a "smear". They demanded Sir Ian resign.
Home secretary backs Met chief
Friday November 2, 2007
The home secretary today gave the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, her unequivocal backing amid continuing questions about his leadership.
Jacqui Smith ruled out Sir Ian's resignation after his force was yesterday found guilty of "catastrophic" failings that led to the shooting dead of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.
An Old Bailey jury found the Met police guilty of breaking health and safety laws in July 2005 when De Menezes was killed at Stockwell underground station, in south London, after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.
Speaking in her Redditch constituency, Ms Smith followed the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, in giving the embattled commissioner her full support.
"I have confidence in Sir Ian and the Metropolitan police who, day in, day out, are facing the challenge of keeping British people safe from terrorism," she said.
"I think that my job, and that of other responsible politicians, is to support those people who are risking their lives to keep this country safe from terrorism."
Ms Smith said while the death of De Menezes was "tragic", the context in which it took place should not be forgotten. "On July 7 2005, 52 people died in [suicide bombings in] London," she added. "On July 21, four potential suicide bombers also threatened the lives of Londoners, and on July 22, the Metropolitan police were chasing people at large in order to protect Londoners."
It has also emerged at least three members of the Metropolitan Police Agency have formally asked for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the crisis.
A vote of no confidence in Sir Ian's leadership could then be held, although it is understood the commissioner currently has the support of a majority of the 23-member panel.
The MPA has the power to call for his resignation, but cannot sack him. Earlier today, Mr Livingstone described the jury's decision to find the Met guilty of breaking health and safety law as "disastrous".
The London mayor rejected calls from the Tories and Liberal Democrats for Sir Ian's resignation after yesterday's verdict, and described media pressure on him to step down as "rubbish in the press".
"I think this is disastrous ... if an armed police officer believes they are in pursuit of a terrorist who might be a suicide bomber, and they start making calculations based on this - 'how's this going to be seen, am I going to be hauled off to court?'," he told Radio 4's Today programme.
"At the end of the day, mistakes are always going to happen in wars or situations like this. The best you can do is to try to make the potential risk the minimum possible."
He also condemned the prosecution's use of health and safety legislation, which he said had been drawn up without any anticipation of the threat suicide bombers could pose in London.
"To start saying: 'Well, health and safety, have you done due diligence and all of this?' could be the difference between the terrorist being shot or the terrorist igniting a bomb that kills 30 or 40 people," he said.
Mr Livingstone said it was "absolutely outrageous" that the "two honest coppers" who shot De Menezes were not called to testify. He claimed the decision to keep them off the stand was deliberately taken because "the jury would be sympathetic".
He called on politicians demanding Sir Ian's resignation to reflect on a "long period of underfunding" for the Met, which he said he was using his powers as mayor to reverse.
"If we had police radios that worked underground, Jean Charles de Menezes would be alive today," he said.
Sir Ian has also been backed by the prime minister, Gordon Brown.
However, the shadow home secretary, David Davis, said the Met commissioner's position was "untenable", and the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, said his resignation was unavoidable.
Met's apologies undermined by 'gutter' attempt to smear dead man, says solicitor
Friday November 2, 2007
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes called for Sir Ian Blair to resign, criticised the way the police had defended the case, and claimed there were still many unanswered questions about the innocent man's death.
Erionaldo Da Silva, a close friend of the family, called for Sir Ian to consider his position. "What they did was completely wrong. He is the chief, the head of the police. He should go."
Speaking outside court on behalf of the family, he continued: "Today is emotional for us, here in London. I have spoken to Jean's mother, Maria, and she said nothing can bring Jean back, but she's at least pleased that the men and the women of the jury have found the Metropolitan police guilty of the charge.
"We remain determined to ensure that the full truth about Jean's death is made public and those responsible for his death are held accountable in a court of law.
"We are now awaiting a full and thorough inquest, where we as a family will finally be able to participate and seek answers to all our questions. We will not rest in our fight for justice."
Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the family, said the police "descended to the gutter" during the case by trying to "smear" De Menezes to shift blame away from the force.
Ms Wistrich claimed the defence had cynically manipulated photographs of De Menezes and a terrorist suspect they were hunting to make the men appear more similar than they were.
"Any attempt to salvage the image of the Metropolitan police by those in senior positions publicly apologising for their errors has been undermined by the defence put forward," said Ms Wistrich.
She said many questions remained unanswered. "In particular no evidence was heard from the officers responsible for shooting Jean Charles or from any of the civilian passengers who witnessed the shooting."
Ms Wistrich continued: "And what of the shoot to kill policy itself? Questions must be asked of a firearms strategy that effectively became an unstoppable machine intent on extinguishing the life of an unarmed suspect."
After the verdict Asad Rehman, the De Menezes family campaign spokesman, called for further consideration over whether manslaughter charges could be brought.
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