Azara Blog: Police found guilty of endangering public over de Menezes killing

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Date published: 2007/11/01

The BBC says:

London's Metropolitan police force has been found guilty of endangering the public over the fatal shooting of a man officers mistook for a suicide bomber.

The force broke health and safety laws when officers pursued Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes to a Tube station and shot him seven times, a jury found.

It was fined £175,000 with £385,000 costs over the 22 July 2005 shooting.
...
Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said outside court that he was staying in his job - despite calls for his resignation.

Mr de Menezes's relatives said they wanted to see a "full and thorough" inquest into the electrician's death.

Harriet Wistrich, the family's solicitor, said the police had been an "unstoppable force" when they pursued him, and the defence had "descended to the gutter" to blacken his name.
...
Anna Dunwoodie, who was in the same carriage as Mr Menezes when he was shot, told the BBC how she witnessed this "horrific" moment when armed police ran on board the train.

"It didn't feel to me like I was in the middle of a police operation," she recalled.

"The men who came running in seemed quite chaotic. I'd describe them as slightly hysterical.

"Jean Charles, to my knowledge, did nothing out of the ordinary.

"I didn't notice him until he had a gun pressed to him. It felt to me like he was someone who was being picked on at random because he was nearest to the door.
...
In deciding on a penalty, the judge said he was aware that a heavy fine would result in a loss to the public purse and a reduction in essential policing.

It is ridiculous that the health and safety laws were used in this way. And to some extent it is not just the fault of the police that this dreadful assassination happened. It was a systemic failure of the entire UK ruling elite, including the media and the government (in particular Tony Blair), who fostered an anti-Muslim climate which leads to these kinds of incidents. Indeed, Tony Blair seems to have believed it was perfectly acceptable to kill the odd completely innocent person in the so-called war on terror. Of course he was not offering his own family up as potential victims. (And the fact that de Menezes was not Muslim is irrelevant. The police, like the society they serve, lump anyone looking like a foreigner into the same bucket.)

The police claimed that every action de Menezes took led them to believe he was indeed a terrorist. But since he was not a terrorist and other witnesses claimed he did nothing out of the ordinary, it seems fairly clear that every action he took would have led the police to believe he was not a terrorist if only they had not started with the opposite as the working assumption. It shows the danger of a priori assumptions and group think.

The one thing the police did badly all by themselves (and for which Ian Blair should resign) is to try and blacken the name of de Menezes.

And it is not clear why the judge worried so much about the fine. It is just going from one branch of government to another, so is totally meaningless. The police budget can easily enough be topped up to take the fine into account.

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