Socialist Worker

Jean Charles de Menezes jury reject police case as family say coroner failed

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2131

Key parts of the police account of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes are untrue according to the jury at the inquest into his death.

On 22 July 2005, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot seven times in the head by police at Stockwell, south London.

As the verdict was returned his family accused coroner Sir Michael Wright of “presiding over a complete whitewash”. They added that he had “failed on every count” during proceedings.

The coroner had told the jury that they could not return a verdict of “unlawful killing”. This verdict would have apportioned blame to the police and was the one the police feared most.

The jury recorded an open verdict. They also ruled that the firearms officer known as C12 did not shout the words “armed police” before opening fire.

And that, though Jean Charles had stood up from his seat he had made no move towards officer C12 before he was seized by the surveillance officer known as Ivor.

Importantly, they found that Jean Charles’s innocent behaviour – which in the words provided by the coroner, “increased the suspicions of some officers” – did not contribute to his killings.

So even on this narrowest of measures Jean Charles did nothing untoward, even accidentally.

Much of the evidence showed that after the event lies were told about Jean Charles’s behaviour in order to discredit him.

There were, at best, contradictions in some of the police evidence. Evidence tampering and removal were discovered. There were also allegations of witness intimidation.

The family’s legal team have launched a judicial appeal against the coroner’s decision to rule out the possibility of an unlawful killing verdict.

Last week the family lost a High Court battle to allow a verdict of unlawful killing available to the jury. The family then resolved to have nothing more to do with the inquest and withdrew their legal team.

The establishment response has been predictable. Chief Inspector Martin Rush, a senior firearms instructor who was in charge of the training of the officers who shot Jean Charles said, “[The officers] should be admired but they are actually being vilified and I think that is dreadfully unfortunate.”

Disgracefully, in line with Labour’s position ever since the shooting, the best Home Secretary Jacqui Smith could offer was, “What we have learnt from the accounts of the tragic events that day reminds us all of the extremely demanding circumstances under which the police work to protect us from further terrorist attack.”

Before the family withdrew from the inquest, the coroner had ordered the public and the media to leave the courtroom while he completed his summing up to the jury. He gave no reason except to say he had reached a “sensitive” point in the hearing.

When the public refused amid repeated requests for clarification of his ruling, there was a standoff for an hour and 40 minutes.

Jean Charles’s relatives were held back by security guards and kept out of the courtroom while barristers, police and the coroner filed in.

Responding to the inquest, Jean Charles’ mother said, “Police officers made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of failures on their part.

She added – referring to Cressida Dick – “However, the one who was in command was, in my opinion, the one who made the biggest mistake because she was supposed to be in command of something and whatever she did, she did it wrong.”

Jean Charles’ brother, Giovani da Silva, added, “We will carry on fighting because what we want is justice.”

No officer at any level has been either disciplined or prosecuted for involvement in the slaying of Jean Charles.


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