Socialist Worker

After new inquest verdict, prosecute the police who gunned down Harry Stanley

Issue No. 1926

AFTER A five-year battle Irene Stanley has finally won an unlawful killing verdict against the police who gunned down her husband.

She told Socialist Worker that she was “over the moon, but determined to see the police officers prosecuted”. The verdict on Friday of last week was reached by a second inquest into the death of Harry Stanley,

He was shot by armed police in Hackney, east London, in 1999. The police claimed they thought the coffee table leg he was carrying wrapped in a plastic bag was a sawn-off shotgun.

The High Court quashed the result of the first inquest, in which the coroner had not allowed the jury to reach an unlawful killing verdict. The second inquest heard new ballistics evidence revealing that Harry was shot through the back of the head.

This contradicted a central claim by the police—that Harry turned towards them in a threatening way before he was killed.

Family members faced an uphill battle for justice. Irene says, “We’re just a working class family, and we didn’t have lots of money like the police.” The family were forced to begin a grassroots campaign funded by activists, campaigning groups and trade unions.

Her ordeal has led Irene to lose faith in the legal system. “Not one police officer has been charged,” she says. “There’s one law for them and another for us. I think the police should have been suspended as soon as Harry was shot. I don’t think the government care about people like us.

“I read that, now they have finally been suspended, the police officers are having counselling to deal with the stress. They don’t know the bloody meaning of the word. What about my stress? Harry’s death tore the family apart. There are kids without a father, grandchildren without a grandfather.

“I’ve been through round one and round two. I’ve got round three ahead. I want to see the officers prosecuted. They took my husband’s life. If it takes 15 rounds to get justice I’ll go 15 rounds.”

Deborah Coles, the co-director of the Inquest campaign, which has supported the Stanley family’s fight, also welcomed the new verdict. But she was critical of the legal obstacles that they have faced.


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