Socialist Worker

Another in a long line of unnecessary deaths

Issue No. 1961

There have been 37 fatal shootings by British police since 1990.

Only a month ago two Metropolitan Police officers were arrested by detectives investigating the fatal shooting of Harry Stanley in Hackney, east London, in 1999.

Next week a crucial statement will be made on whether the case is to proceed to trial.

The family of Derek Bennett, a black man shot dead by police in July 2001 in Brixton, south London, after he was seen with a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun, has also just won the right to challenge the inquest verdict that he was “lawfully killed”.

Among the many cases before the 1990s was the 1983 shooting of Stephen Waldorf. He was shot five times and then beaten by police in Kensington, west London. Incredibly, he survived.

The police said they had mistaken him for a robber they were chasing.

The present police policy, codenamed Operation Kratos, is based on the practice of the Israeli security forces. We now face the prospect of people fingered by the police being hunted down like Palestinians.

Present developments have led to deep concern.

Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, says, “We feel the utmost sorrow and anger about the unnecessary death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

“Serious questions need to be answered about the intelligence and operational processes that ultimately led to his death. The investigation that follows must comply with minimum human rights standards.

“The lack of an investigation which embodies the requisite qualities will of itself constitute a violation of article 2 of the Human Rights Act—the right to life.  

“Deaths in custody have been a source of tremendous pain and anger amongst Londoners.  The relationship between the Metropolitan Police and the community they serve has frequently been under severe strain. 

“Public confidence in the police—so essential if they are to carry out the job that we need them to do—must not be undermined by any suggestion that the rule of law should not apply.

“We have major concerns about the number of fatal shootings by the police and the procedures for holding the police to account which serve neither the public interest nor the families of the deceased.

“A disturbing number of these deaths could and should have been avoided.”  

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Sat 30 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1961
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