By Isabel Ringrose
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Jermaine Baker inquiry—‘failure to hold police to account breeds impunity’

The Metropolitan Police shot dead Jermaine Baker in north London in 2015
Issue 2812
The family of Jermaine Baker joined a march to demand justice for those who've died after police contact, a crowd shot with people carrying placards

The family of Jermaine Baker joined a march to demand justice for those who’ve died after police contact

A 28 year-old unarmed black man was lawfully killed by police in 2015 despite a “catalogue of failings”, a public inquiry has found.

Jermaine Baker was shot dead on 11 December 2015 by Metropolitan Police in north London during Operation Ankaa. He was one of three people in a car attempting to free Izzet Eren, who was being transported to Wood Green Crown Court from HMP Wormwood Scrubs.

Jermaine’s mother Margaret Smith said, “Jermaine was dead before he got in that car. His life was taken for no good reason—as I have always said he should have gone to prison like the rest of the men in the car.”

Margaret added that she “cannot agree with the judge’s conclusions that Jermaine did not die as a result of these failures”. “That is a conclusion that I cannot understand and the judge has not explained why he has drawn that conclusion,” she said. “After seven years of waiting and two months of evidence we deserved more.”

The inquiry report identified at least 24 failings by the Met from the start of the operation, its planning and implementation. But it did not find that the failures contributed to Jermaine’s death.

Judge Clement Goldstone QC said these were a “loud wake-up to a newly appointed commissioner”. But he added that “that race or colour played no part in the fatal shootings” and the failures would be under less criticism if Jermaine hadn’t been killed.

The officer who shot Jermaine, known as W80, was cleared of unlawful killing. Operation Ankaa’s commander DCI Williams was also cleared for gross negligence manslaughter.

Michael Oswald, the family’s solicitor, said, “Given the extend of these failings and the obvious role they must have played in Jermaine’s death, the family is at a total loss to understand how the judge can have come to the conclusion that Jermaine did not die as a result of those failures.

“The judge’s findings in relation to W80 are ones which cause the family acute concern. They cannot comprehend how in the face of the expert evidence and common sense the judge can have found that Jermaine was moving his hands towards his bag when W80 shot him.

“In light of this extraordinary finding the family can only conclude that the judge wanted to do all he could to exonerate W80.”

Jermaine was in the front of an Audi that had an imitation Uzi gun in. W80 told the inquiry he acted in self-defence because Jermaine moved his hand upwards to what they thought was a firearm in his bag across his chest.

Jermaine’s legal team said he was raising his arms to surrender. W80 claimed he repeatedly told Jermaine to place his hands on the dashboard—something Jermaine’s team said was a lie.

A transcript says the police shouted, “Get your hands up.” The time between this and the shot was five seconds. W80 opened the passenger door and the bullet hit Jermaine in the neck and left wrist which was raised above the neck’s entry wound.

The report criticises those in command for deciding to allow the prison van to take Eren to Wood Green Crown Court, so that cops could intercept those trying to free him.

“Whatever lip service may have been paid to considering other options, there was never in reality more than one,” the judge said.

Cops also failed to inform other bodies of the plan, including the prison, Wood Green Crown Court and security firm Serco. This conduct “was indicative of an arrogant, dismissive attitude towards formality and a failure to appreciate the importance of accountability.”

“The planning of operation Ankaa fell short of that which would have been reasonable.” Examples of “institutional defensiveness” also attempted to justify “what others might see as a blurring of roles or an extensive level of incompetence”.

The control room managing the operation was also “not fit for purpose”. The key reason being that the audio equipment placed in the bugged Audi was not properly installed. It should have heard that the occupants were discussing being in possession of an imitation firearm. Instead, the message relayed to officers was that they definitely were armed with a real firearm.

Keen to let the operation go ahead, senior officers failed to recognise that they had enough evidence to make arrests before firearms officers intervened. Goldstone also criticised the lack of disciplinary proceedings on officers involved.

Inquest charity’s head of casework Anita Sharma said, “It’s difficult to comprehend how such catastrophic failings were not assessed by the judge to have contributed to Jermaine’s death.” She added that, on top of the Met being put into special measures, the findings are “yet more evidence of the systemic failures of this force”. And evidence of “harmful policing practices nationally.”

“We must see accountability for those involved in Jermaine’s death, to send a message to police leadership and officers that they are not above the law,” Sharma added. “The failure to hold police to account breeds impunity which ultimately allows deaths and harms to continue.

“Scrutiny of previous fatal police shootings has revealed serious failings in firearms operational planning, intelligence and communication. There has been an institutional failure to enact change, which cannot continue.”

In June 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not prosecute W80. But in May 2018 the Independent Office for Police Misconduct (IOPC) directed the Met to hold gross misconduct proceedings.

The public inquiry was announced by home secretary Priti Patel in February 2020, and ran from June 2021 to September 2021. W80 is challenging the IOPC decision to push for gross misconduct, which will be heard in the Supreme Court in October.

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