Saturday, 13 December 2008

So Who Did Kill Jean Charles?

You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. I remember hearing the news that a suicide bomber had been shot by police, and saying good job. Only afterwards did it emerge that an innocent man had been killed. There's been so much disinformation in the press and from the police that you don't really want to comment, and things are really not much clearer now.

I think the coroner was right to not offer an unlawful killing verdict. The firearm's officers are clearly blameless, given the information they were fed. They are in a sticky position now the jury didn't believe their version of giving a police warning, when compared to 17 other witnesses who didn't hear one. Will they join the list of officers who have "lost the confidence" of the Commissioner?

In other areas things are clearer to me and I can understand where things went wrong. I've been a surveillance trained officer and been in teams who have followed the wrong person, and that's when they've come from a target address. Any identification trying to pick a target emerging from a communal front door is going to be dubious. In this case not having a decent image to start with flags up immediate problems. The initial observation officer missed the off as he was relieving himself. Cardinal Sin in the surveillance world and very slack work.

It would appear they were then playing catch up, trying to get an identification. The surveillance team were responsible for the follow and would have had a controller directing units. This is a very hard job, I've done it and envisage some poor bloke in a car, map on lap trying to sort the follow out on one radio, keeping the command team updated on another with at least one mobile on the go too. A loggist sat in the back will be trying to write all the movements down amongst this chaos. Imagine looking at your map in a job like this and seeing your target getting closer to an underground station.

Meanwhile in the central command post miles away decisions need to be made. Has the man been identified or not? What would you do? They needed answers to questions but also had an eye to that map. I'm certain a Kratos wasn't authorised. If it was, the armed surveillance team would have dealt with the target as soon as that order was given. The order was given to stop the man, but the armed arrest team were unable to reach him before he entered Stockwell tube. These couple of minutes cost Jean Charles his life. I would have hoped that somebody on the ground would have made the decision to stop him before he entered the tube. Surveillance teams don't show out operationally but if there was ever a time this was it. That decision would have saved his life. That's a big call taking it away from the command team.

So is it fair to find somebody to blame? The police operation failed badly and the inquest has highlighted the areas in respect of images etc. I'm not sure promoting senior officers involved in the case sends the right message either, but look at the choices

Make wrong decision - Target dies who turns out to be innocent.

Make wrong decision - Target detonates bomb killing dozens.

Make right decision - Wow that was a close one.

This was the same choice facing the Royal Marines yesterday in Afghanistan when approached by a child with a wheelbarrow. He was either a proxy bomb or a suicide bomber. You don't want to be in a position to make that choice do you? So let's not judge those too harshly who got it wrong. Each officer has to live with the decisions they made, a choice made with the right intention.

Jean Charles was as much a victim of Islamic Terrorism as the four marines yesterday.


Gaijin said...

For me, it's why was he allowed on a bus?

It seems bizarre that other officers have to be called to make the stop. Surely someone must have thought about this in the 4 years since 9/11.

For the officers called to stop - they're there to kill someone - they don't have the time to ascertain anything for themselves, and have to take life completely on the say so of others. For the officers surveilling, they have to wait for stop capable officers to come. There is some very strange organisation going on there.

In NI, the SAS were used on surveillance operations, fully tooled up, ready to deal with anything, so it's not exactly a new thing. I just cannot comprehend sending people to follow a suspected bomber who can't stop him.

I do find it odd that the police state they challenged, but no-one else heard it. I think challenging someone who is thought to be a suicide bomber is questionable practice. The police would have been better off saying they issued no challenge, which would tally with the public's account, but may not be their truthful account. As it is, the difference between the accounts serves to discredit the police.

Gaijin said...

In short I think questionable police planning made victims of JCDM and the police officers who shot him.

And the Islamic terrorists bear the ultimate responsibility of both JCDM and of putting the police in that position in the first place.

Stressed Out Cop said...


It's about tactical options - the surv team were there to follow NOT to stop suspects. Imagine a shoot out scenario when not sufficient there to cover it. Sometimes it's down to a judgement call - not helped by command site elsewhere - you never get the true picture of what's going down.

The officers called to stop - were not there to kill. They faced a situation and dealt with it as they saw it - and it's for them to justify their actions.

R v Beckford is a stated case relied upon - hence the coroners decision re unlawful kiling.

MarkUK said...

The inquest jury made it as clear as possible that, in spite of the Coroner and legal precedent, they thought that a man had been unlawfully killed.

It's just that they didn't know who to blame it on. Now that Corporate Manslaughter is on the statute books, things may be different in the future.

It is fair to say that the culprit was the corporate cock-up of the Met. Half-assed ID allied to panic decisions at the control room sent British Bobbies to shoot down a completely innocent man.

The most unbelieveable part is that the person in command, Cressida Dick, was promoted shortly afterwards. The buck stopped with her. Maybe she shouldn't have had to resign, but promoting her? Hardly likely to gain public confidence.

Emily said...

It's still manlsaughter. And that was illegal last time I looked.

The police seem to think they are above the law. Look at how they lied to try and save their own skins. It's disgusting. They should all go down, the lot of them, if not for the shooting, for the attempts to cover-up. That's called corruption.

Damo Mackerel said...

Why didn't they tazer him?

TWINING said...

I am in total agreement with Mark.

TWINING said...

And with stressed out cop here also; Islamist terrorists and Islamist racists have also played as much a part in this as Cressida Dick.

Steve Kay said...

Consider this evidence from the surveillance team leader at the Old Bailey trial -

"I came on the radio and asked them a question: 'Do you want me to detain the subject before he goes down to the Tube?' My instructions were to wait. I told them we had got to make a decision and we have probably about 20 seconds. I said again: 'Do you want this man detained?'

"I said 'If you don't give me any answer he is going to be down in the Tube and we will lose radio contact.' I don't know how many times I asked that question, it was at least three times.

"I just got, wait, wait, wait. I started to get tetchy and put down the telephone."

Stressed Out Cop said...


The controller did nothing wrong, and like I said it would have been a BIG CALL to make that decision to break the command line. I did not mean to indicate fault on his part - merely pointing out where I believe the crucial moment was.