Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/02/menezes_met_trial_commentary/

Teflon top cop evades justice, responsibility

Menezes Met trial unsatisfactory on all counts

By Lewis Page

Posted in Law, 2nd November 2007 14:31 GMT

Comment So the verdict's in. No one police officer - nor any identifiably-small group of police - was to blame for the mistaken shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005. Rather, the entire 30,000-strong Metropolitan force have all been found guilty - and, rather comically, "fined" £175k.

Needless to say, London plods won't be chipping in to pay the fine and associated legal costs. Rather, the money will come mainly from London taxpayers - which is ironic, as working Londoners are the very group which the Met have been found guilty of endangering.

One might argue that council and national taxes won't increase as a result of this, which is true enough. From that viewpoint, then, Londoners will lose some policing that the £0.56m+ Met bill for this could have bought.

So, essentially, we Londoners have been punished because some policemen messed up. Thanks a lot, legal system.

Should the plods have pled guilty? A lot of people are saying so, including some senior Met figures if you believe the Guardian. It would surely have minimised the cost to the taxpayers. One might argue that the trial has usefully brought out the facts of the case, but word has it that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will soon release its full report anyway, and there is a public inquest set for next year too. Not to mention de Menezes' family, who are apparently to mount a civil lawsuit.

Some people, including Red Ken the people's mayor, reckon the verdict will paralyse the armed plods in future - they'll never dare to shoot, runs the reasoning, in case there's another trial like this one.

"I think this is disastrous," said Ken.

"If an armed police officer believes they are in pursuit of a terrorist who might be a suicide bomber and they start making these sort of calculations based on this, how is this going to be seen? Am I going to be hauled off to court?"

Given that the officers who shot de Menezes have suffered absolutely no consequences from this trial - indeed, were not "hauled off to court" even to testify - that seems pretty silly.

Indeed, nobody is really suggesting that armed coppers believing themselves to be sharing a crowded Tube carriage with an identified suicide bomber - as the officers in question had been told they were - could really do anything other than shoot the suspect in the head as fast as possible, and keep shooting until they were sure he wouldn't so much as twitch ever again.

Birmingham tac-plods who chose in a similar situation to put 20,000 volts of Taser shock into their suspect's torso area must have been horrifyingly ignorant of explosives. Most terrorist bombs are triggered electrically, and it's standard bomb-disposal practice to minimise even quite minor risks like radio transmissions around them. Firing a kilovolt stun current into direct contact with a suspected bomb verges on criminal lunacy.

Perhaps it's the Birmingham force, rather than the Met, who should have been done for recklessly endangering the public. The man on the ground that day really ought to have been disciplined at the very least for failing to shoot his man repeatedly in the head, given his own account of this situation.

"In all honesty, I still don't know to this day how I did not shoot him," says the Birmingham copper.

Not good enough, mate.

But then we get onto other things the Met did - or more accurately failed to do. They didn't manage to get armed officers to de Menezes for more than four hours, despite the fact that they thought he was an identified suicide bomber. Surveillance officers - having fouled up the identification, perhaps with some involement by undercover special-forces surveillance troops who were also present - followed a man they believed to be a bomber onto crowded public transport not once, but twice, failing repeatedly to do anything; and their commanders didn't encourage them.

For some reason, the jury chose to specifically exempt Cressida Dick, the senior officer who was in command. That's their right; just as the O.J. Simpson jury had a right to make a decision. Perhaps it wasn't her fault that there weren't firearms plods for every suspect that day. But one might very well have expected her to tell the surveillance team to step in earlier, and that alone seems enough to find Dick wanting.

Anyway, busting senior commanders when in doubt is always a good idea. It encourages les autres, and in uniformed hierarchies like the Met there is never any shortage of replacements.

If being in command means anything at all, it means that it's always your fault. Certainly if you're in communication with the people on the ground, and Cressida Dick was.

The jury were wrong on that one.

Moving on up to Ian Blair, top cop of the whole Met, it seems unreasonable to blame him for the operational failures that day, except perhaps in the broadest sense - eg, why weren't there more armed teams available, etc.

But his apparent wilful mishandling of the media afterwards, his manoeuvres to try to keep the IPCC out of the investigation, his refusal to accept - by not pleading guilty in this trial - that anything had gone wrong: all of these damn him utterly.

Again, it isn't as though the man is irreplaceable. Firing Blair wouldn't impair the Met's functioning, indeed it might very well improve it. We may well be short of many categories of copper - armed response guys who know anything about bombs, surveillance guys who can tell one olive-skinned bloke from another, officers at any level who are willing to do the right thing without being told to.

We aren't short of senior police bureaucrats with apparently invulnerable political connections. We could spare one of them.®