I will not resign over fatal shooting says Met Commissioner

LONDON'S police chief has dismissed demands for his resignation after his force was found guilty of breaking health and safety laws in the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said it was a one-off incident on an "extraordinary day" and that no individual was to blame. "Sometimes that's what happens," he said after the guilty verdict was handed down by a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday.

His defiant stance was supported by Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Ken Livingstone, the London mayor.

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In a highly unusual case, the police were prosecuted under health and safety laws over the counter-terrorism operation that ended in the killing of Mr de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian electrician, on a London Tube train on 22 July, 2005.

Police pleaded not guilty to the charges, triggering a month-long court battle. Sir Ian said the Met had wanted the case to go to full trial because of concerns about the implications if health and safety laws were to be applied to police operations.

In the event, the jury returned a unanimous verdict after only five hours. It found the force had unnecessarily put the public at risk after a string of "shocking and catastrophic" errors, which ended in Mr de Menezes being mistaken for a potential suicide bomber. Commander Cressida Dick, who headed the operation, was absolved of any individual responsibility, however.

The judge, Mr Justice Henriques, pointed to a serious failure in communication and the delay in firearms officers arriving at a block of flats linked to the terrorist Hussain Osman, where Mr de Menezes also lived.

Had officers been deployed earlier, they would have been able to stop Mr de Menezes, whom they confused with Osman, before he boarded two buses and got on to the Underground. The one surveillance officer there on time was relieving himself against a hedge when Mr de Menezes left his flat.

Passengers on the buses and Tube boarded by Mr de Menezes "faced the potential danger of travelling with a suicide bomber and the obvious potential consequences", the judge said.

He also called for lessons to be learned, noting that two senior officers who gave evidence said they would have done nothing differently. While police had apologised to the family of Mr de Menezes soon after discovering their mistake, their decision to dispute every single failure was "simply beyond explanation", the judge said.

Meanwhile, taxpayers will have to meet the 3.5 million cost of the trial, as well as the 175,000 fine and 385,000 costs awarded against the police. A higher fine would have diverted too much cash away from policing, the judge said.

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The catalogue of errors started in the early hours of 22 July. Surveillance officers investigating the failed suicide bombings of the day before were ordered to monitor flats in Tulse Hill, London, where Osman lived.

Despite alerting SO19, the Met's firearms unit, that officers should be deployed as a matter of "urgency", marksmen had only clocked on to their shift at 7am. As Mr de Menezes, 27, left for work just after 9:30am, armed police were still not on the scene. The surveillance officer relieving himself failed to spot him leaving the flat.

The firearms teams arrived too late to stop Mr de Menezes before he went through the barriers at Stockwell Tube station. The operations room failed to give instructions and the team decided to follow him on to the train, out of radio contact. A member of the covert surveillance team urgently requested permission for officers to stop Mr de Menezes.

Minutes later, armed police brandishing pistols and sub-machineguns stormed on to the platform. A firearms officer held a pistol loaded with dumdum bullets tight against Mr de Menezes's temple and fired seven times.

Although the court found no individual should be blamed, the clamour for Sir Ian to resign was immediate.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful and the party's home affairs spokesman, said: "This guilty verdict makes it unavoidable that Ian Blair should take responsibility on behalf of his whole organisation and resign."

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "The failures were systemic, falling within the clear responsibility of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. His position is now untenable, in light of these findings and the overriding need to restore public confidence."

But Sir Ian said he would only have resigned had the court found his force had suffered "systemic failures". He would not quit over events "of a single day in extraordinary circumstances".

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He said: "It is important to remember that no police officer set out that day to shoot an innocent man. This death was the culmination of acts of many hands, all of whom were doing their best to handle the terrible threat facing London that day."

He pointed out police had received calls regarding up to 10,000 potential firearms incidents in a year, but had fired weapons only three times.

On the day of the shooting, police had been in a "race against time" to find four would-be suicide bombers who had tried to blow themselves up the day before, two weeks after the 7/7 attacks in London claimed more than 50 lives.

"As the judge noted, the failures alleged were not sustained or repeated," Sir Ian said. "This case thus provides no evidence at all of systematic failure by the Metropolitan Police Service, and I therefore intend to continue to lead the Met in its increasingly successful efforts to reduce crime and to deter and disrupt terrorist activities in London and elsewhere in the UK."

Downing Street confirmed that the Prime Minister retained full confidence in Sir Ian, and the Metropolitan Police Authority also said it fully supported him.

A full inquest into the death of Mr de Menezes will begin next year, when civilian witnesses who fled the Tube station to safety are expected to give evidence.

Here is the list of the 19 charges levelled against the police:

1 Failing adequately to communicate Commander McDowell's strategy to the officers who took over the running of the operation on 22 July;

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2 Failing adequately to plan for or carry out his strategy for controlling the premises;

3 A "confused and inconsistent" understanding among the Scotland Yard control room officers and the surveillance officers of what the strategy was for Scotia Road;

4 A failure to deploy officers to stop and question people emerging from the Scotia Road premises;

5 A failure to ensure an SO19 firearms team was there when Mr de Menezes emerged from the communal doorway;

6 A failure to have a contingency plan to deal with people emerging from the flats before SO19 arrived;

7 A failure to stop and question people emerging from the flats;

8 A failure to identify a "safe and appropriate" area where those leaving could be stopped and questioned;

9 "Inaccurate and unbalanced" briefings given to firearms officers at Leman Street and Nightingale Lane stations, which gave them "inadequate and inaccurate information" about the operation;

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10 Information about the identification of Mr de Menezes, his clothing, demeanour and "likely level of threat" was "not properly or accurately disseminated to officers and in particular the firearms officers";

11 A failure to ensure that doubts about the correctness of the identification of Mr de Menezes as the suspect were communicated to relevant officers in the control room in Scotland Yard;

12 A failure by control room officers to satisfy themselves that a positive identification of Mr de Menezes as the suspect had been made by the surveillance officers;

13 A failure to deploy firearms officers at relevant locations in time to stop Mr de Menezes getting on to the bus and into the Tube station;

14 A failure by firearms officers to satisfy themselves that a positive identification of Mr de Menezes as the suspect had been made by the surveillance officers;

15 A failure to take effective steps to stop Tube trains or buses or take other "travel management steps" to minimise the risk to the travelling public;

16 That Mr de Menezes was allowed twice to get on to a bus and to go into the Tube station despite being a suspected suicide bomber and emerging from an address linked to a suspected suicide bomber;

17 A failure to give a "clear or timely order" that he must be stopped or arrested before entering Stockwell Tube station;

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18 A failure to give accurate information to Commander Dick about where specialist SO19 officers were when she was deciding whether they or Special Branch (SO12) officers should stop them;

19 A failure to minimise the risk inherent in arresting Mr de Menezes by armed officers "whether in relation to the location, timing or manner of his arrest".

Relatives say police used 'smear tactics'

FURIOUS relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes last night vowed to continue their fight for justice and to flush out the truth about what happened on the day the innocent Brazilian was gunned down.

The victim's family said they had suffered in the wake of what they describe as a two-year campaign to "blacken" the electrician's name.

A statement read by solicitor Harriet Wistrich on behalf of the family, lawyers and campaigners accused the police defence team of descending into the gutter.

She said relatives questioned why police had pleaded not guilty when "evidence of catastrophic failings were so overwhelming".

Ms Wishtrich added: "Instead the police defence team descended to the gutter, seeking to shift the blame from their own wrongdoing.

"We deplore the tactics of the defence, and the smearing of Jean Charles' name."

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This had been compounded by the row over an image doctored to show Mr de Menezes to bear more of a resemblance to terror suspect Hussain Osman than he did in reality.

The case of mistaken identity by surveillance officers had culminated in Mr de Menezes' killing.

Lawyers defending the police claimed that Mr de Menezes had acted in a "menacing and threatening" way - a charge bitterly disputed by relatives, confident contrary evidence will come to light.

Mr de Menezes' cousin, Erionaldo da Silva, said: "We remain determined to ensure that the full truth about Jean's death is made public and those responsible for his death are held accountable in a court of law."

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