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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Menezes family shocked at verdict
By Dominic Casciani
Community affairs, BBC News

Jean Charles de Menezes' cousin Vivian Figueiredo
The family had wanted murder charges brought against police

It was not what the family had wanted to hear. But when Alex Pereira, cousin to Jean Charles de Menezes, looked skywards and raised his eyebrows in exasperation, you knew it was what they had expected.

In the calm surroundings of a north London church, the Menezes family had hoped to tell the world they felt they were a step closer to justice for Jean Charles.

Instead they talked only of whitewash and cover-up.

After months of leaks and a frenzy of speculation, the Crown Prosecution Service had concluded that no individual was to be charged over the fatal shooting of the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician at Stockwell Underground station on 22 July 2005.

The family had wanted to see the CPS bring murder charges against the two officers who fired the fatal shots. They had gambled on perhaps achieving a manslaughter trial.

The two officers who fired the fatal shots did so because they thought that... if they did not shoot him, he would blow up the train, killing many people

But did alleged breaches of section three and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, as the CPS recommended, come anywhere near meeting their wishes?

The CPS had set out in a three-page letter to the family why it could not recommend murder charges.

The officers had fired, said the letter, because they believed Mr Menezes was a suicide bomber.

A murder charge would require lawyers to prove in court, beyond reasonable doubt, that the two officers did not genuinely and honestly believe that Mr Menezes was about to blow himself up. And that would be too difficult to prove, the CPS said.

Manslaughter was discounted, as was the related possibility of forgery charges relating to claims that documents were doctored as part of a cover-up.

Only the health and safety charges would have any possibility of succeeding in an English court room, argued the CPS, and that meant no individual could possibly be held singularly responsible for Mr Menezes' death.

Cover-up claims

"It's unbelievable," said Mr Pereira. "We've had to wait for a whole year - and it's been a hard year - to end up with something that does not make sense to the family.

Jean said he wanted to buy a motorbike to avoid the Tube
Gesio Cesar D'avila

"We just don't know what we have been waiting for all this time. The family in Brazil are shocked."

At the heart of the death of Mr Menezes remains the unanswered question of why the two unnamed firearms officers who followed him into the Tube at Stockwell shot at him 11 times.

Patricia da Silva Armani, another of Mr Menezes' cousins, said the family were not convinced that the officers acted professionally.

"These people in power - they wanted to cover up who was to blame," she said through an interpreter.

"And by using these health and safety laws, they can cover up their mistakes and treat my cousin as if he were an animal."

So the question is where do the family go now?

Call for inquest

They are taking deep breaths and preparing for a longer battle. Whatever the truth, they believe that they are victims of a strategy to delay and procrastinate in order to wear them down. Nothing could be further from the truth, say the investigating authorities.

Cousins of Jean Charles de Menezes
Family members are eager for an independent report to be published

But in the short-term, the family may challenge the CPS's ruling, saying that health and safety laws designed to prevent building site accidents are not exactly appropriate for the shooting to death of a commuter.

But for such a challenge to work, they would face the uphill task of proving that prosecutors do not understand the crime of murder. The even more difficult business of a private prosecution would only be considered as a "last, desperate resort" they say.

But with the anniversary of the death approaching, they are also demanding that Mr Menezes inquest be held, in the hope that it will lead to the publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission's so far unseen report.

"We are very, very concerned that if health and safety criminal proceedings are brought the family will have to remain quiet with no access to the evidence for another year," said Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the Menezes family.

"An inquest would give them the opportunity to interrogate the officers [who shot], to cross-examine them and the evidence, rather than be excluded from the entire legal process."

So how did the family feel about the reaction of the Metropolitan Police which declared itself "concerned and deeply disappointed" at the prosecution it faced?

"I'm very sorry for them," said Mr Pereira with a sarcastic smile.

How the fatal shooting took place

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