Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Menezes verdict choice restricted

Jean Charles de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes was mistaken for a suicide bomber

The jury at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes will not be able to consider a verdict of unlawful killing, the coroner has said.

Sir Michael Wright said that having heard all the evidence, a verdict of unlawful killing was "not justified".

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot dead by police at Stockwell Tube station in south London after he was mistaken for one of the failed 21 July 2005 bombers.

The jury may now return either an open or lawful killing verdict.

Sir Michael's ruling came as he began his summing up of the case on Tuesday.

"In directing you that you cannot return a verdict of unlawful killing, I am not saying that nothing went wrong in a police operation which resulted in the killing of an innocent man," he told the hearing.

Put aside any emotion
Sir Michael Wright, coroner

But in narrowing down the choice of verdict, he added: "All interested persons agree that a verdict of unlawful killing could only be left to you if you could be sure that a specific officer had committed a very serious crime - murder or manslaughter."

Sir Michael also warned jurors that they must not attach any criminal or civil fault to any individuals.

The 11-strong jury has heard from 100 witnesses since the inquest began at the Oval Cricket Ground in September. Among them were the two firearms officers who shot Mr de Menezes, known only as C2 and C12.

The coroner told the jury that the verdict they chose depended on whether they felt that those two officers honestly believed the Brazilian represented an imminent, mortal threat and whether lethal force was justified in those circumstances.

Jury choice

Reminding them that the Brazilian's mother, Maria Otone de Menezes, had heard much of the evidence, Sir Michael said: "I know that your heart will go out to her.

"But these are emotional reactions, ladies and gentlemen, and you are charged with returning a verdict based on evidence.

"Put aside any emotion - put them to one side."

In 2007, the Metropolitan Police was fined 175,000 over the shooting of Mr de Menezes, after it was convicted under the Health and Safety Act of "endangering the public".

But the trial concluded that police chief Cressida Dick, who led the operation, bore "no personal culpability", and Sir Michael told the inquest jury that their verdict could not be inconsistent with that decision.

The jury was also given a series of questions to consider based on what they have heard.

These included whether C12 shouted a warning - "Armed police" - before opening fire, and whether Mr de Menezes stood up and moved towards officers as they approached.

Jurors were also asked to consider which of a number of factors contributed to the Brazilian's death.

Among those were:

  • The pressure on police after the 7 July London bombings
  • A failure by police to ensure that Mr de Menezes was stopped before he reached the Underground
  • The innocent behaviour of Mr de Menezes increasing suspicion
  • Shortcomings in the communications system between various police teams involved in the operation

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