Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Menezes coroner calls for review

Jean Charles de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on a Tube train at Stockwell

The coroner who presided over the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest has called for police practices to be reviewed, saying "systematic failures" occurred.

In a critical report, Sir Michael Wright queried the "stark difference" in the way witnesses gave their accounts of the Brazilian's death.

Police officers could work together but civilians had to speak "independently".

The 27-year-old was shot dead in July 2005 by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber.

Last December, an inquest jury returned an open verdict on Mr de Menezes' death - rejecting the police account that he was killed lawfully.

The Met Police said substantial changes had already been made to procedures.

'Independent recollection'

In his report released on Wednesday, Sir Michael said the jury's conclusion "suggests that systematic failures occurred".

The coroner made a series of recommendations about the Met's command structure, communications systems, identification procedures and rules of engagement, all of which have been sent to Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

A proper public debate about the 'shoot-to kill' policy is now long overdue
Justice4Jean campaign

He remarked on the process by which accounts of the shooting were gathered from witnesses.

Sir Michael wrote: "There was a stark difference between their experience and the treatment of civilians, who were required to give their accounts promptly and independently.

"Officers were not cross-examined on the basis that their evidence was the product of independent recollection."

Sir Michael made particular reference to the poor quality of photographs used by police to try to pinpoint their target and said identification procedures should be reviewed.

"Many of the officers who gave evidence commented that difficulties in identification bedevilled their work on the day in question," he said.

Sir Michael said the command structure for the operation on 22 July 2005 had been "repeatedly criticised as lacking clarity and being open to misunderstanding".

The "unprecedented situation" faced by officers after the failed bombings of the previous day offered some explanation for that, he said.

'Fit for purpose'

In a statement, Scotland Yard said the coroner had acknowledged that changes had already been made, but had also pointed out that "some matters remain unresolved".

"It is right that the public must feel assured that the processes and procedures adopted by the police are fit for purpose, particularly when firearms are used," it said.

"To this end it is important that critical reviews continue, taking into account all surrounding circumstances."

Coroner Sir Michael Wright
Sir Michael called for police procedures to be reviewed

The Met said it was working on introducing a dedicated team of officers to command firearms operations on a full-time basis, with a new role of Extreme Threat Tactical Commander to oversee complex operations.

The force also said its new Airwave radio system, which works on the London Underground system for the first time, addressed many of the communications issues raised by Sir Michael.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, agreed that the Met had "already made significant steps to address these concerns," but said more must be done.

"The death of Jean Charles de Menezes was an avoidable tragedy that involved significant organisational failures," he said.

"It is essential that determined and continuing efforts are made to ensure these failures do not reoccur."

'No intelligence'

The coroner's report was also welcomed by the de Menezes legal team.

But, in a statement, the Justice4Jean campaign group also asked why, "If the raft of weaknesses identified are now accepted..., no senior officer has accepted personal responsibility... or been held to account" for what happened.

The inquest jury ruled that officers did not shout "armed police" before opening fire on Mr de Menezes, but the Met said it would encourage officers to issue such a challenge in future situations unless doing so would place individuals at risk.

Justice4Jean added: "If an armed officer has no intelligence or other information that tells him that the suspect has the means to detonate a bomb, he must issue a challenge or we risk repeat killings by the police.

"A proper public debate about the 'shoot-to kill' policy is now long overdue."



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