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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 18:15 GMT
Met police call off gun protest
An armed policeman
Up to 130 armed officers joined the dispute
Armed police officers who refused to carry guns after two colleagues were suspended have ended their protest.

They were suspended over the 1999 shooting of Harry Stanley, which an inquest ruled was unlawful killing.

Up to 130 of London's 400 firearms officers joined the unofficial dispute, which ended after the intervention of Met chief Sir John Stevens.

He agreed to review the suspensions and to seek legal protection for firearms officers from the Home Office.

Mr Stanley was shot dead in Hackney, east London, while carrying a table leg wrapped in a plastic bag that officers thought was a shotgun.

Insp Neil Sharman and Pc Kevin Fagan were suspended on Friday after the second inquest into his death. The Stanley family challenged the open verdict returned by the first inquest in 2002.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which had previously ruled out bringing charges, has said it will review the case.

Many armed officers were angry their colleagues were suspended five years on, and were concerned that they could face criminal charges.

Sir John Stevens at Scotland Yard
They do need more legal protection for the difficult job they do on our behalf
Sir John Stevens

Sir John said he had listened to their concerns and had sent a detailed report to the home secretary to clarify what legal protection armed officers have.

Earlier Sir Ian Blair, who will succeed Sir John as Metropolitan Police Commissioner in January, called for a change in the law.

He said it was important firearms officers did not end up facing a murder charge "unless there are indications of gross negligence or recklessness".

Sir John, who met Insp Sharman on Wednesday, said he was glad officers were "putting the safety of Londoners and their fellow officers ahead of their own concerns".

"They do need more legal protection for the difficult job they do on our behalf," he said.

"This cannot be achieved overnight but we are committed to working together to seek changes that will give them confidence to undertake their dangerous and demanding work."

Home Secretary David Blunkett said it was "deeply unsatisfactory" for the Stanley family and officers that the case had gone on for so long.

How can the level of armed cover remain unaffected if the police hand in their weapons?
Paul, Wales

He said he would review the way police shootings were handled "including looking at how the law in this area operates, and the speed with which cases can be resolved".

He added: "Whilst there cannot be any question of police officers being exempt from the normal requirement that any force used must be lawful, we must remember what it is that we ask firearms officers to do.

"Uniquely among police officers, they find themselves in positions where they have to decide, in a split second, to shoot, and possibly kill somebody. Enquiries after an incident need to give proper weight to this."

The Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has said it would consider challenging last Friday's inquest verdict.

But the Stanley family's solicitor Daniel Machover said the jury's decision had not been a "broad attack" on the tactics of firearms police, just that jurors did not accept that the two officers had acted in self-defence.

He later accused the protesting officers of "misunderstanding what the inquest was about".

Armed police end protest over colleagues' suspension

Guardian Unlimited Next police chief backs officers in suspension row - 43 hrs ago
TelegraphMet chief backs officers in gun killing - 44 hrs ago
Sky News New Met Chief Backs Gun Cops - 45 hrs ago
Mirror Gun Cops Lay Down Weapons In Protest - 46 hrs ago
Daily Mail New Met chief backs guns protest - 49 hrs ago
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