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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 17:00 GMT
Police shooting ruling challenged
Derek Bennett
Derek Bennett was shot four times
A High Court challenge has been launched to a verdict of lawful killing in the case of a man shot dead while holding a gun-shaped lighter.

Derek Bennett, 29, died when he was hit four times by two police marksmen in Brixton, south London, in 2001.

Lawyers for Mr Bennett's family said coroner Dr Selena Lynch had deprived jurors of the option of returning a verdict of unlawful killing.

Dr Lynch conducted an inquest into the killing in December 2004.

'No alternative'

The family's lawyer Michael Mansfield, QC, said the Southwark coroner was anxious to protect the police from an improper verdict against them and so effectively "became the jury".

As a result, the 11 jurors had no alternative but to return a verdict clearing the police, he told Mr Justice Collins.

Mr Bennett died after armed officers opened fire when he grabbed John Knightly, 53, and held the "weapon" to his head.

The inquest heard Mr Knightly wriggled free at which point Mr Bennett turned the novelty lighter on police and tried to take cover behind a pillar as they fired six shots at him.

'Proportionate response'

Mr Mansfield said that, under the Human Rights Act, armed police officers were entitled to use lethal force only as a matter of "absolute necessity".

He said they could shoot in self-defence and in defence of others in the face of unlawful violence, but their response had to be proportionate.

Yet the jury was told that it could not return a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Mansfield said.

The family was granted permission in June 2005 to apply for a judicial review on the grounds that the inquest was fatally flawed.

The case continues.

Gun lighter man lawfully killed
15 Dec 04 |  London
Man said lighter was 'real gun'
12 Nov 04 |  London
Shooting police not charged
25 Mar 03 |  England

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