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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 15:02 GMT
Man police shot 'lawfully killed'
Derek Bennett
Derek Bennett was shot four times
Officers who shot dead a man brandishing a gun-shaped lighter acted lawfully, the High Court has ruled.

Derek Bennett, 29, was hit four times by two marksmen in Brixton, south London, on 16 July 2001. The officers said they thought the gun was real.

Mr Bennett's relatives reacted angrily as a judge upheld an inquest jury's verdict that police acted lawfully.

The family of the dead man said the original decision made in December 2004 was fatally flawed.

Mr Bennett's mother rose to her feet and cried: "They murdered him. They murdered him. They murdered my son."

'No alternative'

Another relative cried out: "How many times do they have to shoot a man before they consider him harmless?"

Mr Bennett died when armed officers opened fire as 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.

The jury decided on the evidence that was before them that this was a lawful killing
Mr Justice Collins

The family's lawyer Michael Mansfield, QC, told the hearing that 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.

But Judge Collins rejected the argument, saying the jury had been correctly directed that lethal force could be used where it was reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances.

"The jury decided on the evidence that was before them that this was a lawful killing," he added.

After the judgment, Mr Bennett's brother Daniel said the decision was "disappointing... but expected" and the family would take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Gun lighter man lawfully killed
15 Dec 04 |  London
Shooting police not charged
25 Mar 03 |  England

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