Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:56 UK

No prosecution for fatal shooting

Mark Saunders
Mark Saunders was shot following a five-hour stand-off

No police marksmen will be prosecuted over the fatal shooting of barrister Mark Saunders in a south London siege, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Mr Saunders, 32, died after shooting at police and neighbours from his home in Chelsea, west London, in May 2008. He was shot at least five times by police.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone after the siege.

The BBC has learnt investigators did not interview the marksmen involved.

Mr Saunders shot at police, neighbours and buildings in a five-hour stand-off at his Markham Square home.

He also threw a letter addressed to his wife from his window during the 6 May 2008 siege.

Negligence considered

Charges of murder, attempted murder and manslaughter were considered against seven officers who fired 11 bullets at Mr Saunders.

But the CPS found no "realistic prospect" of prosecutors proving beyond reasonable doubt that the armed officers did not act in self defence.

The CPS also considered charges of gross negligence and misconduct, and health and safety charges against those in charge of the operation.

We recognise this was a tragic incident... but the police have a duty to protect the public and the right to defend themselves
Sally Walsh, CPS

CPS reviewing lawyer Sally Walsh said: "Following the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into the shooting of Mark Saunders, I have reviewed the evidence and concluded that there is insufficient evidence to charge any officer in relation to these sad events."

All seven firearms officers stated they were acting in self-defence or in defence of colleagues during the incident, Ms Walsh said.

"Therefore a prosecution for any of these offences would require, amongst other things, the CPS to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the officers did not honestly and genuinely believe that either they or others were in immediate danger," she said.

"We recognise this was a tragic incident and that Mr Saunders was in a distressed state at the time of his death, but the police have a duty to protect the public and the right to defend themselves."

Ms Walsh said she has offered to meet Mr Saunders' widow Elizabeth to provide a detailed explanation of her decision.

Written accounts

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) carried out an inquiry into the incident, which will be made public after a full inquest into Mr Saunders' death has been held.

But the BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said the IPCC did not interview the officers involved in the incident, instead relying upon their written accounts of the shooting.

This is understood to not be unusual in cases where authorised firearms officers are treated as professional witnesses rather than as suspects.

A statement issued by solicitors acting for Mr Saunders' wife said: "Elizabeth now awaits the inquest which will consider in public why it was necessary for police officers to shoot her husband.

"She is concerned that nothing should be allowed to deflect attention away from the need for a full, careful and objective consideration of that question."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "No officer would ever wish to have to shoot someone during the course of their duty, but they are prepared to take the most appropriate action where necessary to protect the public and their colleagues.

"Any loss of life, no matter what the circumstances, is a tragedy. Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Saunders."

He added: "Any officer who discharges a firearm does so in the full knowledge that they will be held fully accountable for their actions through independent investigation and legal scrutiny. They would not seek to have this any other way."

The siege led to a High Court challenge which paved the way for significant changes to the police practice of pooling notes after firearms incidents.

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