De Menezes Déjà Vu

An innocent victim
An innocent victim

Killing an innocent man on a tube train is not illegal.

That much we have already learnt this week from Sir Michael Wright QC.

Today the jury in the Jean Charles De Menezes case returned an open verdict, but I can’t help but wonder if, given the chance, they would have plumped for a verdict of unlawful killing.

There has been considerable fallout from the Jean Charles De Menezes inquest, with pertinent details coming to light every day. Last year the BBC put together a great step-by-step reconstruction of the events of 22 July 2005, which really brings the story to life. You can map the movements of the officers right down to the final actions.  For example, a surveillance officer failed to identify De Menezes as he was leaving his flat, because the officer in question was ‘relieving himself’ as the BBC so tactfully puts it. But, the main question people have been asking is will this happen again?

Well, I don’t think it’s a great leap to argue that it already has. Last week.

The case of David Sycamore may not garner  quite as much sympathy as that of Jean Charles De Menezes. He cannot be described as innocent in the same way – he was armed (albeit with an imitation firearm) and he was mentally unstable. But several of the excuses that have been put forward by Cressida Dick in response to the De Menezes case do not apply. We are not directly reeling from a major terrorist attack anymore and David Sycamore was not a suspected suicide bomber.

In such circumstances, should there be a shoot to kill policy? Understandably Sycamore was identified as a dangerous suspect, but surely there are less fatal ways of neutralising the threat he posed to the public. Attack dogs or Tasers for example? Once again the suspect was allowed to travel through a public area before the police finally made their move. Again we have to ask – if he was so dangerous, why was he not dealt with sooner?

The final moments of David Sycamore’s life are tinged with irony – his family says that he used to go to Guildford Cathedral to find inner peace. The image of a man gunned down on Cathedral steps at 3pm on a Sunday can hardly do the Police’s image any favours.

Once again, the IPCC have been called in to investigate. Once they deliver their findings, it hope this horrific story will get the mainstream coverage it deserves. But at the end of the day, I would not be surprised no decisive action was taken. This is certainly one case I’ll be watching with a keen eye.

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