The BBC yesterday:
The commander of the operation that led to Jean Charles de Menezes’ death said she did not think a stake-out of his flat would lead to a confrontation.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said she wasn’t expecting a bomber with a sack “fizzing with explosives” to emerge from the south London block.
It was unlikely that anyone emerging from a block of flats would be the suspect (assuming he lived there, think at least one person per flat, nine flats, leads to a generous 1 in 9 chance of anyone emerging being the person they were after), and now she is saying they didn’t expect a bomber to emerge anyway.
She told the trial of the Metropolitan Police she had been in control and had not suffered from anxiety.
Prosecuting, Clare Montgomery QC asked Commander Dick about the operation outside flats linked to one of the 21 July suicide bombers, a building which Mr de Menezes also lived in.
The court had previously heard surveillance officers had surrounded the property on their own because specialist firearms officers were too far away.
Ms Montgomery asked Commander Dick to describe the “Plan B” in the event of armed teams not getting to the flats in time to stop a bomber.
“Someone could have come out of the address with a rucksack fizzing with explosives and get on a bus within two minutes,” said Ms Montgomery.
“But someone coming out of the flat with a rucksack fizzing with explosives was not a likely scenario,” said the police chief.
“It was extraordinarily remote, very remote. It was undoubtedly a possibility but we did not know what someone [a failed suicide bomber] would do.
“We did not know the strength of their link to the address. We did not know whether they intended to cause further explosions.
“My judgement was that it was not a likely scenario that one of these people would come out again, let alone intent on causing an explosion.” …
But later her judgement (despite the contrary opinion of the surveillance team following de Menezes) was that the suspect was Osman.
However, he was not a threat such that lethal force was necessary – because if he was, she would have ordered the firearms team to kill him, wouldn’t she?
So we still don’t know why the firearms team thought he was such a threat.
Ms Dick, now a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, told the court: “I have of course thought hundreds and hundreds of times what might have been different, what might have kept Mr de Menezes alive.
“In relation to my own decisions, given what I now know and what I was told at the time, I wouldn’t change those decisions.”
Trial adjourned until Thursday.
(Possibly worth looking at my earlier commentary on the Bill, particularly the article entitled “On the growth of civil orders to prevent crime and the Serious Crime Bill“, for some background).
Let’s be clear, as Jeremy Browne (Taunton, Liberal Democrat) said:
the Bill’s underlying assumption: that we essentially know who is breaking the law, but we do not have enough evidence to prove it, so we will make legislation that means that we do not have to come up with such evidence, because we can restrict those people’s liberty severely without needing to prove that they have done anything wrong
Or as the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution put it,
We draw to the attention of the House the fact that the far-reaching restrictions of a SCPO may be placed on a person against whom no criminal proceedings have been instituted or who has been convicted of no criminal offence.
Back to Jeremy Browne:
people’s travel can be restricted, within the United Kingdom as well as abroad, and they may also be restricted in where they can work, live and visit. Short of sending people to prison, pretty much every imaginable restriction on the liberty of the citizen may be involved, and if people fail to comply with the orders, the sanctions extend as far as a prison sentence. In some cases, it is entirely possible that somebody contravening the orders might go to prison despite never having committed a criminal offence or having been found guilty according to a criminal standard of proof.
Furthermore, the orders can apply for anything up to five years—indeed, they are more draconian than that, because the five-year period is indefinitely renewable. Somebody could have a most severe restriction on their liberty for the remainder of their life without having committed a criminal offence or having been found guilty by any criminal standard of proof.
He sums it up pretty well, I think.
He also noted the language being used by the Government, for example
[Baroness Scotland] talked about the “likely”—another qualification—standard of proof being “very close” to the criminal standard. Everyone will note that she did not mention “the criminal standard”, merely one “very close” to it.
(in other words, what the hell does “very close to beyond reasonable doubt” mean?)
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) said during earlier deliberations on the Bill:
“On clause 1(1)(a), we would expect the standard of proof to be virtually identical to that for criminal proceedings” ——[Official Report, Serious Crime Public Bill Committee, 26 June 2007; c. 19.]
Again, the caveat is entered: not identical, but “virtually identical”.
(alternatively, “virtually identical to beyond reasonable doubt” – what does that mean?!)
On Second Reading, the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing said:
“we expect that the standard of proof required in relation to the question of whether a person has been involved in serious crime will be the same as in criminal cases”—[ Official Report, 12 June 2007; Vol. 461, c. 664.]
However, that standard has not been put into the Bill; at present, according to the verbal guidance given by most Ministers, we are some way short of the criminal standard of proof.
We cannot trust Ministers’ assurances about how the Bill will operate. We must look at the wording of the legislation – that is what will be interpreted by the courts. As James Brokenshire (Hornchurch, Conservative) said,
it is important, for the sake of certainty and clarity, to avoid the need for case law, and for interpretation to make this relatively simple issue clear in the Bill by way of the amendments.
Or as John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal, Conservative) asked,
When the Minister said that the tests would be virtually the same, it raises an important question. If they are virtually the same, why can they not be the same?
And of course the Government, represented by Vernon Coaker (Gedling, Labour, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office), declined to answer.
Yates of the Yard was today called to give evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee.
The Assistant Commissioner, who was dubbed “Yates of the Yard” during the inquiry, blamed the length of the inquiry on a lack of co-operation from a handful of those targeted by the inquiry.
“The Cabinet Office co-operated in full throughout, in my view,” Mr Yates told MPs. “Others did not. It is quite obvious to everybody who that was.”
Asked by MPs if he was referring to Downing Street, Mr Yates would not answer directly and said Number 10 comprised several different groups of people, including officials, advisers and political figures.
“I don’t think people deliberately misled us, but I do think in retrospect and with hindsight we were treated as a political problem, not a criminal problem,” he said. “They thought we would ask questions, get answers and simply go away. That is not how police work.”
See also BBC – key points.