Leaked video footage showing barrister Mark Saunders being shot by police today raises serious questions over the handling of the investigation into his death.
The tape appears to corroborate his family’s claim – first made in the Evening Standard – that the lawyer was not aiming his shotgun directly at officers when he was killed.
They have been deeply upset by criticism levelled against them during a High Court hearing over the legality of the inquiry into Mr Saunders’ death.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the killing, accused the family of getting it wrong when they told the Standard Mr Saunders had been holding his gun “limply” and had not been firing at officers.
But the video, recorded by a police helicopter and leaked to the Sun, shows Mr Saunders “staggering drunkenly as he talks to negotiators before a hail of bullets hits him”. The newspaper reports today: “Crucially, [Mr Saunders] does not shoulder the weapon and it appears to hang limply in his hands.” It claims the video cannot be shown for legal reasons.
If the Sun’s version of events is correct, it raises serious questions over why the IPCC attacked the family in open court and in an official statement released last week. …
By the way, it seems odd that they shot him and then chucked in gas grenades. One would have thought it would be the gas grenades first, no?
Of course the fact that people are under surveillance is no guarantee that we will be safe.
A secret phone tapping operation which tracked the Omagh bombers on their way to commit the deadliest atrocity in the history of the Troubles could provide vital new evidence against the Real IRA, families of victims said yesterday.
Evidence emerged yesterday of hitherto unknown taps carried out by GCHQ, the government’s electronic communication interception service, as the apparent bombers crossed the border from the Republic of Ireland on August 15 1998 on their way to plant the device.
Lawyers for the families believe the intercepts could add weight to a current civil case against five alleged members of the Real IRA, including founder Michael McKevitt. The dissident republican group was behind the Saturday afternoon attack which killed 29 men, women and children and two unborn babies.
The existence of the phone-tap evidence is revealed in a Panorama investigation to be broadcast on BBC1 tonight which features claims that the evidence was not passed on to police, and that if it had been the attack could have been averted and the terrorists caught. …
Sean O’Neill, crime and security editor at the Times:
Why is it considered an ancient liberty that must be defended at all costs, to have guilt or innocence decided by a dozen people who would rather be anywhere else than stuck in a stuffy courtroom being in turn bored and bamboozled by barristers?
Who says that those 12 jury members – open to intimidation, vulnerable to romance and faction fighting, susceptible to corruption or simply to listening to their iPods under their hijabs – can guarantee that justice will be done.
As for as I know, no-one claimed that justice was “guaranteed” with a jury trial, and rightly so. Nor should anyone claim justice is guaranteed with any technologically feasible trial.
Much has been said about the “maverick” nature of the jury that returned a mixed bag of verdicts last week in what the Crown thought was an open-and-shut case against eight men accused of plotting to blow up transatlantic aircraft. A retrial is on the cards, so it would be unwise to discuss the possible foibles of that jury. But there are many cases in which the jury system has been found lacking.
I have reported on dozens of important criminal cases in the British courts, including every high-profile terrorist trial since 2003, and have seen jurors who approach their duty with great diligence.
But he doesn’t balance the article with a discussion of them – he writes instead about about how incompetent jurors are.
While jurors can be of questionable quality, a greater problem still is that the criminal justice system sets out deliberately to handicap them. Long before a case gets to trial, lawyers and judges spend months weeding out elements of the evidence that the jury cannot hear. When the 12 men and women take their seats in the jury box they do not know that they will hear only a partial version of the case.
Take the ricin trial in 2003. Most of the defendants were acquitted of plotting to conduct a terrorist attack by spreading home-made ricin and other toxins. But the jury was not given the full story: it was not told that a key defendant had murdered a police officer while on the run, nor about the protective clothing, knives, replica weapons and gas masks found inside Finsbury Park mosque during raids connected to the investigation.
Crucial evidence was withheld from the jury in last year’s fertiliser bomb case. Jurors were not told that two men with the defendants in police surveillance photos were Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, the July 7 London bombers. Was that association not relevant to deciding whether the men in the dock had terrorist intent?
I wouldn’t say so, no.
But the more important point here seems to be that evidence is withheld from trials and therefore justice isn’t served, not that jurors are incompetent. So why is he having a go at jurors?
Juries have also played their part in some of our worst miscarriages of justice, such as the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.
That is an extraordinary statement.
The Birmingham Six won on appeal, after sixteen years in prison, because there was evidence of police fabrication, that the police had suppressed evidence, and that the forensic evidence presented at the original trial was incompetent and wrong, and their confessions were discredited (also interesting to note Lord Denning’s controversial statement on their attempt to prosecute the police, essentially that they must not be allowed to proceed because if they were successful the police would have been proved to be perjurers and torturers).
The Guildford Four won on appeal, after fourteen years in prison, because there was new evidence of police fabrication and manipulation of evidence.
In other words, the police lies result in guilty verdicts from juries. Quelle surprise!
In Sean’s world, that is a problem with the jury system, not a problem with dishonesty.
Quite, quite bizarre.
But a judge sitting alone in one of Belfast’s Diplock courts threw out the ill-prepared Crown case against Sean Hoey,
Um, not so much ill-prepared as “a deliberate and calculated deception by police“!
accused of the Omagh bombing, and a district judge in London called a halt to the fit-up job in which Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot falsely accused of training the 9/11 hijackers, was almost extradited to the US.
Hmm, let’s see: the destruction and fabrication of evidence by either the police, CPS, or US authorities, and an abuse of the process of extradition proceedings, led to the incarceration for over four months of a man innocent of unsubstantiated allegations relating to terrorism.
How would juries have performed in such emotive trials?
We will never know, but I imagine they would have probably believed the fabrications of the police and CPS – but judges do too, for example the judges in all the cases he mentions above.
Is that really a problem with the jury system, or is it a problem with the authorities being dishonest?
Sean’s reply: the jury system!
The jury system is broken. In long and complex cases it no longer passes muster. Dedicated panels of assessors, respresentative of society and committed to trying cases independently, should be appointed in their stead. A not dissimilar model functions in employment tribunals. And where the jury remains, for shorter, simpler cases, its members should be properly recompensed for loss of earnings, firmly reminded that they are carrying a hefty civic burden and entrusted with the whole truth.
So let’s see:
- if exculpatory evidence is withheld from juries, juries will wrongly deliver guilty verdicts;
- if the authorities lie to juries, juries will deliver wrongly guilty verdicts;
- if the authorities withhold inculpatory evidence from juries, juries will wrongly deliver not guilty verdicts;
- therefore we should get rid of juries?
Shoddy and unconvincing. Surely the Times’ crime and security editor can do better.
The police ANPR database, which the Guardian today reveals will retain information from 50 million road journeys a day for five years, is a system that was never sanctioned or debated in parliament and which threatens the freedom of movement, assembly and protest. …
The article is worth reading, particularly:
The revelations in the Guardian today come from freedom of information requests [link doesnt work] made to the Home Office. In this context it is important to know that the dealings and discussions in Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which has been largely responsible for pushing the ANPR system, remain hidden from public scrutiny. Because Acpo has limited company status and is not a public body, it does not have to comply with freedom of information laws.
It is bizarre on the face of it that a body with such influence over the public is not considered a public body for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act. However, it may be worth noting that a chief officer of police in England and Wales is a public body under the Act, particularly given that the Home Office likes to pass the buck on to individual police forces when it suits.
Presumably at least one of the chief officers is privy to interesting information exchanged within his organisation and therefore we could extract it from him using the FOIA.
Despite ministers admitting of concerns the laws could spark a wave of claims, officers will be able to tell worried parents about the history of someone who has access to their children, if they think they could be dangerous.
They will give out details of convictions, arrests and acquittals for child sex and violence offences as well as unproven suspicions kept on file.
Of course – what could be more fair than telling someone about unproven suspicions?
Police want single mothers to ask for information about their new boyfriends
Women are never sexual offenders?
and believe those under suspicion will welcome the opportunity to prove they have nothing to hide.
Yes, I’m sure a new boyfriend will welcome the opportunity to refute the accusation that he is a paedophile. Something to talk about over breakfast, perhaps!
Grandparents and neighbours can also demand that police look into the records of anyone – even teenagers – who come into contact with their friends’ or family members’ children.
Officers, meanwhile, will pass on the results of their investigation to the child’s parents, carers or guardians.
Why not take out an advert in the national press?
The pilot schemes, which come into force in four police forces across England, are being set up following a campaign for “Sarah’s Law” – the public disclosure of the names and addresses of paedophiles named in honour of Sarah Payne.
The campaign was established after the eight year-old was murdered by convicted sex offender, Roy Whiting, in 2000.
Officers, however, said the new scheme does not go that far as measures called on by child protection campaigners.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: “Giving parents the ability to find out if someone close to their child poses a risk will empower them.”
And it will also pose risks to the people they are trying to find out about. But let’s not worry about them.
Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, admitted there were concerns that “huge numbers of claims” could be made by worried parents but he insisted: “We don’t believe that doing nothing is appropriate and in the best interests of our children.” Critics however, warn the scheme would create a climate of suspicion with thousands of innocent people having their lives scrutinised.
They also fear it could lead to vigilante attacks on people found to have child sex convictions.
Not just that, but there will also be cases of mistaken identity, and some people will even confuse sexual preferences with occupations, so Coaker will forgive me if I think it is a bad idea on that score.
The announcement comes after The Telegraph revealed that all adults who work with children and are accused of abuse must be investigated by council officers and have details of the claim, even if it was totally malicious, kept on their personnel records until they retire.
In addition, 11.3 million people who work or volunteer with under-16s will from next year have their backgrounds scrutinised by a new vetting body.
Qui custodiet ipsos the vetting body?
Guy Herbert, general secretary of the civil liberties group No2ID, said: “It’s virtually a return to the witch trials, and is the logical conclusion of our zero-trust society. Everybody is being encouraged to be suspicious of everybody else.
“The police won’t be able to isolate the information once they release it, and it will be full of unsubstantiated allegations and suspicions. It is potentially incredibly dangerous.”
Donald Findlater, of the child protection charity Lucy Faithfull Foundation, added: “The biggest risk to children is not from the registered sex offender who the police know and are managing; it is from the sex offender who is not registered and who no one knows about.”
Well that’s why everyone who comes into contact with anyone who in turn will come into contact with children will be encouraged to ask for the record of that person’s alleged sexual offences. Duh!
Under the pilot schemes, which will run for a year in Warwickshire and parts of Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire, anyone can phone or email police to request information on someone who lives in the same area and has regular and unsupervised access to children – whether they work with them or see them socially.
Within 24 hours, officers will check criminal records to see if the child is at immediate risk from the adult.
Over the next 10 days they will contact social services and child protection bodies, in order to look deeper into the subject’s past.
Seems like a recipe for disaster.
If they uncover any evidence that the subject has a record for child sex offences, neglect or domestic violence they will disclose it to the parent or carer. If a grandparent or neighbour made the request, the information would not be passed to them but directly to the parent.
If the parent chooses not to act on the information, police or social services may step in.
And do what?! Has a crime been committed? If so then it should be reported and the police should deal with it. If not then what do the police have to do with it?
Why pass on unproven suspicions, in particular, to anyone?
Paul West, the Chief Constable of West Mercia police, said: “If there is no support from that parent then the agencies would have to work through what can be done.”
He believes subjects may be happy to take part in the investigations, however.
Mr West said: “A woman who has had bad experiences in the past, meets someone and is keen to settle down.
“They talk through this and the subject is party to this, to get a third-party assurance to the clean bill of health which he claims to have.”
Yeah right! Of course some will be understanding in that sense. But others will think, “I’m innocent and don’t deserve to have my background probed, if she doesn’t trust me I’m off”.
Police may also choose to disclose that the subject is merely “showing worrying behaviour”,
or was arrested or acquitted of a crime.
Acquitted means, “not guilty”. Why would I be interested in knowing that someone is not guilty of a crime?
A leaflet produced about the scheme states: “Even if a subject doesn’t have a record for child sex offences it doesn’t mean that he or she is not potentially a risk.”
All men are potential rapists?
Sara Payne, the mother of the murdered schoolgirl, said: “I would hope this becomes a routine, when you have a strange person in your life.”
God knows what we did before databases.
Police insist all applications will be checked before information is released to the public, and warn they may take action against anyone who shares details with others or makes it public.
Of course by then it may be too late.
The pilots could lead to a nationwide scheme if they are deemed a success.
What is the statutory basis for this? Have we had a debate in Parliament, and passed the relevant legislation?
(By the way, legal eagles – if a 16 year old boy has sex with a 15 year old girl – consensual, though of course she can’t in a legal sense consent – is he committing a sexual offence, and will he therefore turn up on one of these witch hunts routine checks?)
There is a good comment on the Telegraph article:
What standard of proof will have to be presented to show that the people are in a relationship?
What is to stop my nosey neighbour checking me out?
Will I be informed that she has requested a report?
Will I be able to object to her receiving the report?
Will the number of reports requested be held on my record?
Will the Data Protection Act be weakened? [not sure what he means by that]
Will I be able to complain if she seeks a report gratuitously and what action would then be taken against her?
If I refuse permission for a report, and she publishes that fact, can I seek damages for defamation?
I would add:
- How will we measure success?