Honest belief at Stockwell
The Stockwell inquest has in the previous three days heard evidence from the two firearms officers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes: C12 and C2 (C for Charlie).
There was some detail early on about where all the firearms officers were at particular times and the suggestion that they may have been in a position to prevent de Menezes from entering the tube station but had not been authorised to do so (indeed one of the issues coming out of the inquest is that the control room didn’t seem to be aware of where everyone was – they didn’t have a map, for example, that showed locations).
What I was particularly interested in is the question of honest belief: what information coming to your brain (what you are being told over the radio, what your colleagues are doing, what the suspect is doing and so on) helps form an honest belief that someone is an imminent threat to your life and the lives of others?
Now it is clear that you can quite easily look at individual components (“the male stood up…”) and dismiss them individually as being insufficient to form an honest belief – so it is the sum of the components that needs to be considered.
But what concerns me is that any member of the public might act just as de Menezes did, and even though his actions are entirely innocent, because of the situation the police are in and the information they have been given, anything he does might contribute to forming an honest belief that he is a threat, and he may wind up being killed.
(That is aside from Mr Mansfield QC’s suggestion that while the officers honestly believed de Menezes had been positively identified as one of the suicide bombers from the previous day, they did not honestly believe he “presented an immediate and mortal threat to himself and to other people in the vicinity”.)
The ammunition they were issued with, for example – the 9mm hollow point ammunition. Take the following line of questioning of C12, too:
Q. There is no dispute, apparently, that you honestly believed that the man on the train had been positively identified as one of the suicide bombers from the previous day; you understand that?
A. I understand that, sir.
Q. Does that increase the assessment of the level of threat or decrease it?
A. It increases it, sir.
Q. The fact, as we know, that these individuals — and it’s accepted — were deadly and determined, does that increase or decrease the level of threat?
A. It increases it, sir.
Q. The fact that you were told that they had access to bombs and that they could be concealed about the body of an individual without anyone seeing them, did that increase or decrease the level of threat?
A. Again it increases it, sir.
Q. The fact that the devastation from these bombs could kill a large number of people — which you would have obviously known from 7 July, as every member of the public would have known — did that increase the level of threat or decrease it?
A. Again, increase it, sir.
Q. The fact that his hands were held in a particular way, did that increase your fears or decrease them?
A. Again, increase.
Q. His movement in advancing towards you, did that increase the level of threat or decrease it?
Q. The grabbing by Ivor, did that increase the level of threat or decrease it?
A. It was certainly –
SIR MICHAEL WRIGHT: Do you mean that, or the fact that Ivor grabbed him?
MR STERN: The fact that Ivor grabbed him.
SIR MICHAEL WRIGHT: Not the fact that he did grab him –
MR STERN: No. The fact that he had perceived –
SIR MICHAEL WRIGHT: — but the fact that Ivor was motivated to intervene.
MR STERN: That’s a much more eloquent way of putting it, sir.
MR STERN: When you raised your weapon or shouted “armed police”, and he continued to advance towards you, did that increase your threat assessment or decrease it?
A. It increased it and, as I have said previously in evidence, that to me, then, that was the point of no return.