UK Liberty

Health and Safety 23 – closing arguments

Posted in de Menezes by ukliberty on October 29, 2007

On Thursday and Friday last week, the prosecution and defence respectively gave their closing arguments.

The prosecution:

The Brazilian shot dead by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber was acting no differently to any other London commuter, a jury has been told.

In her closing prosecution speech, Clare Montgomery QC, said: “He did nothing to deserve the death that you have heard so vividly described.”

They had followed him from flats in south London linked to Osman. He took a bus to Brixton station, but when he realised the station was closed due to a terror alert he got back on a bus to go to Stockwell Tube station.

Surveillance officers became suspicious of him, but Miss Montgomery said he was not behaving oddly.

“It is all too frequent that you get off the bus to get on the Tube.

“Even if it is not a terror alert, you have to get back on because your Tube station is closed,” she told the Old Bailey trial.

“That is the height of his wickedness that morning, and the fact that when armed officers burst onto the platform shouting ‘armed police’, he stood up and tried to go off the train.”

As any honest and law-abiding citizen might do after gunmen run on to a train.

The defence:

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead because he acted in an “aggressive and threatening manner” when challenged by police, a court has heard.

Ronald Thwaites QC, acting for the Metropolitan Police, told an Old Bailey jury the Brazilian was behaving in the same way expected of a suicide bomber.

His death on a train at Stockwell Tube station was a “terrible accident” but not the fault of the police, he added.

In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Thwaites suggested the 27-year-old may have failed to comply with officers who challenged him because he thought he had drugs in his pocket or because he had a forged stamp in his passport.

Blame the victim.

He described the evidence of officers involved in the police operation and their recollection of Mr de Menezes’ behaviour.

One of them, codenamed Ivor,

– a surveillance officer, the guy with the rucksack who restrained de Menezes –

said the Brazilian had appeared “agitated”,

Um… I think I would be agitated if a stranger attempted to restrain me, and then some more strangers ran shouting on to the train and pointed guns at me.

with his hands “held below his waist and slightly in front of him”, and that he had “advanced to within three or four feet”.

Ivor was “concerned that his hands may come together”, said Mr Thwaites, and acted “instinctively” to pin his arms to his sides.

There was a fear he might be “putting two wires together… towards a belt, towards a battery, towards a detonator, who knows?”

Another officer said Mr de Menezes “jumped up from his seat” and a third that he “showed no sign of complying”.

I wonder what people are supposed to do after being restrained by passengers and aimed at by gunmen?

Mr Thwaites said no individual officer was to be blamed for what happened.

He said: “They all did their conscientious best.

“This was a terrible accident. It was a terrible tragedy, it is a terrible loss of that young man’s life for himself and a terrible pity for his family and his friends, but it is not the fault of the police.

“He was shot because when he was challenged by police

On the other hand, the IPCC’s Stockwell Two report says, “Whether Mr de Menezes was challenged is disputed and forms part of the Stockwell 1 investigation [as yet not in the public domain – ed]. However, there is no suggestion that the challenge is one that an innocent man would have understood or that Mr de Menezes was given instructions that he could have chosen to obey.”

In other words even if the firearms officers ran on to the train and shouted armed police, de Menezes might not even have thought they were shouting at him, and might have tried to get out of the way. He might have even thought they were shouting at the guy with the rucksack who was attempting to restrain him!

But in any case, I’m not entirely sure why police would challenge a “deadly and determined” suicide bomber, with easily concealable “sheet explosives of a military kind“.

he did not comply with them but reacted precisely as they had been briefed a suicide bomber might react at the point of detonating his bomb.

“Furthermore he looked like the suspect

Not according to the men on the ground.

and he had behaved suspiciously.”

No, he had behaved normally. It is because police thought he was the suspect, that they thought he was behaving suspiciously.

Mr Thwaites added: “Not only did he not comply, he moved in an aggressive and threatening manner as interpreted by the police and as would be interpreted by you and me in those circumstances, less than 24 hours after an attempt to bomb the Underground and a bus had taken place.”

I wonder how Thwaites would react if he was bearhugged by a stranger on the Tube…

Mr Thwaites said prosecutors should never have brought the case against the force.

He also criticised the treatment of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was gold commander of the police operation that day, and said her integrity had been questioned.

He said she had been “treated as badly as a common criminal” and “a number of dirty tricks have been practised on her”.

Since she was called to give evidence for the defence the prosecution case had been “shifted to blame her almost entirely for everything that they say went wrong”, he added.

The trial continues.

Note that we haven’t heard from the firearms officers who actually fired the bullets. We have only heard from Ralph, their team leader.

In other words we do not know why those officers shot de Menezes – whether or not it was because they thought he was thought he was about to detonate a bomb, or whatever. It therefore seems very wrong of Thwaites to ascribe motives to them.

I wonder if de Menezes was trying to get out of the way of the guns he thought were pointing at the man in the rucksack who was giving him an unrequested bearhug.  Perhaps he thought the armed police were about to shoot a suspected suicide bomber?


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