UK Liberty

Interesting case at High Court related to police shooting

Posted in accountability, law and order by ukliberty on September 10, 2008

The Times:

A barrister shot dead during an armed siege at his £2 million Chelsea flat was not pointing a weapon at anyone when he was killed by police marksmen, the High Court was told today.

Mark Saunders, 32, a successful divorce lawyer, died when seven officers fired 11 rounds at him, ending the five-and-a-half hour stand-off at Markham Square close to the fashionable King’s Road, West London.

His family claim that although Mr Saunders had opened fire using a legally-held shotgun during the siege he had not fired for 20 minutes before he was killed on the evening of May 6.

“It appears that the final fatal shots were fired over 20 minutes after Mr Saunders last fired a shot and at a time when neighbours had all been evacuated or otherwise safely ‘contained’,” Tim Owen, QC, representing Mr Saunders’s sister Charlotte, told the court.

“As a consequence, it is difficult to see who was being put at risk or who the police may have believed was being put at risk by Mr Saunders’ actions at the time when he was shot.”

Perhaps themselves, but I take the point – the police officer(s) who fired must have had an honest belief that lethal force was reasonable otherwise his use of force was illegal.

Mr Owen said Miss Saunders claims about the shooting were based on viewing film recorded from a police helicopter flying over the scene.

The disclosures about the shooting came as Miss Saunders launched a legal challenge to the way in which her brother’s death was being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

This is another key bit for me:

She is questioning the legality of the practice followed by firearms officers in conferring before producing their accounts of a shooting incident.

Mr Owen said: “There can be no doubt that the present practice means that there is a substantial risk of collusion and of contamination.”

He said that officers had delayed in producing their statements to the IPCC about the shooting and that the Metropolitan Police had since admitted they had conferred over their accounts.

Mr Owen argued that the practice of officers comparing notes was incompatible with human rights law which required that inquiries into such incidents should be independent.

Indeed the IPCC has recommended at least three times, including after its inquiry into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, that the practice be changed.

The IPCC took the view that the practice was “undesirable” but could not challenge it unless the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) directed a change.

Mr Owen said: “We don’t accept that argument. The IPCC is invested with sufficient powers to make a direction to the police authority to reverse the current practice to achieve a different approach which is capable of being compatible [with human rights law].”

Miss Saunders was also arguing that the failure of the IPCC to disclose to her the statements of the principal officers – operational commanders, negotiators and firearms officers – was unlawful.


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