Some reflections on the de Menezes verdict which cut in both directions. Lets begin by stressing the fact that dealing with suspected suicide bombers was new and terrifying. The Telegraph analysis of the chapter of disaster is as good as any. The fact of two different unconnected units, one for surveillance, the other a firearms team to deal directly with the suspect was likely to end in tears. Why didnt the surveillance unit stop the suspect from getting on a bus, then a tube when a suicide bomber was likely to kill progressively more people?
What a tragedy that one surveillance officer went behind a bush to have a slash at the crucial moment, fatally breaking the chain of surveillance and ultimately, control.
On the Met versions at the inquest , how worrying that the hit squad stuck to the story that they shouted out a warning Armed police that nobody heard.
How can the gold commander Cressida Dick conclude at the inquest:
“If you are asking me did we do anything wrong or unreasonable, then I don’t think we did.”
-People fasten on anomalies when they lack a convincing narrative.
Would shouting armed police have averted the tragedy?
How can Commander Dick say that nobody did anything wrong? Is she blaming communications that dont work underground ( even in the fictional Spooks where the comms are amazing, they dont work underground.)
How was it that accident-prone Commissioner Sir Ian Blair was just about the only man on the force who didnt appear to know that an innocent man had been shot? Was he set up for failure by his own cadres?
How ironic that Ken Livingstone, the old supporter of the war-time Sinn Fein sticks up for the police he got to know at close quarters.
The Independents editorial sums up sums up the deficiencies in the wider culture of police evasion.
what the case reminds us of is the fact that the no police firearms officer has been convicted for shooting a member of the public in the past 15 years, despite some 30 fatalities, many of them in questionable circumstances. It reminds us that the police saw fit to introduce the Operation Kratos guidelines for dealing with suspected suicide bombers (shots to the head and no verbal warning) in secret. There was no public consultation or political consent. We found out about this radical change in operating procedure only when it had claimed its first innocent casualty in the form of Mr de Menezes.
If there is a next time, how will it be handled differently? No one has told us. The Independent Police Complaints Commission report must offer pointers. New procedures are already well overdue.
A final concern. More publicity has been given to the de Menezes killing than to the issues of 7/7 itself. For conscientious critics of the police and their ideological enemies alike, the de Menezes case was like shooting at an open goal. Dealing with the undertow that produced 7/7 is even more complex and difficult.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London
Living History 1968-74
A unique, once-in-a-lifetime 10-week course at Stranmillis University College Belfast featuring live, in-depth interviews with leading figures from this tumultuous era in Northern Ireland’s cultural and political history.
Live interviews with: Bernadette McAliskey, Austin Currie, Brid Rogers, Baroness Blood, Dennis Bradley, Baroness Paisley, Lord Kilclooney, Tim McGarry, Danny Morrison, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and others…