Civil rights charity calls Duggan verdict 'perverse and incomprehensible'

Civil rights charity calls Duggan verdict 'perverse and incomprehensible'

By staff writers
8 Jan 2014

Civil rights charity Inquest, which has been supporting the Mark Duggan family, has expressed deep concern about the official verdict on his shooting.

The jury in the inquest into the death of Mr Duggan in 2011 concluded today that he did not have a gun in his hand when he was shot by an armed police officer.

They also unanimously agreed that there were failures in planning and the gathering of intelligence prior to the shooting.

But the jury still concluded, by a majority of eight to two, that he was "lawfully killed", rejecting the alternative possibilities of unlawful killing or an open verdict.

In a statement immediately afterwards, the family of Mark Duggan said: “We are shocked by the jury’s conclusion given the evidence we have heard over the past few months. We will continue to fight for justice for Mark.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity Inquest said: “The jury’s conclusion is both perverse and incomprehensible. We cannot have a situation where unarmed citizens are shot dead on the streets of London and no-one is held to account.

“The death of Mark Duggan is one of a number of fatal shootings by police that have raised profound concerns about operational planning and intelligence failings in firearms operations, where the use of lethal force has been disproportionate to the risks posed, and where the safety of the public was put at risk. Despite a pattern of cases raising similar issues there has been an institutional failure to implement the necessary learning to safeguard lives in the future.

“There is widespread frustration, anger and high levels of community consciousness about the lack of accountability after deaths following contact with the police. The misinformation, lies and mistreatment of the Duggan family and the perception that the police can act with impunity were at the root of the widespread disturbances around the country that followed. Public confidence in the justice system can only be restored if the law is seen to apply equally to all.

“This finding calls into question whether or not families of those who die following the use of force will ever find justice and accountability in the current system.”

Marcia Willis Stewart, solicitor for the Duggan family added: “The jury has found that Mark Duggan was unarmed at the point at which he was shot.

“The jury’s finding demonstrates that the officer lied about this. We cannot countenance a situation in which an unarmed citizen is shot on sight.

“While the law provides a defence for an officer to hold an honest and reasonable belief for the purposes of lawful killing, that is not this case. The officer always maintained that he was sure that Mark Duggan had a gun-shaped item in a sock.

“The jury found that there were failings in the way the police conducted the gathering and actioning of evidence. Had they done their job properly this fatal shooting could have been avoided.

“The family will, however, continue the fight for accountability. They will be seeking an urgent meeting with Rachel Cerfontyne of the IPCC, their MP David Lammy, and Keith Vaz MP, in order to ensure the IPCC, who have to date failed in their responsibility with regards to this investigation, carry a vigorous review.

“The family’s lawyers will be considering the legal position,” she concluded.

Inquest has been working with the family of Mark Duggan since his death in August 2011. The family is represented by Inquest Lawyers Group members Marcia Willis Stewart and Cyrilia Davies from Birnberg Peirce solicitors and barristers Michael Mansfield QC of Mansfield Chambers, Leslie Thomas of Garden Court Chambers and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers.

Ken Hinds, a youth worker who has mediated between gangs in Tottenham, tonight called for calm, but expressed frustration at the verdict and said that it had "set back community relations years".

He declared: “The feeling of people living in Haringey is one of anger and resentment. I’m here to call for calm and to keep the peace. Let’s find legal ways to keep the justice. I’m all for working tirelessly to get this [decision] overturned.”

On his way to be interviewed by Sky TV Mr Hinds says he was stopped, searched and detained by police for 45 minutes, though not charged or cautioned for any offence. He described it as "obstruction" and said that it reflected the continued experience of many black people.

Local MP David Lammy described the verdict as "unusual", because of "perplexing" and "somewhat contradictory" elements in it, and the fact that the evidence had confirmed that Duggan was unarmed at the time he was shot.

There is also a lack of confidence in the community about the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), he added.

Mark Duggan's mother, Pam Duggan, said on Channel 4 News tonight that she was "devastated" and that "the police are harassing my younger son now" -- allegations, subject to investigation, later confirmed by Mr Lammy.

Told that the police now wanted to speak to her following the inquest verdict, she responded "Why do they want to speak to me? … They didn't speak to me after they killed my son", adding that it was four weeks before she finally received a visit from officers following the death of Mr Duggan.

Mark Duggan's aunt Carole, who led chants of 'No justice, no peace' outside the court, as family and friends drowned out an official police statement defending the killing, said that she would talk to the police, because "we've got more questions we want to ask them".

"If the Duggan jury believe that he did not have a gun in his hand when he was shot, how can they find it was a lawful killing? Baffled," tweeted former shadow cabinet member, Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, this evening.

Inquest is a charity that provides a free advice service to bereaved people on contentious deaths and their investigation with a particular focus on deaths in custody.

* Inquest, civil rights charity: http://www.inquest.org.uk/

* Duggan jury determination and conclusion in full (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://dugganinquest.independent.gov.uk/docs/Jurys_Determination_and_Con...

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