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Monday, February 19, 2007 

de Menezes: Ian Blair cleared, but questions remain.

The Grauniad's been leaked a copy of the IPCC report into Sir Ian Blair's conduct over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and while it clears Blair of knowingly lying, the picture it paints of the chain in command of the Met isn't very flattering, to say the least.

While we still don't know the full chain of events that took place on July the 22nd 2005, mainly because the initial IPCC report, a version of which was leaked to the News of the Screws last year, is unlikely to be released in full until at least the absurd health 'n' safety prosecution of the Met is concluded, what we do know is reasonably damning. While the police were looking for 4 men of North African origin, all dark-skinned, they instead trailed and shot a Brazilian, light-skinned man. Not only was he never ordered to stop, despite what Sir Ian Blair said that day, but he was shot 7 times in the head (and once in the shoulder) with dum-dum bullets without so much as a warning, even though he was being held to the floor and would have been unable to set off any explosives if he had actually been one of the alleged suicide bombers.

As you might expect, after they had picked up the remaining pieces of de Menezes's head and bothered to check his body, they would have quickly realised they had killed someone entirely innocent. Indeed, the report appears to state that by the afternoon (de Menezes was shot dead around 10am) the Met were starting to work on the assumption that their incompetence had lead to the death of the wrong person. Despite this, no one appears to have informed Blair, who at 3:30pm took part in a press conference where he wrongly claimed that de Menezes had been ordered to stop, and that the death was directly linked to the operation to find the failed suicide bombers.

The IPCC report says that this failure to inform their boss of bad news was "incomprehensible". A better description would be scandalous and potentially slanderous. While officers inside the Met knew full well that de Menezes was innocent, the press were being briefed that he had leaped the barrier, had refused to stop, had been wearing a heavy or bulky jacket, and may well have even had a bomb belt. All of these were lies, or misunderstandings, with some members of the public mistaking the officers who had leapt the barriers themselves with de Menezes. We have never, for example, had an explanation to why Mark Whitby, the most widely quoted witness on the day, said that de Menezes had been wearing a padded jacket when he was in fact wearing a light denim jacket. He was understandably distraught, but whether his mistakes were down to this we simply don't know, as he has refused to comment since. Instead, for a whole day (and then for over a year) de Menezes and his family were at worst smeared and at best treated abysmally.

It seems unlikely, unless the report is a lot harsher in full than it's being made out to be that Blair will be forced out because of this. The News of the Screws last year suggested that Blair may well have not been informed because he took "bad news very badly", which is a risible excuse for him not being informed of what had happened, but it appears that his account that he told the truth as he knew it to be is fundamentally accurate.

The real contempt for de Menezes was more in the promotion of Cressida Dick, the officer in charge of the operation on that morning. She was on our screens last week talking about gun crime, an irony that wouldn't have been lost on the de Menezes family. Justice seems unlikely to be done even when we eventually get the first IPCC report, and the lessons that should of been learned from that day's "complete and utter fuck-up" appear to not have been taken to heart.

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