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Friday, November 02, 2007 

de Menezes backlash commences yet again.

Just like when the second IPCC report into the Met's dealing with the aftermath of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes was quickly in the crossfire of the backlash against its findings, so it is today when the Sun leads the way with the claims that yesterday's successful health and safety prosecution could mean that "terror gangs will go free":

FURIOUS cops last night warned terror gangs could escape scot free – after the Met was convicted under health and safety laws over the bungled shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The jury’s verdict – after a trial costing taxpayers £3.5million – was slammed for giving bombers a new loophole to dodge arrest.

First things first, make sure that you get in just what it cost the taxpayers for this important verdict. The £300,000 cost of the IPCC investigation was similarly highlighted last time round. Naturally, don't mention that "Sir" Ian Blair himself could have spared any further cost to the taxpayer by pleading guilty, as some officers urged him to do.

Angry officers claimed robbers and kidnappers would also be gloating that the killing of the Brazilian – mistaken for a suicide bomber – was deemed to have put public safety at risk.

Of course. They won't be put off by knowing just how likely they're to be shot considering how often they manage to kill innocents.

And Met Police Authority member Damian Hockney branded the implications “ludicrous”.

He said grimly: “We now have a police service that will be so terrified of taking positive action in future potential terrorist situations that it may ultimately lead to even greater loss of life.”

Specious nonsense. It may have came before this prosecution, but the example of Forest Gate sure doesn't suggest that the experience of Stockwell had altered police planning and conduct one iota.

John Yates, the Met’s assistant commissioner, described the verdict as “very significant to policing and fast-time operations, not just around terrorism”.

He said: “This could go into kidnap situations and live firearms operations that we deal with day in, day out.”

One would think that the judge in his ruling had not considered the fact that the police were under unique pressures on that morning - when he fact did. That this case involved potential suicide bombers was crucial; a suicide bomber poses far more threat to the public than any kidnapper or even a lone gunman, who usually have such weapons for robbery or protection. Spree shootings in this country, which could be considered as dangerous, are incredibly rare thanks to the gun laws, and in any case would also be another unique circumstance. Yesterday's ruling made clear that there were failings at every level, but the biggest was that the police's plan to stop individuals after they had moved a suitable distance away from Scotia Road didn't work because SO19 weren't in place and the other officers weren't suitably trained to stop those who left the flats. The only major effect it should have on the police is that they ought to *shock* actually put some thought into their planning and then make sure what is in those plans actually goes ahead. It was a unique situation, but by the time de Menezes left his flat, the police had had the best part of 18 hours to get on top of it.

That would turn undercover operations into a farce. The Met’s chief lawyer Mark Scoggins said: “Say we get credible intelligence that a number of people are planning an atrocity.

“We identify one of them. Under normal circumstances, we would want to identify what they were doing and who there were associated with. If the prosecution case is correct in this instance, that option will not be open to us.

“We won’t be allowed to let him go anywhere near the public – even if we don’t think he is carrying a bomb – because that might expose the public to risk. We couldn’t follow him to his bomb factory or associates.”

This is a complete misleading, fearmongering misreading of the ruling. The police failed because they let the bomber get on public transportation, where the previous days' failed attacks had taken place, not because they had let the suspect leave his property at all. It will most certainly not affect everyday policing, purely because the police simply cannot prevent every terrorist attack, just as they cannot prevent every crime. The unique circumstances involved here, where the terrorists had already attempted their attack meant that they should never have been let to return to where they were most likely to strike again.

The Scum's leader is more nuanced and balanced this time round, but perhaps more representative are a handful of the comments on the piece itself:

He was in the country illegally and acted accordantly by running when chased what are those who were who believed they were chasing a terrorist supposed to do. They the police did their job to protect us. Now the legal system has created a massive loop-hole that will create a bigger threat, will the courts be liable for compensation should people be injured or die as a result?

The man ran away, it was after terror threats made to this country...

It was a horrible mistake that he was shot, but mistakes happen. He ran from the police... On the carriage Jean Charles made a specific gesture that the police are trained to identify as trying to detonate a bomb... And now when gun cops are faced with dangerous situations in future, instead of thinking "if I have to pull the trigger to minimise the danger to members of the public, that's what i'll do", they'll be thinking "oh no. What about that brazilian guy? I don't want to lose my job".

Even after all this time, numerous people still believe that de Menezes ran. The Met's failure to correct those stories, and indeed, its active encouragement of them to begin with only shows how, as long as you get your response in early enough, you can get away with the most obscene of lies and disasters with some people. The last comment is especially galling: the officers who shot de Menezes have not only not been sacked, they were put back on active duty prior to any disciplinary action and praised to high heaven for their "professionalism". It's worth pointing out that two people have commented and pointed out de Menezes didn't run, but there still seems to be a majority disagreeing heartily with the ruling and blaming "political correctness". Blood and Treasure also tackles yet more inanity from Ken Livingstone.

Despite Daily Mail front pages, it seems that Ian Blair is going to manage to remain in his job yet again. We shouldn't really be surprised at this state of affairs, however. After all, you can lie and distort about weapons of mass destruction, be ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and not be held in any way accountable. How could Labour call for his resignation when all Blair did was learn from his namesake and their former leader?

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