A guilty verdict, but still no justice.
That detail is only one of the minor perversities that have littered the police's response to their execution of de Menezes. The not guilty plea was itself a joke, as the prosecution clearly showed. The detailed, at times forensic examination of what happened that morning exposed a police force in chaos, riddled with general incompetence and showing myriad failings. The Met didn't have any answer to why the SO19 firearms unit, which had been meant to arrive at Scotia Road, where Hussein Osman, one of the failed suicide bombers of the previous day lived at 5:30 in fact didn't turn up until 5 hours later. They couldn't explain why de Menezes was first dismissed as not Osman, then subsequently told that he in fact was, although that is also still confused. The surveillance officers themselves didn't know that the firearms team were present. They couldn't argue against how the firearms team had been told the "suspect was up for it" or that they had been informed they may have to use special "tactics" - shooting the suspect in the head. No one managed to even come up with a reason why he was shot - there was, if the testimony of Cressida Dick and the firearms officers involved is to be believed - no unmitigated authorisation of lethal force.
Instead, the Met fell back on the two things that it has used since shortly after de Menezes was shot: smears and lies. In the aftermath of the Stockwell shooting, the police actively encouraged the stories which some witnesses had given that de Menezes had leapt the barrier, been wearing a bulky jacket and refused to cooperate with officers. One source even stated he had been wearing a belt with wires coming from it. Rather than correct these inaccurate stories, which they knew to be untrue within a matter of hours as the second IPCC report showed, they included them in their own press releases. It took the leaking of the initial IPCC investigation for the truth to slowly start to emerge, that de Menezes had been wearing a light denim jacket, that the officers who shot him were the ones who had leapt the barriers and that he offered no resistance whatsoever; he wasn't given a chance to. In the mean time, the media were briefed that he had overstayed his visa, as if this affected anything whatsoever and later on, that a woman had accused him of rape, something he was cleared of to far less fanfare.
This attitude was exemplified by the behaviour of the defence during the trial. The fact that he had cocaine in his urine was blown out of all proportion, used to try to explain his "aggressiveness, agitation and nervousness" all adjectives used to suggest his in fact normal behaviour was indicative of that of a potential suicide bomber. A prosecution witness accused the defence of manipulating a photograph of de Menezes that was released side by side with one of Hussein Osman to show just how similar they looked, when anyone with a pair of eyes can see that they look nothing like each other. The closing speech by the defence lawyer, Ronald Thwaites QC, has to be one of the most mendacious and deliberately misleading attempts to push the jury towards acquitting of recent times, claiming that de Menezes, who didn't act out of the ordinary or in an "aggressive and threatening" manner was doing something he didn't because he "thought" he had drugs in his pocket, even though he didn't, or because his visa had run out. It's worth quoting some of it in full:
"He was shot because when he was challenged by police he did not comply with them but reacted precisely as they had been briefed a suicide bomber might react at the point of detonating his bomb.
"Furthermore, he looked like the suspect and he had behaved suspiciously. Not only did he not comply, he moved in an aggressive and threatening manner as interpreted by the police and as would be interpreted by you and me in those circumstances, less than 24 hours after an attempt to bomb on the Underground and a bus had taken place.
The first paragraph is directly contradicted by the evidence given by "Ivor", the surveillance officer that grabbed de Menezes.
Ivor moved into action as Mr Menezes stood up from his seat on the Northern line train with his arms at waist level and slightly in front of him. He told the jury: "I grabbed Mr Menezes, wrapping both my arms around the torso, pinning his arms against his side, pushing him back to the seat with the right hand side of my head against the right hand side of his torso, pinning him to the seat.
A witness who has spoken to the BBC gave a similar account:
Anna Dunwoodie, who was in the same carriage as Mr Menezes when he was shot, told the BBC how she witnessed this "horrific" moment when armed police ran on board the train.
"It didn't feel to me like I was in the middle of a police operation," she recalled.
"The men who came running in seemed quite chaotic. I'd describe them as slightly hysterical.
"Jean Charles, to my knowledge, did nothing out of the ordinary.
"I didn't notice him until he had a gun pressed to him. It felt to me like he was someone who was being picked on at random because he was nearest to the door.
"We all ran to the sound of gunshots."
Hardly the actions of a man who didn't comply with police requests (some accounts suggest they weren't any) or that was about to detonate explosives. By Thwaites' and Dick's definition, acting suspiciously is getting off a bus to enter a tube station, finding it's closed and getting back on again, then using your mobile phone to send text messages and phone people. If the police shot dead every person who did that on public transport, we wouldn't have to worry about immigration ever again.
Dick herself was just as disingenuous. While being cross-examined she claimed she would act exactly the same again:
So instead of just saying that "Nettletip" should be stopped, as she claimed she did, she wouldn't have instead said, unequivocally, that he should be arrested? Dick is either a knave or a fool to say such a thing. The original IPCC report, contents of which were leaked to the News of the World, suggested that she might have added "at all costs" to her order that de Menezes be stopped, something she denied in the witness box.
As a result, we still have no real answer to why de Menezes was shot dead. As Vikram Dodd's account of what took place on the Grauniad website makes clear, and if the evidence given by Dick is to be believed, there was no official authorisation of lethal force. Did the SO19 officers, pumped up by their briefing, take the matter into their own hands once they knew that a potential suicide bomber was already on a train, or was there some other communication that they either misheard or misinterpreted? We simply don't know, because neither of the men who fired shots were called to testify.
We may yet learn more from the inquest, which is likely to be held next year, or from the release of the original IPCC report, held back until the end of the trial, which according to them is to be released within days. Other questions that need answering are how and why the SAS was involved and why bullets that are illegal under the Hague convention were felt suitable for use.
Two things remain the same after all this, however. The Met, despite being fined a substantial amount, a curious decision in itself as it means the taxpayers who were put at risk in the first place are paying for the police's "complete and utter fuck-up", still decides no one is personally accountable. Sir Ian Blair, a man who could have resigned or been sacked multiple times over, and who most certainly should have been fired after the second IPCC report found his secretary knew before him that an innocent man had been shot, is refusing to resign, despite both opposition parties' calling for his removal. Indeed, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he even claimed the mistakes made were not "systematic". He has the support of the government, and of Ken Livingstone, who really should know better but who defends Blair because he fears a more "traditional" copper in the top job. Livingstone's remarks that it will make defending the capital more difficult are also nonsensical: this was the only way to force the Met into changing its procedures which endangered far more people that day than the bombers on the loose did.
Secondly, the de Menezes family still has not seen justice served. The Crown Prosecution Service ought to reconsider its decision not to charge the officers responsible for de Menezes' death with at least manslaughter, considering no order was given for him to be shot, although the inquest may yet find de Menezes was unlawfully killed, triggering another investigation.
The de Menezes family's son was first shot, then smeared, insulted with the promotion of Cressida Dick before any discplinary action, then smeared once again. When police failures involve officers lower down the chain of command, it results in sackings. When the failures involve top level management, no one's responsible. The Met truly has become a corporate machine.