Azelle Rodney Inquiry: Update

18 September 2012

  • Family lawyers struggle to get questions answered
  • Fundamental questions raised about admissibility of intercept evidence in criminal court
  • Gold commander called back to give further evidence on Wednesday

During the first two weeks of the public Inquiry into the death of Azelle Rodney serious concerns emerged both in the evidence about the incident that led to Mr Rodney’s death and about whether the inquiry will be able to adequately and publicly explore all the decisions made in the lead up to the fatal shooting.

The family’s legal team have also had to make substantial legal submissions on the required standards of an article 2, Right to Life, compliant inquiry.

The Inquiry Chair, Sir Christopher Holland, has on a number of occasions refused to allow questioning of surveillance officers on matters that go directly to both the question about whether there was an earlier opportunity to arrest Mr Rodney (while on foot in Harlesden) and thus avoid both the fatal shooting and the use of firearms in a place that potentially put the public at risk (in Hale Lane, Edgware).

Contrary to everything Susan Alexander was told in 2005, it emerged just this month that the head of the surveillance team (A1) called in help from the Air Support Unit of the MPS, yet the Chair refused to allow questions to be put to A1 about how he could have used the aerial support in Harlesden.

The secrecy surrounding this operation, and the attempt to scrutinise the decision making processes and communication that occurred or did not occur between the surveillance teams and the police officers involved in leading the firearms operation, is beginning to reveal a deeply worrying disregard of the degree of risk to all involved and to the public that needs to be fully and robustly examined.

In particular, what is beginning to be revealed is the fundamental problem about the admissibility of intercept evidence in our criminal courts.

As questioning of the surveillance officers has continued, Counsel for the family Leslie Thomas raised the point in an exchange with the Inquiry Chair on 13 September about the questions he wants to ask that go to the heart of the balancing exercise for state agents. That is, having sufficient evidence to arrest and prosecute offenders on the one hand and the requirement to take steps to preserve life and avoid to the maximum extent possible the risk of shooting suspects during a pre-planned arrest.

For Ms Alexander and the public to understand why Mr Rodney died that day, it is vital that all the actions and decisions taken in the lead up to the hard stop in Edgware are fully explored and all accounts fully examined and questioned.

This week the Inquiry will hear from some of the civilian witnesses to the shooting and hear again from the Gold commander in charge of the firearms operation who gave disturbing evidence to the Inquiry last week.

Witnesses giving evidence this week include:

Additional surveillance officers (Tuesday)

  • Members of the public who witnessed the shooting (Tuesday -Wednesday)
  • Peter South ‘Gold’ (Wednesday)
  • Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham – the two other occupants of the car Azelle Rodney was travelling in (Thursday)
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