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European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the police officer who killed Jean Charles de Menezes should not be prosecuted
European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the police officer who killed Jean Charles de Menezes should not be prosecuted.
On 22 July 2005, 27 year old Jean Charles de Menezes was shot 7 times in the head by police officers at Stockwell tube station as part of a pre-planned anti-terrorism operation.
Patricia da Silva Armani, cousin of Jean Charles who lived with him at the time of the shooting said:
“Our family are deeply disappointed at today’s judgement. We had hoped that the ruling would give a glimmer of hope, not only to us, but to all other families who have been denied the right to justice after deaths at the hands of the police. We find it unbelievable that our innocent cousin could be shot 7 times in head by the Metropolitan police when he had done nothing wrong and yet the police have not had to account for their actions. As we have always maintained, we feel that decisions about guilt and innocence should be made by juries, not by faceless bureaucrats and we are deeply saddened that we have been denied that opportunity yet again. We will never give up our fight for justice for our beloved Jean Charles.”
A spokesperson for the Justice4Jean campaign said:
“Today's ruling fails not only the family of Jean Charles de Menezes but all families seeking accountability after deaths at the hands of the state. Justice has been denied to the Menezes family and the shamefulness of this is not just that the police have been given a green light to act with impunity, but the state and the legal system continues to protect them. At a time when the debate over the shoot-to-kill policy has resurfaced as an issue of national concern, we fear this ruling will lead to more cases of injustice."
Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the Menezes family said:
“This is a very disappointing decision for a family who have fought for the last eleven years to get justice and accountability although we are pleased to note that there were four of the 17 judges who dissented. This judgement will do nothing to counter a widely held belief (particularly among marginalised communities) that there is one standard for the police and another for the general public."
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“The experience of the de Menezes family and their long pursuit of justice exemplifies all that is wrong with the investigation process which follows a death involving police use of force. This disappointing ruling will further undermine confidence of bereaved families in the processes for holding police to account. At its core are concerns that the rule of law does not apply to the police for abuses of power in the same way as it does to an ordinary citizen and that they are able to avoid scrutiny and accountability. This serves only to create a culture of impunity which frustrates the prevention of abuses of power, ill treatment and misconduct."
There has never been a successful prosecution for manslaughter or murder in any case in the UK, even where an inquest jury has returned a finding of ‘unlawful killing’. Since 1990 there have been 1,015 deaths in police custody or following police contact and 58 fatal shootings by police officers. Whilst the number of deaths involving the use of force by the police is a small proportion of the total number of deaths in custody, these deaths have often been the most controversial. ( See INQUEST website for further information)
Since 1990, there have been 9 unlawful killing verdicts/findings returned by juries at inquests into deaths involving the police and 1 unlawful killing finding recorded by a public inquiry, none of which has yet resulted in a successful prosecution.
The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Harriet Wistrich from Birnberg Peirce solicitors and barristers Hugh Southey QC from Matrix Chamber and Adam Straw and Henrietta Hill QC from Doughty Street Chambers and Michael Mansfield QC from Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC.
For further information please see our briefing at the start of this trial.
A briefing from the legal team is available here.
‘I was already working with INQUEST, which is the organisation who monitor deaths in custody, and at one AGM I told the audience that what happened to these people [killed in police custody like Chistopher Alder, Roger Sylvester and many others] could happen to any of us. And then a couple of years later, I was standing in front of them again but now it had happened to my cousin. So my family and me were now “users” of Inquest. It shows you that none of us are immune – here am I, Benjamin Zephaniah, patron of INQUEST and client of INQUEST at the same time.’
– Benjamin Zephaniah