The Jean Charles de Menezes Case

Hi everyone. Yes, it is true: I am back from vacation, and I have been stalking the comments section for a few days now, but I am trying very hard *not* to post regularly since I still have some outstanding work I want to finish before I get too sucked in. On the other hand some things are very hard to just let pass.

The case of poor Jean Charles de Menezes for a start. At the time of his death I defended the police action on this blog (incidentally, a lot of the comments at the time may well still be relevant to this post). At least, lets be clear, I defended the right of the police to act as they did to defend public life when there are reasonable grounds to assume that there is a real and present danger. I still hold that view.

However the FT today is running a version of events which is slightly different from the one we were offered, and formed our judgements with, in the immediate aftermath. In particular the FT suggests:

1/ Jean Charles de Menezes was in fact killed by guns fired by two police officers, not one as originally stated.

2/ Documents and photographs presented to the investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and leaked to ITV News suggested that Mr de Menezes was not carrying any bags, and was wearing only a denim jacket.

3/ ITV News also said the evidence to the IPCC said the CCTV cameras at Stockwell station were working and showed Mr de Menezes as behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers

4/ He was was in fact mistaken for Hamdi Issac, one of the men suspected of carrying out the failed attacks in London the previous day. If this was the case it is hard to see why more effort wasn’t made before he boarded the train to take him alive.

Of course all of this still has to be confirmed, but my initial response is: disturbing. It is extremely important for the effective conduct of the UK anti terrorism policy that we all have the highest possible confidence in the veracity and efficacy of the police services. It is important the inquiry be painstaking and rigourous. This is a clear case if ever there was one that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. I suggest that in the light of all the above the scope of the inquiry now needs to be extended to include an evaluation of how the police communicate sensitive and delicate information to the general public in difficult circumstances. What we don’t need is spin, or a drip feed.

Update: This situation, especially with the images now appearing is terribly moving and most distressing. AP have an up to date summary, and the Times have published – without comment – the full text of a statement from the de Menezes family lawyers, I think I can fully understand why.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Terrorism and tagged , , , by Edward Hugh. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

31 thoughts on “The Jean Charles de Menezes Case

  1. “slightly different”? did we read the same story? being a policeman in the days following the first bombing had to be horrible – i couldn’t have done it. however, i thought it was pretty clear from the beginning that these guys seriously over reacted. and whose to say what each of us would have done in that position. but to lie about it is unforgiveable.

    the truth is sometimes awful but what do you have without it?

    thursday jane
    portland, oregon

  2. “”slightly different”? did we read the same story?”

    Sorry, this is British ironic understatement. Obviously it doesn’t travel the pond too well. I obviously think the original version which we were offered needs serious examination. There are however still unexplained anomalies, like the original eyewitness accounts. Just what the hell was going on?

  3. The consistent lying to the British people regarding all the London bombings is nothing short of disgraceful. The police are engaged in a cynical media manipulation offensive at a time when the confidence and co-operation of the population is more necessary than ever. I’m utterly, utterly disgusted.

  4. “I still hold that view.”

    At the time of Menezes death there were credible witnesses who claimed not to have heard any commands by any recognizable police agents. There were discrepancies in the police version of what happened from the start, so we should have been sceptical from the start.

    Any time you feel that you must empower security agents to walk up to someone and execute them in the name of public safety, you have lost your democracy, your freedom, and the very security you seek. We have hundreds of historical examples of states abusing police powers, and in none did human rights flourish. What makes you think that it will be otherwise in this case? That Scotland Yard have been shown to be liars further underscores the dangers of handing this sort of power to unaccountable agencies.

    Right after 9/11 I was shocked that some people were seriously advocating the use of “torture warrants.” I am just as shocked to find that anyone would advocate the cold blooded killing of a fellow human being on the whim of a security agent. I’ll take my chance with the terrorists, thank you very much.

  5. Living in Chicago, where the police have a long history of killing Black and Brown people who later turn out not to have pointed a weapon at them, rather a cell phone or something like that. It was not hard to treat the initial accounts by the cops with anything but skepticism. Why, if they thought this guy was connected to the terrorists, did they let him board a bus and a train? Maybe Brits have more reasons to trust their police than we do here in Chicago, but i would say the benefit of the doubt Brits have granted their police, should now be revoked, permanently.

  6. “Living in Chicago, where the police have a long history..”

    Look, I understand the force of this opinion, but I think we need to be careful. The record of the British police in this regard is far from being without blemish, as the history of the issues which arose in connection with IRA terrorism demonstrates. Members of the CO19 firearms group are already under investigation for a previous – underworld related – shooting, where the victimn was alleged to have been carrying a shotgun which turned out to have been a table leg. So ongoing issues exist. Otoh the events in London are unprecedented, and the danger to the public at large is real and serious, and more attacks are likely to be attempted at some stage.

    So we are in the uncomfortable position of wanting to give support to our security services (in general, not just in the UK) whilst expecting that that trust is returned. Nothing here is going to be easy. However this:

    “I’ll take my chance with the terrorists, thank you very much.”

    Seems to me foolhardy and ridiculous, especially since this:

    “handing this sort of power to unaccountable agencies.”

    Simply isn’t the case. These agencies – in the UK at least – are accountable, and that is why we are able to have an investigation.

    “I was shocked that some people were seriously advocating the use of “torture warrants.””

    I’m not sure what this has got to do with the case in hand. The UK is signatory to the anti torture charter (remember the Pinochet case) and I don’t know of any serious suggestions that this should be changed.

    “We have hundreds of historical examples of states abusing police powers, and in none did human rights flourish.”

    Yes, well I imagine that his is why I put this post up, and why the British press collectively together with a broad cross section of British civil society is up in arms, to try and make sure there are no ‘abuses of police powers’.

    “anyone would advocate the cold blooded killing of a fellow human being on the whim of a security agent.”

    Again anyone advocating killing on whim should be condemned, but just who is doing this? The question you are not facing up to is what should a police officer do when there are credible grounds for believing that the person in front of you may be about to blow themselves up, taking themself and other innocent people with them. Trusting in the good will of the terrorist I don’t think is a credible solution.

    The real underlying issue, which I suspect we are about to get into, is what is the current state of UK law here with the ‘shoot to kill’ authorisation (which is not a ‘kill on whim’ licence) and the various anti terrorism acts. Normally the decision here legally would be between ‘death by misadventure’ (on the part of de Menenzes) or someone in the force facing homicide charges. I don’t think there are too many other alternatives. This, I suspect, was the reasoning behind the ‘smokescreen information’ (which I like Ken feel is nothing short of disgraceful if proven to be such), to try and suggest that something in the victimns own behaviour let to his death. This seemingly was not the case, and the responsibility seems to lie with police error, which may make a homicide charge against someone very difficult to get away from. I don’t really know enough about the law and how it might be applied here, but I suspect that until this case is clarified no-one does.


    “There were discrepancies in the police version of what happened from the start”

    I’d be very grateful – as would the family lawyers if you look at their statement – if you could detail these discrepancies (in the police version) – since I think you’ll find when you look at the details that we were all reaching conclusions based on ‘non-attributable’ sources. The official police version was in fact very limited, which is why the family lawyers seem to need to rely on statements furbished to the pathologist.

    If you look at the statement they say:

    “virtually the entire body of information either placed, or allowed to remain, in the public domain….has been false”

    In other words they are put in the position of suggesting the police did not DENY the press leaks, not that they actively propagated the misleading information. Also:

    “in which a blanket of secrecy has covered the true facts, and lies and scenarios have been allowed to hold good, we on behalf of the family suggest that claim has constituted a grave public disservice.”

    This seems to be the issue, untruths have been allowed to hold good. If you want to hold public agencies accountable under the rule of law details do matter, otherwise you become no better than those you purport to criticise.

    “At the time of Menezes death there were credible witnesses”

    This is the problem. Who were the ‘credible witnesses’, who put out the story about vaulting the barrier, wearing a heavy coat, running onto the train with the police in pursuit. Just who were the people we saw being interviewed on TV, and what was their role in this. These are the kinds of questions which need to be answered, and that is why we need the results of any inquiry to be made public, in full.

    The BBC have a pretty exhaustive summary of the various accounts, including the eye witness ones here. The discrepencies you refer to do not appear. Do you have more information?

  7. The plot definitely thickens. The Daily Mirror is running this:

    “Metropolitan Police Commander Cressida Dick instructed officers tailing Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, to detain him before he entered a subway station on July 22….Despite the command, a firearms team followed the electrician onto a train at Stockwell station, south London, and shot him dead at point blank range after wrongly suspecting him of being a suicide bomber”

    The chain of command in giving the order is what needs to be estabished before we can determine whether anyone could indeed face criminal charges. Obviously a decision taken by CO19 officers on the ground on their own initiative would put them in a very difficult position to say the least, and then not only the officers themselves, but also those who train and prepare them would have to face some very serious questions.

    A Murphy’s law factor seems to have entered stage left in the sense that the officer in charge of surveillance outside the flats appears to have been relieving himself in the moment that de Menezes left the building and was thus unable to obtain video images to forward for cross checking with existing Closed Circuit TV stocks. Again this would explain Commander Dick’s order not to shoot (no I did not invent the name), as it would indeed be criminal in every sense of the word to authorise shooting without even the minimum positive id confirmation. One has the feeling that everyone now is desperately trying to run for cover.

  8. “This is the problem. Who were the ?credible witnesses?, who put out the story about vaulting the barrier, wearing a heavy coat, running onto the train with the police in pursuit.”

    My point was that there were discrepancies from the start, and yet people immediately proclaimed the shooting unfortunate but justified. I don’t know who claimed he was wearing a heavy coat, or who claimed he vaulted the barrier, or that he did not stop when challenged, but the police have repeated these claims (,,22989-1711303,00.html) . But in this 25 July Mirror report (–sorry–but-we-re-right–name_page.htmljectid=15775706&method=full&siteid=94762&headline=war-on-britain–sorry–but-we-re-right–name_page.htmlr-on-britain–sorry–but-we-re-right–name_page.htmljectid=15775706&method=full&siteid=94762&headline=war-on-britain–sorry–but-we-re-right–name_page.html) there is a witness, whose identity IS given. According to this report:

    “Lee Ruston, 20, of Rochester, Kent, was a witness to the shooting. He said: ‘A man dashed past me at full pelt followed by four or five men.

    ‘The first one was trying to talk on a radio as he ran. One of them had a tracksuit on, one was dressed smartly in a suit and another was in jeans.

    ‘I definitely didn’t hear the officers say they were police or that they were armed. They shouted ‘get down on the floor’ and ‘get down’. Then I heard the shots.’ ”

    This account casts doubt on the claims that Mr. Menezes was properly challenged. (Note that his story holds up to the facts we know today. Menezes did run, but to catch a train, not to flee.)

    From the start it was clear that the police were not telling the whole truth. I believe they made a dreadfull error, but they did try to leave the impression that Mr. Menezes, through his actions, had brought this misfortune upon himself. In this, they were assisted by the Home Office, who release his visa status, which was totally irrelevant. What were their motives for doing this, if not to impugn Mr. Menezes character? (To his enormous credit, the chairman of the IPCC, Nick Hardwick, chastized the Home Office for this stunt. See,15935,1538902,00.html)

    I stand by my comments about handing this kind of power to “unaccountable agencies.” This is a test case. We shall see if the Metropolitan Police is held accountable.

    Finally, when I said I would rather take my chances with the terrorists, I was trying to point out that the damage done by terrorism is not so much from the original act, but from the subsequent economic, social and legal fallout. There is a tendency after such events for those who favour violent and draconian measures to come out of the woodwork. But it is now more than ever that we must resist abandoning our principles. How we respond to these challenges is fully under our control. Let’s not add to the damage.

  9. @ Ramon

    “Finally, when I said I would rather take my chances with the terrorists, I was trying to point out that the damage done by terrorism is not so much from the original act, but from the subsequent economic, social and legal fallout.”

    I’m sorry but this certainly wasn’t clear from the way you originally made the point. Forgive me if I took what you said literally. I still wouldn’t put it anything like this, but I think we are all agreed about the second half of what you say, that is what this post is all about.

    “This account casts doubt on the claims that Mr. Menezes was properly challenged.”

    It surely does, but forgive me if I’m a stickler, these are inconsistencies in eye witness accounts as reported in the press, not in what the police said. And there were others who suggested the thick coat, and baseball cap and lots of other things, with each paper running its own story.

    It is only now that things are begining to become clear.

    “but the police have repeated these claims”

    The times article you link to deals with what the police said to the family. In this case you may be right, but the issue is what the statements were which they put in the public domain, and here it is very hard to pin them down.

    “From the start it was clear that the police were not telling the whole truth”

    I suppose it depends what you mean by the start here. I think in the first 24 hours it was quite difficult to see anything clearly, after that the situation gradually grew to become more complicated, but even then it was only obvious that they had made an error. The issues about why he wasn’t stopped before entering the metro were raised early on by me in comments if you look, but these were the sort of issues which were arising. It was only when the ITV blew the fiction that everything really started coming out. In the end it all comes down to how much faith you have in the police as an entity, and how much confidence you have in the strength of our democratic institutions to handle these issues. Probably you have less than me, and that may well be why you are much quicker to draw the conclusion that the police are lying, whilst I prefer to try and keep and open mind till more evidence builds up.

    “but they did try to leave the impression that Mr. Menezes, through his actions, had brought this misfortune upon himself.”

    Yes, I’ve already agreed with this part. This is really very lamentable, but the motivation for this may be an attempt to secure a ‘death by misadventure’ verdict in the coroners court. If they don’t achieve this then the end product may be someone in court on a homicide charge, and it would be hard to suggest it was involuntary.

    A dreadful mistake has been made, but I’m not sure the officer who carried out an order – if this was in fact what he did, since even this is now in doubt – serving a life sentence for homicide would be a very constructive outcome, especially when we may need to ask the police to act again under equally difficult circumstances in the very near future.

    This is a hellishly complex problem, and getting the balance right will be hard, but this is why we all have to make the necessary effort to do it, this is why all the facts now need to come into the public domain, and this is why I want to stand by the principle that the details are important.

  10. and this is why I want to stand by the principle that the details are important.

    From the start the “details” provided by the authorities have been not only been wrong, but have seem designed to get a certain outcome.

    I won’t call it a cover-up just yet, but i’m leaning in that direction. The police always seem to fall back into the “thin blue line” doctrine when one of their own is under suspicion. Everyone who is not one of them (cops) is treated as the enemy (even the truth).

    Yes i want the police to act decisively if innocent lives are threatened, but their actions are disturbing. Why let this “terrorist” suspect even get on a bus, and then a train? If they thought this guy was so dangerous he needed to be subdued with seven bullets in the noggin, why not take him down in a less enclosed area?

  11. more @ Ramon

    The AP summary below of the ITV report raises extraordinarly serious questions. I saw none of the important details described here in the early eyewitness accounts, indeed they directly conflict with some of them.

    “But the leaked reports made by public by ITV News suggested inaccuracies in the initial police statements.”

    “Officers trailed Menezes for more than a half-hour before the shooting, and no attempts were made to stop him, according to ITV. The surveillance officer who called in reports about Menezes described him as wearing a denim jacket and carrying nothing, but suggested he was “worth someone else having a look.”

    “The Brazilian calmly entered the Stockwell subway station, paused to pick up a free newspaper and used his travel card to pass through the barriers, according to the ITV report citing documents apparently based on closed-circuit TV footage.”

    “After descending the escalator and running to catch his train, Menezes took a seat. One of at least three surveillance officers who had followed him onto the train pointed him out to armed police.”

    “The surveillance officer says he then “heard shouting which included the word ‘police,'” ITV reported. Menezes stood up and walked toward the surveillance officer, who tackled Menezes and pushed him back into the seat. Then “I heard a gunshot very close to my ear and was dragged away on to the floor,” the officer said.””

  12. @ Meade

    “I won’t call it a cover-up just yet”

    Yes, I think we have to be careful here, there are various agencies acting at various levels. The top policeman involved – Ian Blair – may have tried to stop the incident being investigated, but he seems to have been overruled by the Home Secretary and the independent police complaints body is dealing with the case (more on this in a minute), so no cover up at this level. In fact this issue is so huge that it is impossible to imagine a blanket cover up.

    What there are indications of is ‘disinformation’ and a tolerance of the circulation of this. This will now have to be one of the issues. Ian Blair himself made reference to some of the disinformation (which is not the same as repeating it explicitly) when he said that de Menzes dress and behaviour heightened suspicions. He never explained this, or corrected.

    I think it is understandable that the top bobby defended his men in the immediate aftermath (and I have to admit I am an Ian Blair supporter, since I think he will introduce changes in the force, particularly at the community relations level, which will make the anti terrorism campaign much more effective. You need to look at who exactly is trying to get at Blair here). You have to ask just what the information was which was made available to him when he first reacted, we simply don’t know yet at what level who was covering for whom.

    Presumeably Cressida Dick now wants out, and that’s why she’s gone public.

    So Ian Blair should have intervened directly to clarify his own misleading initial comments. Of not doing this he is certainly guilty.

    Now, some of the more substantive issues. In your first coment you say:

    “Living in Chicago, where the police have a long history of killing Black and Brown people…”

    You see this is an important difference. In the UK there is a reasonable history of people who have died in police custody under questionable circumstances, and the need to get at the truth in these cases is one of the reasons there is now a police complaints commission with some teeth. This is one of the reasons I would argue that our democratic institutions, and accountability of agencies like the police in the UK, is moving forwards and not backwards.

    However there is not a lengthy history of people being shot (and this is a big difference with say France) since the police are not routinely armed. This is the whole reason why this case in now going to be so sensitive (apart from the obvious death of a poor innocent boy), because the whole issueof an indepentent armed unit (CO19) is a sensitive issue in and of itself, and having the adequate controls is going to be very, very important.

    But forgive me if I go back to Ian Blair, and now express a little sympathy for the predicament he is in. We are trying to conduct an anti terrorist campaign in a democratic setting, and this puts terrible strain on all our institutions. It is pertinent that some 56 people died two weeks before this event, and that only the day before another attack was attempted which could have lead to equal loss of life, you simply cannnot extract de Menezes death from this context. You can – like Ramon seems to be suggesting – take your chances that the terrorist isn’t armed with a lethal bomb, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    So we have a problem. In the first place we don’t want the army routinely on the streets of the mainland UK as they unfortunately were for so long on the streets of Northern Ireland. But if this doesn’t happen, and you don’t declare a state of emergency, or enact stronger anti terrorism laws which effectively over-ride normal democratic processes (and I take it that there is ahuge consensus in the UK that we don’t want to do this), then someone has to be available to do a job, and this needs to be armed police.

    I don’t know if I’m making my point adequately, but the issue is armed police are acting as soldiers, as a way of circumventing the problem, but they operate within a non-military legal framework. Military operatives when they kill under orders (think bloody Sunday) do not face normal ciminal homicide proceedings. The police may. This may not be entirely satisfactory, and I think what Ian Blair has been up to needs to be seen in this context, and not one of trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, which he clearly can’t do.

    I do keep going on about homicide don’t I, but maybe people outside the UK need to be aware of the role of the coroner’s court. This death will have to be examined by a jury in a coroner’s court, the jury can cross-examine police witnesses (I’ve done this myself, and yes, they were trying to cover up negligence, 30 witnesses to a man were trying to mislead with the same silly story). These courts have pretty strong powers as can be seen from the fact that Lady Di’s car is being repatriated to the UK on a Coroner’s order. And – unless the law has changed substantially recently – the range of verdicts is very limited, and looking at the statements of the family lawyers they will be looking for criminal responsibility, which is why they are now being brought “into the tent” in an attempt to get them to modify.

    This issue is really hard, and I have no satisfactory answer, but just imagine that instead of de Menezes being dead a bomb had gone off killing people. We would then probably have been facing demands for draconian police powers, and an anti terrorism act that put them beyond this type of investigation. I can’t help feeling that unless you’re willing to go out and front up the terrorists on your own behalf, then in a democratic society, with checks, controls and the rule of law, then we all had a part of a finger on that unfortunate trigger.

  13. I recall the chair of the police complaints commission coming on the radio to tell the Government to shgut up and stop spinning the story to the press, in the days immediately after the event. That should have rung alarm bells that something not very pleasant was going on.

    Whoever was responsible for any off the record breifing designed to spin this story deserves to have a very big book thrown at them. Doubt it will be of course. It’s become standard practice for the British government to muddy the waters like this to reduce the immediate negative press impact.

    There were also obvious questions that were not being asked – like why they let a suspected suicide bomber get anywhere near a tube station if they seriously felt he was on the way to cause an explosion. If they held that belief, why not apprehend him earlier?

    Or – If they did not hold those views, what changed when the suspect entered the tube station to make the police believe that he was a sudden danger? These questions were underplayed in the rush to defend the police.

    With any luck we will now get the full story.

  14. Sorry Edward but you are just being too generous. We were told in the immediate aftermath that the guy ran from the police when challenged, vaulted the barriers, was wearing a “heavy jacket” (on a warm day) was behaving suspiciously. It appears none of this was true, and none of this disinformation was corrected by the Police, despite ample opportunity.

    It seems the guy was sitting in a carriage, wearing an ordinary denim jacket, carrying nothing significant, having entered the tube like any other normal human being. Moreover the police seem, from the leaked material, to have simply entered the carriage, forced him to the ground, and blown his head off.

    In these circumstances I’m not inclined to make any allowances whatsoever to the Police or the government.

    It is one thing to accept that we may have to live in a society where armed police might kill on the basis of reasonable suspicion in order to protect innocent life. It is quite another thing when such killings are then justified ex post by the authorities on the basis of false or misleading information in order to cover up incompetence or inadequate procedures.

    I’m almost surprised they didn’t claim the guy burned down the Reichstag.

  15. “Sorry Edward but you are just being too generous.”

    Well don’t worry about that, good debate is all about disagreement.

    “and none of this disinformation was corrected by the Police”

    I don’t disagree with this at all. This is the most serious substantive charge, and whoeever was responsible for this disinformation should be disciplined or charged appropriately. But this si not the substantive issue. The substantive issue is how an innocent man came to be shot dead in the underground, what was the chain of command, and how where the pertinent decisions taken?

    In this sense getting bogged down in the ‘disinformation’ issue, important as it is, is allowing ouselves to get sidetracked. It may even be the intention of disinformation to create precisely this effect, that debate focuses on the secondary issue (did I read too much of Marcuse’s negative dialectics as an adolescent?), because obviously whoever put the ‘thick coat’ rumour out knew full well that it would be uncovered at some stage. Try and follow also the logic of the one you are criticising.

    “It is quite another thing when such killings are then justified ex post by the authorities on the basis of false or misleading information”

    I don’t think it is being “justified”, I think the disinformation is an attempt to “explain” the error, not to justify it. the two words do have a different meaning, and it isn’t just semantics. You can “explain” the universe, you can never “justify” it.

    Killing an innocent person can never be justified, it crosses a moral absolute, which if not explicitly, at least de facto forms part of our common anthropology, that is why there is such a fuss, and why we are all so upset since, as I keep indicating, at some meaningful level we are all implicated. This is uncomfortable, it breaks some of our fundamental taboos. In this sense the attempt to blame the police (for the act, not for the disinformation) is also “explicable”: it takes some of the responsibility of our shoulders.

  16. This a case were misunderstandings and miscommunication lead to error upon error, with a tragic endresult. Berlin Sprouts had a very fitting quote last tuesday from Goethe’s “Die leiden des jungen Werthers”:

    “Und ich habe bei diesem kleinen Gesch?fte gefunden: da? Mi?verst?ndnisse und Tr?gheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen, als List und Bosheit nicht thun. Wenigstens sind die beiden letzteren gewi? seltner.”

  17. “Moreover the police seem, from the leaked material, to have simply entered the carriage, forced him to the ground, and blown his head off….In these circumstances I’m not inclined to make any allowances whatsoever to the Police or the government”.

    Rupert, I think we should now be careful. This is, as you say, leaked information. Could this be more ‘disinformation’? Not the bit about the jacket, but the rest of it. Until we have some hard statements from somewhere we still effectively know nothing. So it is prudent to keep a not-uncritical open mind until things are clearer. All the shouting in the world at this stage won’t bring poor Jean Charles de Menezes back.

    But taking the leaked account, is it not possible to make the following reading:

    We know there were two groups, the surveillance team and the armed unit. The armed unit – like the commander of the submarine which shot the Belgrano – is given clear orders: if you are in doubt shoot.

    The armed unit arrives inside the metro carriage to see he victim being forced back into his seat by Hotel 3. This they mistake for a struggle between a suicide bomber and a policeman, and bang, bang, bang.

    The problem is the separation of the surveillance and the armed group. This is one of the items that the investigation should IMHO examine.

    I emphasise that this is only one possible scenario, since we don’ know anything for sure, the I don’t need to make any allowances, I’d say it was effectively a tragic accident.

    Of course if it was a “gun happy cop”, who simply went out to ‘get a terrorist’ to – as Dirty Harry used to say – make his day, then this would be something very different, but hopefully the complaints commission will know how to tell the difference.

  18. @ RJW

    I’m reading AP accounts of what is in the UK press today. I’m more or less convinced that Ian Blair is being set up to carry the can, and I reject this view. I even think its possible that he was ‘sold’ the thick coat type stuff by others trying to cover their backs.The real issue here is whether you think he should resign or not. I don’t. Just look at this:

    “London’s police chief defended on Sunday his handling of the fatal shooting of a Brazilian electrician by his officers, insisting he had still believed the dead man was a suicide bomber 24 hours after the killing.”

    “Blair said it was not until the morning after the shooting that he was informed an innocent man had been killed”.

    “Somebody came in at 10:30 a.m. and said the equivalent of ‘Houston, we have a problem’,” he said. “I thought: ‘That’s dreadful. What are we going to do about that?”

    “Blair defended his actions as two newspapers reported that units involved in the killing were blaming each other.The Observer and Sunday Mirror said undercover officers who followed de Menezes — after he left an apartment block under observation after the botched bombings — did not believe he posed an immediate threat.”

    “The officers were shocked when armed police shot him at Stockwell station in south London, the reports said, citing senior police sources. But the armed officers maintain they would not have shot the man if he had not been openly identified to them by the surveillance team, the Mirror said.”

  19. Edward,

    One area that has remained unexplored in our discussion is why terrorism occurs. In these difficult times those advocating draconian and violent measures unfortunately tend to predominate, with the result that we fail to have an honest discussion about the root causes of terrorism.

    We must understand why because only then can we effectively combat the problem. Why does a person get angry enough to overcome the natural human tendency of self-preservation and become a suicide bomber? Terrorism, home grown or otherwise, does not occur spontaneously. It is not the result, as some have foolishly claimed, of Britain’s tolerance of other cultures in the midst of their society. Quite the reverse is true. A Guardian poll conducted in March of this year, that is, well before the Tube bombings and the death of Mr. Menezes made matters worse, found that 1 in 5 ethnic minority voters considered leaving Britain because of racial intolerance.

    Outside the Menezes case, the government is already doing many things to add fuel to the fire. As Naomi Klein puts it, “[Tony Blair] intends to deport more Muslims to countries where they will likely face torture. And he will keep fighting wars in which soldiers don’t know the names of the towns they are leveling.” Harsh, perhaps, but to the point. In the Memezes case, two further mistakes are further exacerbating the problem. First, the policy of “shoot-to-kill”, coupled with a strong feeling that it will most likely be applied to brown skinned people, will make the minority populations feel targeted, and will alienate them even further. Second, the way this particular incident was handled will confirm every worst suspicion on the part of those who do not hold the police and government in the same esteem you do.

    The Menezes situation can be retrieved, however, with the following steps:

    Ian Blair should resign. Short of that, he should come out and do the decent thing, which is to apologise without reserve or qualification to the family of Mr. Menezes and to the public it serves, and promise full and unconditional cooperation with the IPCC.

    The IPCC must be allowed to conduct a full and transparent investigation. None of this “secrecy” nonsense. Secrecy is death to democracy, accountability and trust. As you so rightly put it, “[t]his is a clear case if ever there was one that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.” Amen.

    The “shoot-to-kill” policy must be carefully reviewed. If government finds that it cannot abandon this policy, it must radically change the way it implements it. For example, I recently read on the BBC web site that there is no shortage of volunteers for the fireams unit. This is wrong. This unit should not consist of volunteers, which would tend to favour a cowboy mentality; rather, they should consist of hand-picked, steady and reliable veteran officers.

    “Shoot-to-kill” will only provide illusory security. Just ask the Israelis, from whom this tactic was supposedly borrowed.

    Please excuse the length of my posts. I’d like to thank you for providing us an opportunity to share our views on this compelling topic.


  20. @ Ramon

    “One area that has remained unexplored in our discussion is why terrorism occurs”

    Obviously I agree. In a way I am trying to avoid this, since I think that this death in itself raises sufficient issues to explore that it is more interesting on this post to try and stay with them. The issue of “why” has been run many times on this blog. One possible starting point would be this post and its comments.This post and comments on the London bombings, and this one along again with comments.Undoubtedly there will be more opportunities since this, as you say, is an extremely important issue.

    “Why does a person get angry enough to overcome the natural human tendency of self-preservation and become a suicide bomber?”

    A good question. This interview in prospect magazine may help provide us with an answer. But maybe the bigger point is how people come to cross the line between being angry about some things to the kind of fanaticism reflected in the opinions of Hassan Butt.

    “The Menezes situation can be retrieved”

    I’m not really sure I’d use this word, for reasons I gave above to rjw, the dead can’t be brought back to life.There is something irreversible here, and we can’t get our innocence back either. In this sense there is an inevitable partial victory for the terrorists. They are setting a significant part of the agenda.

    What I’m trying to suggest is that this whole situation, and other similar ones we are living through go beyond the normal context of ‘man dead in police custody’, and we are not facing the full implications of the situation if we do not recognise it.

    On the specific issues, I don’t disagree with you greatly. I don’t think Ian Blair should resign (at least at this point I don’t, there may be more to come) for reasons I explained above, but this isn’t an issue of principle and I do think he should apologise without reserve or qualification to the family of Mr. Menezes (and show a bit more contrition), and he should not only promise but facilitate full and unconditional cooperation with the IPCC.

    “The “shoot-to-kill” policy must be carefully reviewed.”

    I would hope this is already happening, and that the ‘rules of engagement’ have already been changed. I think we need some case by case analysis of where suicide bombers have effectively been dealt with in this way, I haven’t really seen any. The Moscow theatre case would not be an example, since all the terrorists were aready gassed, and anyway I don’t think how Russia conducts its anti terrorism policy should be setting us any kind of example. Also, even if this had been a terrorist case, we haven’t had a single example on UK soil yet of a suicide belt being used, so a hypothetical discussion of what we might do if and when that starts happening is not relevant in the here and now. With hindsight I think it is clear that we all over-reacted to the real and present terrorist threat issue. But this is perfectly understandable OTOH since there had never been this kind of complex situation on UK soil before, and we are all, including the police and the politicians feeling our way. Hopefully there is a learning curve.

    One example: we now know that the 4 would-be suicide bombers of 21 July had no plan ‘B’. They were not about to come out and try again. But we didn’t know this on 22 July. I think anyone who claims to really know what al qaeda is up to should be treated with the utmost scepticism. As the weeks and months pass we will become clearer about what kind of threat it is we really face. At the present moment all we have are questions.

    I think it’s evident that the IPCC will now be allowed to conduct a full and transparent investigation, nothing less will now satisy either the British public, or the Brazilian government. I think though that there should subsequently be a full Public Inquiry (John Prescot has already indicated that the government is considering the possibility). This would not only examine this case, but the whole bombing campaign and terrorist threat. Just how prepared were the UK security services, why were there so many intelligence ‘slip ups’, what was done well, and what can be learnt for the future? I think all these issues should be examined carefully, and in the cold light of day. That way our democracy may emerge strengthened, and in this important sense the terrorists won’t ‘win’.

  21. The BBC legal affairs correspondent has a good summary of the legal issues.

    I still have reservations about how he puts this part:

    “Given that there is a statutory requirement for a police force to refer such a shooting to the IPCC, this appears to have been a tactical error and one which has clearly enraged the IPCC.

    The statement from its deputy chair, John Wadham, that it “overcame” the Met’s attempt to block it, securing “an important victory for our independence”, smacks of an unsavoury power struggle between the two organisations and is likely to leave the public even more bemused.”

    since I think what is at issue is not a ‘power struggle’ but a real issue of principle: how do you conduct exceptional policies in normal times? The short cut solution to this – as I have already indicated above – would be a ‘special powers’ type anti terrorist law, which took precedence over normal law in determinate circumstances. As I say, I think this is an outcome we should try to avoid, but I don’t rule out that there may be people who want something like this egging-on the complaints commission, since they know that this may create a climate where normal legal liability puts the police in an untenable position, thus creating the kind of public backlash necessary for the necessary legislation.

    Look at what Ian Blair is saying, there is the complaints prodecure, *and* there is the terrorist threat. At the moment one innocent victim is deservedly getting a lot of attention, but there were more than 50 equally innocent other victims.

  22. Edward,

    I think we agree on most of this.

    I guess it is quite possible that blair is being set up as a fall guy. Someone is going to have to be sacrificed as I feel pretty sure that whatever report they do is going to find some pretty big holes in the operational procedures followed, compounded by unfortunate coincidence. And we have more than a little of the blame culture, rightly or wrongly, in the UK.

    And I agree that really the substantive issue is how this came about, what procedures were followed, what were rules of engagement, what went wrong, why, and when key decisions were taken. All agreed. The main thing should be to actually try to make sure that in future such mistakes do not happen.

    But I think there is plenty of reason to want to look a little closer at this disinformation business. Yes, I agree it’s not the main issue. But there are some very disturbing things in this case that suggest we should not just let it lie. I do listen to R4 a lot, and I distinctly recall someone from the IPCC (I thought it was the chair) being intereviewed on radio a couple of days after the shooting and saying that the government should “shut up” and stop spinning the issue. I’d like to know more about that.

    And while I agree of course that the distinction between “explain” and “justify” matters, things can get blurred awfully quickly in the media world. There is no doubt that the “thick coat” line, and the “running from the police” lines, were certainly taken by some people as suggesting that the police acted “reasonably” – or at least, not obviously unreasonably, given the pressures they were working under. In short -it was useful veneer in the very short term.

    Let’s turn things 180 degrees. Suppose the public perception in the immediate aftermath was that the police had simply shot an innocent man seated on the tube, when in fact the man shot had been armed and running from the police. I suspect a police press release would have been issued pretty damn smartly to ensure that the true picture was known. Or one from the Home Office. It’s the asymmetry that bothers me.

  23. Another issue, rjw, would be whether or not the family are being manipulated. I’ve just read this:

    “Menezes’ mother, Maria, told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that she wants the police who shot her son to be punished. “They ended not only my son’s life but mine as well,” she said from Brazil”

    Nothing can console a mother’s grieving, but when I see the above, or read about the 15,000 pound offer, which may or may not have been well presented, but was not derisory in the sense that it was not compensation (that is still to come), but just something to help with immediate expenses, then I also start to worry about the anti-Blair campaign (do I try to be too even-handed). Whatever the issues, the shooting was not a calculated cold blooded murder, and no-one should be giving anyone the impression that this is where we are headed. So while the mother may well feel that someone should ‘pay’, there may be no one person to ‘pay’ in that sense. I hope her solicitors are communicating this, and not riding the un-popularity wave.

    And the observer has this:

    “Jean’s mother, Maria Otoni de Menezes, told The Observer this weekend. ‘I didn’t think it was right to talk about money so soon after my son’s death.'”

    Is their interest in contact Maria de Menzes in these difficult moments to console the family, or if not is such a quote worth the intrusion.

    and this, from the BBC:

    “But the family rejected the offer, which is said to have caused them offence. Gareth Peirce, whose firm Birnberg Peirce is representing the Menezes family, described the approach by the Met as “disturbing”. It might have been a “deliberate attempt to ensnare families into inappropriate agreements or inappropriate decisions”, she said. Really I think you and I are not very far apart.”

    Ensnarement, what is Gareth Pierce up to?. It is clear that a substantial sum will be paid, and that this was – perhaps ill-advisedly – a small initial gesture. The British state may be in a mess, but its still good for a bit more than 15,000 quid.

    “I distinctly recall someone from the IPCC (I thought it was the chair) being intereviewed on radio a couple of days after the shooting and saying that the government should “shut up” and stop spinning the issue. I’d like to know more about that.”

    Me too. I’m glad there are still attentive listeners around :).

    “I suspect a police press release would have been issued pretty damn smartly to ensure that the true picture was known”.

    I agree with this 100%. But the issue of the role of the press in facilitating the rumour mill should also be part of the investigative brief. This today – eg – in the daily mail:

    “Sources at Scotland Yard have, however, claimed that many members of the force were aware by the afternoon of July 22 that Met marksmen had shot and killed an “innocent Brazilian tourist”. One said: “It seems incredible that Sir Ian did not know what many members of his force were openly discussing.”

    This may or may not be true, one would hope the commission will discover, but who are these anonymous sources at Scotland Yard who obviously have it in for Ian Blair, are out to make trouble, and have been from the very start. Who are they, and what do they want, that’s the issue which is also going round and round in my head.

  24. Yes, my sensors immediately twitched when Rupert mentioned that comment about government spin. There? ll be a Bird and Fortune sketch in due course, no doubt. Ian Blair would have been advised to stay ?on message? too, presumably, until things had ?quietened down just a leetle bit?. I don?t think he?s the bad guy here ? it?s not his job to defy Government in matters of national security..

    The disinformation ? and not issuing denials about the coat, the barrier, etc, the moment the facts were established does count as disinformation ? is tasteless and stupid, but I think the key issue is the prospective homicide charge. This is tough, so I?ll just ask:

    What would have to be true for the killing of this young man to count as homicide?

    For instance, if the officers who shot him knew that there was no positive ID of him as a suspect, that would count as homicide, I think. And if they didn?t seek to establish if there was a positive ID before killing him, I think that would too, although the problem may lie elsewhere in the chain of command, depending on what the police procedures are.

    So one thing that Ian Blair ought to do right now is explain to us, in detail, what those police procedures are, and exactly what the points of discretion along that chain of command are, even if this may hand a theoretical marginal advantage to terrorists in future confrontations.

    Others will have their own views which it would be interesting to hear, but I think I would prefer a deontological answer, not Edward?s utilitarian argument about what good would be served by finding the officer guilty.

  25. The interesting news today seems to be this:

    “Criminal or disciplinary proceedings against the officers involved was a possibility,Richard Latham (an attorney representing the Independent Police Complaints Commission) told a brief hearing at a coroner’s inquest. The inquest into the July 22 killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot seven times in the head by police officers, was adjourned until Feb. 23”.

    Logically the Coroner’s inquest will be held after the Commission reports, and it is the existence of a Coroner’s jury who need to be convinced which is the strongest guarantee of the Commission’s findings.

    Here we go beyond the ‘disinformation’ issue and get to the heart of the matter. There seem to be two main possibilities. Either, that there was a breakdown in communication between the co-ordinator of the surveillance group and the co-ordinator of the armed group, in which case one or other of these – or the person who designed the rules – needs to face some sort of procedure (be it disciplinary or criminal depending on findings), or we are dealing with an individual officer (he who fired the shots) who over-reacted or worse, in which case of course, criminal charges may well be brought.

    I want to point out that I have never wished to exclude this latter possibility entirely, but since we have no evidence whatsoever in our hands to date that this was the case, I have been concentrating on the former (more probable) scenario, my point being that if the superiors or the structure are at fault the end of the chain shouldn’t be the one held responsible.

    “Edward?s utilitarian argument about what good would be served by finding the officer guilty.”

    This is not quite my argument. Firstly I’m not a utilitarian :). Secondly, no, it’s not a question of what good would be served. As I say above if it were a rogue officer, then it could be homicide, and nothing would be put out of place. We do having serving soldiers facing war crimes charges associated with Iraq, and if they are guilty then they should be held responsible.

    The issue is we should try and avoid a serving policeman being charged with homicide for obeying a legitimate order. This would be a case of be careful what you ask for, since the almost inevitable result would be a stronger military presence in anti terrorism, since the military are beyond this sort of law when they are obeying orders (think Bloody Sunday). I am not trying to justify Bloody Sunday, quite the opposite: I wouldn’t want to see more of them.

    I think this isn’t even a lesser evil argument, it’s a kind of consequentialist one. I don’t think you can judge de-ontologically (or ethically) another human for carrying out a legally correct order effectively in your name: you should go and face the judge personally. Another issue altogether is whether those who issued the order took a good decision.

    Which brings us nearly back to the begining. What I am smelling here is that the divided command structure may be at the heart of this. It may be that this talk of an ‘elite corps’ may be the issue. These officers in the armed group should probably be under the command of the surveillance or other local group in whose assistance they are deployed. It is the other group who have the intelligence and other necessary information, and this may well have been what produced the tragedy.

  26. Edward, I quite agree that a police officer doing his duty should not be charged with a crime. That would be both morally wrong and self-contradictory.

    But what about a police officer carrying out his duty negligently? We have not even been told what would count as negligence here.

    I too tend to think that something went wrong in the way the decision making processes were set up ? in other words how discretion was allocated, and how the information flow worked. . But lets keep it simple: some poor bastard cop put in a situation where he knew that de Menezes just might be a bomber and because he was being jumped by another, unarmed, officer, just might be about to set his device off – and choosing to shoot — is that justifiable homicide or is it simply homicide?

    The people who put the officer in that situation clearly have a lot to answer for, but that?s a different issue.

    I presume he was told: ?if you have good grounds to believe your life, or those of others, are threatened, shoot.? As you say, all of us who accept the principle of armed intervention against potential murderers have to imagine ourselves in his shoes, whether we personally would have volunteered for taking on such a responsibility or not.

    If I pull this trigger I might be killing an innocent man
    If I don?t pull this trigger, innocents may die (me too, of course).

    It all depends on how much you know that you know. If you know nothing, (he?s just some Asian on the tube) obviously, it?s homicide. If your superiors have told you he?s got a bomb, or you can assume they know that because they?ve told you to assume it too, it?s clearly justifiable. If you know they haven?t told you that, or you can?t remember what they?ve told you ? well, I?m afraid it?s still homicide.

    I regret to say that I will be very surprised if it turns out that this officer was given an explicit order to kill, or knew that he had sufficient grounds to choose to kill. You can call that a rogue cop if you want. I call it the poor bloody infantry ? but then I didn?t volunteer for the army, and, this time, that does let me out.

  27. “But what about a police officer carrying out his duty negligently? We have not even been told what would count as negligence here.”

    I think this last bit is one of the important points, we haven’t been told, and the law may not even know. I suspect we may see case law here. This judgement will be important, and I think the good news – if there can be any good news in a case like this – is that all our eyes are going to be watching every move, and even more so the Brazilian authorities. So there is the chance of something positive coming out of all this.

    Incidentally, I’m not normally a supporter of Ken Livingstone, but what he says today (Wednesday 24) bears a remarkable similarity to what I have been arguing:

    In an interview with BBC radio, Mayor Ken Livingstone accused unidentified “disgruntled” police officers of attempting to undermine Blair, whom Livingstone praised as “a radical and reforming commissioner” and “the best news that London policing has got.”

    Livingstone called Menezes’ killing a “terrible accident and tragedy,” but said Blair’s detractors within the police department were using the incident to undermine the chief.

    “Here is a radical and reforming commissioner making major changes to the police who has many enemies in there, who really don’t want to see those changes,” Livingstone said.

  28. Sorry guys, but if Menezes was British and not a foreign, this case would have been solved already.
    This is just my opinion.

  29. I agree about Blair being undermined – it’s become apparent that he’s unpopular with many senior police officers, and not just because he got more promotion than they did.

    I suppose the case law element comes in if it turns out that someone had told the officer who killed de Menezes that he had the latitude to do so without having established proper grounds for setting those parameters. But isn’t this kind of proximate homicide just first-degree manslaughter?

    @ ralph
    Even in heaven, where the police are British, the cooks are … there have apparently been a several hundred British deaths in police custody over the past 30 years. Succesful prosecutions are few.

    Unlike in those cases, I’m inclined to feel that if any cop, the one with the gun or somebody in the information chain, gets charged with manslaughter, he’ll be getting the rough end of the stick, even if guilty. The pressure must have been immense, which surely bears on the element of negligence.

    Also, for there to be negligence, there has to have been a correct course of action that was neglected. It may turn out that a chain of misunderstandings ensured that the negligence can only be attributed quite high up the causal chain.

  30. “However the FT today is running a version of events which is slightly different from the one we were offered, and formed our judgements with, in the immediate aftermath.”

    You should examine the impulses that made you so credulous to begin with.

    Is it just a reflexive authoritarianism? Do you automatically incline to believe U.S. and U.K. press releases on terror, war, Palestine, Iraq, ‘the road map to peace’ etc?

    What about ASBOs, hoodies, Blair’s mortgage, Avian Bird Flu vaccine rationing or… the Euro?

    Couldn’t you smell the lies, notice the uncomfortable gaps, see the evasions, read between the lines? Did you really need an FT article?

  31. “Is it just a reflexive authoritarianism?”

    I hadn’t thought of it like this before, you must be right, yes, yes, that must be it. The part of me I’d never understood. Thank you for clarifying this.

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