Thursday, 9 January 2014

My view on the Mark Duggan verdict.

The verdict into the shooting of Mark Duggan was announced yesterday to much furor. Basically the Jury agreed he had had a gun but must have disposed of it by the time the Police entered their final confrontation so he was unarmed when he was shot dead. The killing was wrong but the Police are not to blame.

This is a tragic result for his family and supporters but one that I support.

Let's be honest, by all accounts he was no saint, a self styled gangsta who was under investigation by Trident for gun crime and was suspected to be part of an attack. He had a gun that he picked up from Kevin Hutchinson-Foster and was seen exiting a cab with the weapon in hand. The fact that he threw the gun away (held in a sock to hide evidence if used like finger prints and powder) was obviously not picked up by the pursuing officers. He was ordered to stop three times (according to accounts) before the Police opened fire.

It is a decision that no officer takes lightly. My Grandad who was a policeman in the Met for many years and had served in the army during World War Two always maintained that you have to think on your feet and if the suspect or target looks like they have a weapon or are going to fire you should shoot - after all they won't hesitate to shoot at you.

My other grandad who was at the Seige of Meiktila in Burma said that when it comes to battles there are no cowards or heroes just men who react to situations and stimulus. These were trained soldiers, there were also trained pilots who mis-identified aircraft, shot down friendly planes - this sort of thing can happen. Training goes a long way but ultimately Police officers, like soldiers are human and react to their guts and emotions.

Ultimately the officer who fired the shots did so believing they had an armed felon making an escape to commit armed crime or even to return fire at them. When the trigger was pulled it was with the belief he was armed.

The court case has come back with a majority verdict of 8-2 that it was a lawful killing but the man was not armed. A lot of this is hindsight to say he was unarmed it looks like the Police didn't know that.

I understand that there are severe questions about the Police shooting an unarmed citizen on the streets but this was a criminal who was presumed armed and was running from the Police and the verdict was not reached by a judge, or the police but by a Jury of peers as any criminal or inquest is tried - the fairest way to try someone.

I also like to believe, and call me an idealist, that his colour had nothing to do with it. It just happened, on this occasion that he was black and I truly believe that if there was a white man it would be the same result,

I feel sorry for his family and at the loss that they feel, it must be terrible, but the courts have given their response and I believe, for what it is worth, that it was the right decision. I also echo the calls from Clegg, Cameron and the Met Commissioner that there should keep calm and keep things to the courts and not repeat the scenes of civil disorder from 2011.

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