Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Justifiable Homicide, violent criminals and perceptions

Before I move on from this subject, I wanted to add something.

I believe that the principal officer in the Duggan case was fully justified in resorting to the use of lethal force. I believe this, based on the fact that a jury considered all the available evidence, both factual and circumstantial, and came to the same conclusion. I forgive the jury any discrepancies in respect of their decision surrounding the location of the criminal's handgun because there are aspects of this type of operation, psychological as well as tangible, that they could never fully appreciate unless they were trained and then deployed on such an operation. I believe they did their best considering they could not have been made to feel what the police firearms officers feel in the build up to such tasks and especially in the crucial moments before making the decision to fire.  The closest they could get would be to spend a while on a modern police range to try a few shoot/no shoot scenarios for themselves. I can see some merit in that and once when I had the authority to do so, I had all of our county coroners spend a day with us to see just how intense the training was and, in particular, how the `justification to shoot/not shoot` exercises were far harder than teaching accuracy with an MP5 carbine. 

I also believe it was the correct decision because, many times in my own career involving armed operations, I had been briefed, and had briefed others, in preparation for the arrest of criminals who were suspected and likely to have been armed with a firearm and who were likely to have used it to resist arrest and I know from personal experience the immense stresses that have to be managed in such tasks. Thankfully I have never shot anyone, but I was given lots of opportunities.

I was once briefed in respect of the arrest of suspected members of a terrorist organisation who had committed a mass murder in another country and who had then been traced to a British city. My team was called in to arrest the suspects. The briefing I received outlined their previous acts of terrorism. There were literally pages of information - acts of murder  and attempted murder by firearms and explosives, across Europe. The day before my task, they had planted a bomb in London that had been disarmed by explosives experts - the same day that they had committed the atrocity abroad.

My team was briefed that we would have military support if our task became an `incident`, but that for reasons that were not divulged in detail, we, the civilian police, would have the lead on this operation. Our assistant chief constable was expecting that we would suffer casualties, although he did not tell us this until we were de-briefed after the arrests, later that day. But he didn't really have to because it was pretty clear from the briefing what we could expect.

To say that my teams (entry and containment) were in fear for their lives as we deployed, would be 100% true. The stress in the atmosphere was almost touchable.  I led one of two entry teams. My inspector led the other. As `my` room was breached, quite dynamically, at just before 0600 we were confronted by three men and they were challenged very firmly (our words could be heard down the street) to stand still and put their hands up. The man who I was challenging failed to do so, failed to show me his hands, which were hidden behind the bedclothing he was holding in front of him. I challenged him several times to drop the bedclothes and show me his hands. Allowing for my own perceptual distortion, which was aided and abetted by adrenaline, there were what seemed like several seconds when I was considering if he could in fact shoot me. I moved my index finger to the trigger of my pistol and was within a demi-ace of squeezing off a shot into his chest when the bedclothes dropped and I saw his empty hands. I knew I was about to shoot him and that the likely outcome could well have been his death. Perhaps he could sense that too?  He possibly couldn't even speak English very well or maybe was just scared stiff. We were both lucky. That incident has been hanging out with me for thirty years.

With all the attendant cirumstances taken into account from the history of that terrorist group, the intelligence, the information I had been given about their bombings and shootings and what confronted me in that tiny bed sitting room on that summers morning in August, I was lucky not to have fired, but I also know in my heart that within the next blink of an eye I would have done so. I know I was correct not to have fired because of hindsight - in the fraction of a second before I would have shot him, he dropped the covers and I could see he was unarmed. The bit I am unsure of is that just suppose he was a second slower in doing what he did and I had shot him.  Would I have been judged as wrong by a similarly constituted jury who did not feel and perceive what I did in that grubby little room in an English city. I had been briefed and given a task to perform. I was doing my duty. I was a volunteer, as all firearms officers are - people would be well advised to remember that volunteers can say `no thanks` at any time. If there are no volunteers, there are no firearms officers.

The intelligence gathered was not done by me but by others, scrutinised by others, vetted by others.  We who crashed the door and entered that room simply acted in good faith and tried to stay alive in the process.


MTG said...

"I believe this, based on the fact that a jury considered all the available evidence, both factual and circumstantial, and came to the same conclusion."

Your confidence in the Jury system is astonishing. It must extend to trusting jurors are never 'nobbled' by vested interests or 'managed' whilst under police 'protection'. To accept the infallibility of juries and base your beliefs on that, is a matter entirely for you, Hogday.

Hogdayafternoon said...

I don't care much for juries and would gladly see them removed from the British legal system if we could try that of The Netherlands, where there is no such thing as a jury trial, but until then, juries are what we have - and that is that. In a similar vein (and para phrasing the words of a wise old friend) I also think democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. These are my beliefs, my perceptions and I accept they are not certainties.

Quartermaster said...

Winnie, I'm sure, was being facetious. No government of men can be good, but until Jesus Christ is in charge, nothing will change in that regard.

Across the big pond, Juries can be a pretty sorry bunch. Most of the time that's intentional since our Barristers are looking to seat a bunch of idiots who can be easily swayed. I sat on one where the prosecutor didn't throw me off, and it redounded negatively upon here case as I caught the cop changing his story between his original testimony and when he was recalled. I was still in the pool for her next case and I was dismissed straightaway that time. She'd learned her lesson about allowing people who actually pay attention to testimony.

Ironically, the next trial I was called for was a week later and involve the same defense attorney as the previous week's. He threw me off too. I saw him later in the Post Office and asked how he did that day and he said he "got whipped." I told him that he oughta learn him to keep me next time and we both had a good laugh.

None of the people that I served with on that first jury sat for another case while we were in the pool.

JuliaM said...

"It must extend to trusting jurors are never 'nobbled' by vested interests or 'managed' whilst under police 'protection'."

I doubt there's any need to 'manage' a jury under police protection, Melvin. The mere fact that it's considered necessary must concentrate their minds wonderfully...

JuliaM said...

"If there are no volunteers, there are no firearms officers."

A threat that's been made more than once, to my recall. What, I wonder, would happen?

Would the army have to serve? Unlike the States, we have no constitutional bar to prevent this.

Hogdayafternoon said...

An interesting mind game, JuliaM. Having worked with the military on armed ops, they seemed to like our rules of engagement - thought they were much more liberal than theirs :o

Hogdayafternoon said...

QM. I know of similar experiences over here, even though the lawyers right to challenge a jurors selection has been curtailed somewhat from when I first started playing the big game.

Anonymous said...

Hogday, re the selection of juries. I understand that in some states of the USA there are (or were) firms of consultants that would undertake to ensure that jury would be selected that would be favourable to you (if you were the defendant that is). They were allowed to use questionnaires to eliminate those who would be unfavourable. I'm not sure if it goes on still.
Jury protection over here is only used when there are very serious grounds to suspect that a jury will be nobbled and judges are fairly reluctant, in my experience, to use it. When it does happen it is a complete pain from a resourcing point of view as it is an open ended 24 hour commitment. Even a large force can be stretched. Jury nobbling does happen. There was a report in the Guardian recently which told how someone who was involved in the 1980's Bristol riots case described how he approached a juror on her way home from Crown Court and suggested how the case may go. I think there were acquittals. The jury system is the best we can do unless you are prepared to accept a judge with expert assessors or a panel of judges. It won't happen soon.
As regards the army in domestic policing situations I just cannot see it happening outside of situations such as SF assistance in terrorist operations.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Ret`d. Thanks for chipping in. VIP prot during the dark days of pira was indeed a huge resource and money pit, certainly for my force which had such a lot of `listed` people living on its green and pleasant soil. I shudder to think what juries would do to the budget.
My own experiences with the military were as you suggested ie the usual major CT exercises and, in a long running maritime drugs interdiction job, where some jolly helpful chaps with jolly fast boats and super sexy sea-type gear assisted us...

Quartermaster said...

It's been close to 15 years since my jury time, but during jury selection they go through the pool and dismissing for cause. If your relative to the 5th degree, if you're a friend of one of the attorneys or the defendant or plaintiff, and such. Then they gave both Attorneys 2 or 3 dismissals for no stated reason at all. The first round made sense. The second made utterly none and really gave my respect for the process a drubbing.

Hogdayafternoon said...

QM, when I joined in 1971 we were told that the best way for a citizen to avoid jury service was, on the day of selection at court, to be sure and wear a pinstriped suit and carry a copy of The Times or Daily Telegraph under your arm. Instant `challenge` from a defence brief was a racing cert. "Twelve good men and true" personified.

archytas said...

I agree Hoggie, though my tack is different. Focus on V53 (the shooter) seems inappropriate to me and likely to lead us away from what really needs to change. L7, the officer who put 6 of 8 rounds into Azelle Rodney only saw him reaching for something while sitting in the back seat of the hard-stopped car. He was expecting fully automatic weapons. Once we put men and women who have every right to get home for a late supper or play with their train sets in these situations, we have to rely on their recall of what was going on in their heads at the time. We know from research most of us are not good at this. The standard psychological term is 'confabulation' - something that skews events without dishonesty.

This said the jury conclusion was perverse and may be as simple as ten people good and true wanting to protect V53. I still think the most likely explanation is that V53 confused Duggan trying to throw the "gun" away in some way. I could not conclude this on the evidence as no one saw Duggan throw anything.

There were at least 12 cops present who should have seen the "gun" thrown away and none report they did. I regard the whole matter as a good example of our failing legal system and the chronic cover-up mentality across society.

This said, I detest it being made into a 'black' matter - we've shot a couple of unarmed white guys up here in GMP recently, including the cop PC Ian Terry in training.

I can't imagine Hogday or me being happy to have shot in these circumstances. Some may choose to think this down to not wanting paperwork to get in the way of a clog-dance and a few pints down the Rat and Spanner, but the real reason is shots were discharged with our own in line of fire.

The real problems here are lack of police taken CCTV and useless, toothless IPCC non-performance. The Inquest was a very expensive waste of time because witnesses lacked confidence to come forward to a meaningful, trusted investigation in the first place.

It would be interesting to know just how much it has cost to bring two minor and incompetent criminals (Duggan and Hutchinson-Foster) 'down' and take a converted pea-shooter off the streets. Foster would have evaded prosecution had he bothered to clean the "gun". If these two were amongst Europe's 48 most serious and dangerous criminals I'd expect police cuts to triple!

I followed the Inquest closely. The lawyers were hapless (except Underwood who ran the show). Senior and very expensive cops all acted as supernumerary procedure followers. None of the firearm officers managed to see what they should have been looking for (the gun found an hour and a quarter after the shooting). I think both that officers have colluded and lied and that there was no need to.


BillB said...

Couple of thoughts as I read this HD -

"My team was briefed that we would have military support if our task became an `incident`, but that for reasons that were not divulged in detail, we, the civilian police, would have the lead on this operation."

I am cynical enough to read "incident" as "any/all of you are shot - bureaucratic - orwellian? - speak seems to be there same everywhere.

You were almost in a no-win situation - unless you had shot him and later found a weapon under the covers. Those who do the judgement are never the ones who have faced the danger.

Hogdayafternoon said...

BillB: I know you've read my old blogpost about that raid and I think your summation is close to the story behind the story. We did indeed feel that we were expendable pawns.

ACO: There is a lot of historical casework to draw upon. The Stephen Waldorf case (the Kensington `yellow mini incident`) was very much of my generation. That was one of the first of the `watersheds` that made the planners take some responsibility for the blood on the street.

For the conspiracy theorists, I doubt they'd find any plans amongst the troops who were the final instruments of death. If they wanted rid of Duggan, they picked a terrible place to pull it off. I agree with the lines between your lines. If someone wanted Duggan `fitted up`, even on a firearms possession charge, there are better ways to do it and it wouldn't just involve a planted pistol in his pocket - although in this case it was clear he did that himself.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you and the jury in this case. When the police assume they have the right to shoot you for their protection, you surely have every right to shoot them for your protection.
Seat me in a jury for a case where a man shoots at a policeman who pulled a gun on him and I may well decide that the man was in reasonable fear for his life since it is horribly apparent that the police know no restraint on their actions and do not fear the law or the consequences of unjustly shooting a man to death.
In other words, the police no longer have me at their back. That's too bad because it wasn't always so.

Hogdayafternoon said...

^^^ Anon, you carry a gun? Or condone others who do? ^^^

Anonymous said...

I carried one on active duty in the Middle East. Not now. I live in a "shall issue" state but never thought I needed to carry a gun here. I'm OK with most people carrying guns if they meet the requirements since CCW people are accountable to the law.

Cops are not accountable to anybody and it shows every time they murder an unarmed man. I am having a problem these days with giving cops guns. Seriously. I have reached the point where they should be treated like Barney Fife and issued one bullet to be carried in their pocket.

I'm 54 in 2 days. I used to be as ardent a believer in the police as one could wish for. No longer. I can see just as many reasons for shooting cops as cops have reasons for shooting us.

Hogdayafternoon said...

Anon^^ I see, now. You are a US citizen. Being in the UK, we don't have anywhere near the gun crime, thanks be to our gods. If I lived in the US, I'd apply to carry.
I saw several US police forces during a 6 week exchange many years ago. I have to say I found their basic shootng standards very low compared to the very intensive training regime in the UK. Their basic pass standards would not have allowed authorisation to carry firearms in a UK police force, but you should understand that less than 10% of police here are trained to use firearms which means our training time, per officer, will be 4 or 5 times greater than that given to a general patrol officer in the US. Even our basic firearms course is more comparable to a specialist team in the US and elsewhere, where all police officers are required to carry firearms. If the UK moved to having an all armed police force, then the same thing would happen and purely because of training time, the ordinary patrol officer would have a very basic skills set compared to the armed response we currently have.

archytas said...

Sound as ever Hoggy - I watched Babylon, the C4 comedy-drama and thought it got closer to the truth than the Duggan Inquest. Cops on the ground a mix of ordinary people, firearms officers scared of shooting an innocent kid, gold command swanning about evading responsibility in large numbers and a creepy PR system.

With what V53 says was in his head in mine I'd have double-tapped, probably against current MOG recommendations. I took this bit as read before the inquest, much as I discounted the 'blacks are fair game' twaddle on the basis of such as Waldorf (a much more serious unloading at unarmed whites and including a pistol whipping when bullets rans out - on the wrong guy) and the fact GMP had just killed an ordinary white guy and a distant relative of mine in training.

The jury should not have concluded Duggan threw the gun as there was no evidence at all of this. The alternative that it was planted by cops was unpalatable. You couldn't seriously conclude that either.

The issues I'm not satisfied on are:
1. Who was Duggan really? His family seem not the people to be telling us. Father of 6 with no visible means of support - we should have a description of any job-career history and what his lifestyle has cost us if we funded it. What did a cross section of locals really think of him?
2. One of Europe's 48 most serious and violent crooks and Foster as 'arms quartermaster' looks like dire misinformation. These supercrooks didn't manage to clean a gun used in a crime days earlier and Duggan was on a minion's courier job with taxi fare and a ten packet of fags.
3. What stopped the IPCC wrapping this up in 2 days?
4. A dozen trained firearm's officers failed (mostly) to see the gun or find in for over an hour. None carried CCTV.
5. A mass of strategic dorks, totally unneeded, were on duty doing such as taking phone calls.
6. Cops clearly lied, failed to observe what was going on and blundered into remembering briefed details that were wrong.
7. Witnesses were dispersed and not looked for. They were subject to much greater distrust than police officers talking rot.
8. How much did the lawyers get and should this be refunded?
9. How do we keep buggering cops about for years on matters like this?
10. Even the inquest lawyers noticed there was no reconstruction. I would have wanted to ask every officer, standing where he was at the scene, why he saw sweet FA that mattered.
11. A cop and taxi-driver (treated badly) were perhaps lucky not to have been killed by V53 - some review needed and more important than the inquest in my view

The list finishes around 25. The how I would have done it bit runs to half a page.
1. Compulsory CCTV
2. Cops to be treated like any other witnesses-suspects
3. Sack Gold and replace with people who can devolve operations to those on the spot like the army
4. Force and allow (in law) a body replacing the IPCC to operate with full public disclosure - sadly a tripled bollox pie is still full of bollox
5. Make sure V53 is OK
6. Sack 50% above the rank of inspector to focus on real tasks not daft stuff they make up
7. Get some decent thinking on why so many officers are in special squads
8. Get research from a real sample of people who feel let down by cops and the justice system
9. Get radical models to reduce non-police spending in the CJS.

Sorry to go on old man. I'm thinking of writing a book. I'd say public discussion has missed nearly everything important.


Hogdayafternoon said...

ACO: Your voice, as always, is most welcome on this very occasional blog.

As to your 2nd block of points, Number 7, I suspect it is because the special squads are actually the only places where anyone thinks anything positive is really happening - which of course is a big con and misses the point by half a universe because where it is all supposed to happen is at `point of delivery` - and that is a lonely place .....tumbleweed blows across page..... which doesn't seem to have a point either.