09/02/2006

Police marksmen cleared over Stanley shooting

Two police marksmen who shot dead a man carrying a table leg, which they mistook for a gun, will not face disciplinary action.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission decided that the officers' actions had been "appropriate in the circumstances".

However, they urged the police service to change the way officers write up accounts of fatal incidents.

Harry Stanley was shot in Hackney, east London in September 1999, as he walked home carrying a table leg wrapped in a blue plastic bag.

The two armed officers mistook the table leg for a sawn off shotgun and, after challenging Mr Stanley, both fired a shot. One shot hit Mr Stanley's left hand, while the other struck his head and killed him.

Last October, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any criminal charges against the officers.

Mr Stanley's widow, Irene's complaint centred on two issues - that the police had been too hasty in firing their guns and also on allegations that the officers had falsified their accounts of the shooting.

Referring to the shooting, the IPCC said that the "weight of evidence" supported the officers' actions as being "appropriate in the circumstances".

Referring to the allegations of falsifying statements, the IPCC acknowledged that officers had made their notes "in accordance with national procedure, which allowed the officers to confer before writing their notes together".

However, the IPCC said: "The process adopted to obtain the accounts, in particular allowing the pooling of recollections, has given rise to the allegation that they were fabricated after the event and in creating such doubt about their version may well have done the officers a disservice."

As a result, the IPCC urged the police to revise the current protocol on how officers write up their accounts of fatal incidents "as a matter of urgency".

The IPCC said that after fatal shootings, firearms officers should be treated like any other significant witnesses in making up their notes and that any de-briefing should be video recorded.

"The police cannot have it both ways," the IPCC said: "The IPCC has already made it clear that our investigators will not treat officers who fire fatal shots on duty as suspects unless there is evidence to suggest that a criminal offence may have been committed."

Commenting on the IPCC's decision, Mrs Stanley said that she feared the police would see it as "a green light for their 'shoot-to-kill' policy and that innocent people are at greater risk from armed police".

However, Home Secretary Charles Clarke told the BBC that the police officers did a difficult job and should not be vilified.

(KMcA)


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