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Wednesday, March 25, 2015 

Two reports and an attempt to link them.

For today's post, shall we compare and contrast two cases which on the surface have absolutely nothing in common but I would argue in fact do speak of the way power operates in this wonderful nation of ours?  Not like I can sink much lower, nor have I anything better to do with my time.

First then to the Independent Police Complaints Commission's report into the shooting of Mark Duggan.  Back in January of last year the inquest jury reached a verdict of lawful killing, based on how the officer he was shot by, known only as V53, was justified in the belief that Duggan was armed and about to fire.  This was despite also finding that Duggan was in fact not armed, and had thrown the gun over the railings near to where the taxi he had been in was stopped as soon as he left the vehicle.

This apparent cognitive dissonance raised the ire of Duggan's family, quite understandably.  The publication of the IPCC report has had much the same result, despite it reaching a slightly different, arguably even more inflammatory conclusion, based on its own investigations and the various legal proceedings.

When it comes down it, the entire dispute about what did or didn't happen between Mark Duggan getting out of the taxi he was in, subjected to a "hard stop" by CO19, and his being shot by V53, concerns 4 seconds.  The IPCC finds that within 4 seconds of getting out of the car he had been fatally shot (finding 12, page 450 of the report), with V53 firing two rounds.  They also find that in the space of these 4 seconds, the other officers most likely did inform him to stop, although there wasn't enough evidence to conclude they identified themselves as armed police (finding 14, page 458), that Duggan moved from the side of the car round to the back, that he did move his right arm in a way that made V53 believe he was getting ready to aim the gun at him and fire, and that this movement was in fact Duggan throwing the gun away.

Essentially, after nearly four years of investigating, the IPCC has accepted nearly in its entirety the police account of what happened.  As it all but admits, it was almost impossible to reach any other conclusion as there were no independent witnesses to the shooting itself, or at least none who had a clear view at a short distance.  The taxi driver changed his account of the shooting itself, and could only see Duggan's back.  Despite the CO19 officers refusing to be interviewed, with them conferring together on their account, the IPCC declares there to be no "objective evidence which undermines the account of V53" (page 476).  That there was "no DNA attributable to Mr Duggan on the firearm or sock" is dismissed as it's possible to handle an item without leaving such material.  The IPCC also declares that as another officer was behind Duggan, this "tends to support V53’s assertion ...as W42 could have been seriously injured or killed if the bullet had not fortuitously embedded itself in his radio".  This would seem to this layman to be an entirely subjective conclusion based on an assumption of V53's professionalism, but it most likely wouldn't have made any difference if W42 hadn't been behind Duggan.

As to how the gun got to where it did, we're still none the wiser.  No one saw the gun being thrown by Duggan, not V53, who thought it was being moved in his direction only to find it had disappeared once he had fired, nor W70, the only other officer to say he saw Duggan with the gun.  The IPCC suggests most of the other officers were distracted by the shots and the "explosion" of the "plume of down feathers" from Duggan's jacket (page 486), and they didn't have the best line of sight anyway.  


Again, the IPCC makes some eyebrow-raising suggestions as to how the accounts given by the officers suggest they're telling the truth: while "it is surprising that none of the officers saw the firearm leave Mr Duggan’s hand and travel to the grassed area ... had the officers ... been in collusion to provide corroborative evidence linking Mr Duggan to the position of the firearm, it is likely that they would have claimed to have seen this".  Also, had Duggan not in fact had the gun in his hand at all, "there is no sensible reason why they [the police] would have opted to plant the firearm on the grass such a distance away from Mr Duggan thereby giving rise to the various doubts which have inevitably arisen about this matter".  This to the IPCC is "implausible" (page 485).

None of this is to suggest that the IPCC was wrong to reach the only possible conclusion based on the evidence they had.  The most likely explanation for why Duggan, instead of surrendering, probably did go to throw away the gun is that he didn't realise the officers following the taxi were from CO19.  The report sets out he sent a Blackberry broadcast which mentioned "Trident" officers (page 459), who are usually unarmed.  The only person who knows what really happened in those 4 seconds between Duggan leaving the taxi and his being fatally shot is V53, and on his conscience it must lie.  You do however recall how differently the police acted when called to the scene of the murder of Lee Rigby, with his attackers proceeding to run towards the officers.  Despite being well aware of how dangerous they were, neither of the men were shot with the intention to kill.

To give the IPCC some credit, it does recommend that all radio communications during covert firearm operations should be recorded, as should all armed response vehicles be fitted with in car data recording systems, while the "feasibility of fitting audio/visual recording devices in covert armed response vehicles" should also be explored.  That said, it's surprising this isn't already standard practice, and surely the issuing of armed officers with headcams would go a long way to clearing up any disputes.

And so, far more briefly, to the other major report of the day.  Yes, the sad demise of Mr Clarkson, as prompted by the investigation by Ken MacQuarrie (PDF).  Clarkson's fracas was we learn more of a 20-minute tantrum, involving the strongest of language and various insults directed at Oisin Tymon, ending with a 30-second assault that resulted in the producer going to hospital.  That Clarkson in effect grassed himself up, apologised profusely and repeatedly, including in person quite rightly made no odds.

Unlike it seems most lefties I've never minded Clarkson and even more shocking, I quite enjoy the Top Gear specials.  The show proper I'm indifferent towards, but in feature length format Clarkson, May and Hammond acting like children in foreign climes passes the time, cleverly scripted or not.  That I feel this way and can still absolutely adore Stewart Lee is to apparently be very odd indeed.

As is so often the case, it's the fans that are worse than the act.  When you get over a million people signing a petition demanding the immediate reinstatement of someone in a position of authority alleged to have punched a junior colleague, you can both dismiss some of it as larking about and a bit of fun, many of whom now probably accept the sacking of Clarkson is the right decision in the circumstances, as well as also conclude that an awful lot of people think it's perfectly fine for someone in power to act like a dick so long as they like them.  Except it's not just that: because Clarkson is "politically incorrect", a "dinosaur" as he described himself, the BBC were never going to be satisfied until such a person was expunged, nor were his critics.  We even had, lord preserve us, David Cameron passing comment just hours after he had criticised Ed Miliband for demanding to know why he wouldn't debate him as "focusing on the future of a television programme".

It's this concentration on the ephemera, the apparent belief that some should have impunity on the basis of who they are, and a sense of entitlement that leads many to believe they are being persecuted as not everything is always about them that says much of why so little has changed since the riots prompted by Mark Duggan's death.  Duggan himself probably wasn't a pleasant man all told; those who rioted initially might have been outraged by his death and the initial police response, but you can hardly claim what followed was a political response; and besides, the police have been found twice now to have acted properly, discrepancies or not.  


The above is probably accurate, but even if it wasn't there would have been politicians, pundits and public alike lining up to defend the police's right to shoot dead someone they believed to be dodgy.  It's why despite all the deaths in custody, the Irishmen with chair legs in plastic bags, the Brazilians who "leapt the barriers" and those in the wrong place at the wrong time, no police officer has been convicted of murder or manslaughter in nearly 30 years.  It's not just we're brought up to respect authority, or that some people apologise for, even take pleasure from others acting viciously so long as it's against those they don't like, it's also that more people than we care to admit are just unpleasant and have really unpleasant, repellent opinions.  And far too often, rather than being challenged, they're indulged.

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