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Tuesday, December 22, 2015 

Of all the bright ideas...

If there was just the one lesson to take from the past year, and bearing in mind how obsessed our politicos tend to be with the antics of our American brethren, it's not exactly a stretch for them, it would be that giving the police even greater freedom to shoot people is not the best of ideas.  Not that our police are instantly comparable to their American colleagues, nor do they face a public with such easy access to deadly weaponry.  

Where there is a connection is in the rarity of an officer being charged with causing the death of a member of the public, let alone being convicted.   The trial this year of the officer who shot and killed Azelle Rodney ended in acquittal, as did the officer charged with the manslaughter and murder of James Ashley, while in the other most egregious cases of recent times, those of Harry Stanley and Jean Charles de Menezes, no charges were ever brought.

In precisely which fantasy version of the United Kingdom then do the police need further reassurance they won't face sanction if they shoot dead a gun wielding terrorist?  This apparently is the backdrop to the prime minister ordering a review of the current regulations governing the police use of firearms, ostensibly we are told to ensure the police won't be worrying about repercussions should they face a Paris-style attack.  If it's merely unfortunate timing rather than something more sinister that the announcement came in the week when an officer has been suspended and arrested over the shooting dead of Jermaine Baker, with rumours circulating he was asleep when he was shot, rather than about to spring a prisoner as was first reported, then no embarrassment was discernible.  Then again, it always helps when it's a newspaper does the announcing.

You don't then have to be an arch cynic to detect more than a hint of politics behind this.  Rightly or otherwise, and Jeremy Corbyn did himself no favours with his unclear response to the gotcha questioning of Laura Kuenssberg, one of the major hits on the Labour leader has been over his seemingly equivocal response to whether or not the police should shoot dead running amok jihadists.  It ought to be patently obvious to everyone that in such a situation the police will respond in whatever way they feel is necessary; the very last thing on their minds is going to be what the leader of the opposition thinks.  Nonetheless, and not helped by the shameful response of some sitting behind him, the Tories know full well there is mileage in painting Corbyn as being so milquetoast, pacifist or even better, "terrorist sympathising", that he won't countenance "shoot to kill" in any capacity.  Merely setting up a review allows the Tories and their friends in the press to remind everyone of how Corbyn and by extension Labour can't be trusted to keep them safe.

It also works in the same sense as the "bash a burglar" nonsense that gets dredged up every alternate year just in time for the party conference season.  Each time it's suggested the law will either be changed or reviewed to make sure that homeowners can do whatever they like to anyone they catch breaking in, up to shooting them in the back as they run away or beating them to the point where they suffer brain damage, and each time invariably nothing comes of it or the review finds that the law, which allows for "reasonable force", is perfectly adequate.  The point as much as any is to make clear where the dividing lines on law 'n' order remain, and it sets up a trap for the opposition to either agree that an Englishman in his castle should be allowed to kill intruders in any way they see fit, or out themselves as hand-wringing criminal sympathising scum.

Where we get into even more questionable territory is in the suggestion the review is partially motivated out of preventing a repeat of the Jean Charles de Menezes process, should the police mistakenly kill a bystander in the process of dealing with the threat from armed gunmen.  One almost has to wonder if this is more out of the Met being concerned about officers not having the necessary training to deal with a Paris/Mumbai type attack, unlike the French police who acted quickly and decisively, both back in January and at the Bataclan.  If the Met isn't confident in its firearms officers, then why should the rest of us be? 

It might well be that as the Met also have insisted, a spree killing style attack is less likely here as it's more difficult to get hold of the weapons than on the continent (although those in the know suggest it's more a matter of lack of ammunition, rather than the guns themselves), yet surely if they do have these concerns, their priority should be on updating that training.  It would certainly be more worthwhile than moaning to the government about how the current law should be made more flexible, or releasing statement of the obvious videos which engender fear as much as they do inform.  Then again, they could hardly have a more willing partner in a Tory party always looking for new ways to further crush an already supine opposition.

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