UK police get away with killing of Mark Duggan [World Socialist Website]

By Julie Hyland

10 January 2014

The eight to two verdict by a coroner’s inquest that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed by London’s Metropolitan Police is a travesty of justice.

The jurors arrived at their findings despite unanimous agreement that the 29-year-old father of six was unarmed when he was shot twice in Tottenham, north London by an armed police officer on August 4, 2011.

Duggan’s killing was the spark for riots that began just two days later in Tottenham after a protest over the young father’s murder and which quickly spread across the country.

From the start, the powers that be had been reluctant to hold any investigation into Duggan’s shooting — not least because of their insistence that the riots were not the result of yet another instance of police brutality, but were down to “criminality”.

As in case of previous police killings, most notoriously the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian worker murdered by police in July 2005, misleading information as to Duggan’s shooting was initially given to the press.

The misnamed Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC), which has been involved in the cover-up of every police shooting, briefed the media that when three police cars blocked the taxi in which he had been travelling, Duggan leapt out of the vehicle and began firing at police. A police officer had only narrowly escaped death, it was claimed, when one of the bullets fired by Duggan lodged in his radio.

The IPCC was forced to apologise as it emerged that Duggan had been unarmed and that the only shots fired were by a police officer — identified only as V53.

An account to the inquest by the only independent eye-witness to the shooting—known only as “B”—said that Duggan raised his hands in surrender, and looked “trapped and baffled” before being shot twice — the second time straight through his chest. It was that bullet which, having exited his body, hit the police radio. A pathologist said that Duggan was dead within “10 heartbeats” of that shot.

At a pre-inquest hearing into Duggan’s death in March 2012, the IPCC said that a full inquest might not be able to take place because “sensitive material relating to police decision-making may have to be withheld from the coroner,” and suggested that it might have to be held in secret.

It subsequently emerged that the most basic essentials of investigation at the crime scene were not pursued. The taxi was removed by police before a thorough examination and had to be returned, while police officers present at the scene refused to answer IPCC questions, providing written statements instead, after conferring between themselves. In addition, the family was not officially informed for several days of Duggan’s death.

The two-year delay in the coroner’s inquiry provided ample time for the authorities, in collaboration with the media, to step up their campaign of vilification against Duggan in order to justify his murder.

The young father was branded one of the most notorious “gangsters” in Europe, despite only two petty convictions — for cannabis possession and handling stolen goods — and no custodial record. At the inquest, police admitted that much of the intelligence on which such allegations were made “was of a quality equivalent to someone hearing a conversation in a pub.”

Central to this campaign was the decision to try Kevin Hutchinson-Foster prior to the coroner’s inquiry on charges of “selling or transferring a prohibited firearm” to Duggan. But the jury failed to arrive at a verdict and a retrial was ordered. On January 31, 2013 Hutchinson-Foster was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

This meant that, when the inquest finally began on September 16, 2013, Duggan’s reputation had already been destroyed by police and media. In his summing up to the jury, the inquest coroner said Hutchinson-Foster’s conviction for supplying the gun was “not determinative” of Duggan having a gun in the taxi, but it was “very strong evidence…”

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