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Menezes: what has happened to the coroner's findings?

By Simon Israel

Updated on 14 February 2009

Simon Israel asks: are we entitled to see the findings of the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest, which have not been made public?

So the Crown Prosecution Service has finally decided not to prosecute either firearms officer for shooting Jean Charles de Menezes following last year's inquest where both gave evidence. Hardly surprising. But at least it is now on record.

But after three and a half years of intense public interest, three inquiries, a 10-week inquest and a bill for more than £4m, a verdict which forced a public apology from the now permanent Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, the definitive findings of the coroner himself have not been made public.

The recommendations from Sir Michael Wright, a semi-retired high court judge, have been sitting on the desks of the various interested parties for the last month but still remain unknown out here.

The coroners amendment act states that the parties, which include the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, three senior officers, two surveillance teams and the two shooters themselves known as C2 and C12, have 56 days to respond to what the coroner has said.

The only interested groups not to get a copy are the public and the media.

Yet the coroner made it clear in his closing remarks that he wished for his report to be placed in the public domain.

Inquiries to the ministry of justice, the government department responsible for overseeing publication of such 'rule 43' reports solicited this response: "In accordance with coroners amendment rules 2008 the coroner in the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest has provided the secretary of state with a copy of his report.

"A report containing summaries of all rule 43 reports received by the secretary of state will be published in due course."

When I asked further if the department had any intention of publishing Sir Michael's report in full, the answer was simple; no, just a summary.

So the government, which is responsible for HM Coroners, insists it is not responsible for placing his findings in the public domain.

My correspondence with the coroner himself solicited this reply: "Any decision as to publication can ONLY be made by the Lord Chancellor and by no one else."

The coroner made it clear in his closing remarks that he wished for his report to be placed in the public domain.

So at least £4m of public money on a public hearing where the transcripts are available on the internet for all to read culminates in a government department denying the same people the chance to view the learned conclusions of a tragic event, which all argue should be prevented as far as possible from ever happening again.

It's the least that should be done to respect the legacy of an entirely innocent man.

Since his reply to me further letters from Sir Michael have been circulating around the various interested parties asking if anyone objects to his report being published.

The response from the Metropolitan Police is to request that publication be delayed while it continues to formulate its response.

Really? The same force submitted a 40-page document to the coroner which it did not release to the public, on what it has done in the last two and a half years to try to prevent a repeat.

That was in reaction to an inquiry by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, a Metropolitan Police Authority report, and of course the conviction under health and safety laws for failing to protect the public, namely the Brazilian electrician himself.

If the Metropolitan Police still needs even more time to formulate its reply, why should the public and the media have to wait as well?

Surely they are entitled to see it regardless of how and when various parties choose to respond.

This is the same department which last month when launching the coroners and justice bill stated that "the purpose of the bill is to establish more effective, transparent and responsive justice and coroner services for victims, witnesses, bereaved families and the wider public."

Perhaps this political paradox is not that surprising. After all these are the same ministers who are trying again to persuade parliament to sanction secret inquests in certain 'sensitive cases' on the grounds one particular clause in the bill states, "in order to prevent real harm to the public interest."

Whose interests are they?

Meanwhile the rest of us remain in the dark about the final conclusions of a Brazilian family's fight for justice.

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