8 Jan 2014

Mark Duggan lawfully killed by police – inquest jury

Home Affairs Correspondent

An inquest jury considering the death of Mark Duggan, whose killing by police sparked widespread riots in England in the summer of 2011, decides he was lawfully killed.

Mr Duggan, a father of four, was shot by police marksmen who stopped the taxi in which he was travelling in Tottenham, north London, in August 2011.

The jury in London decided by eight to two that although he did not have a gun in his hand at the precise moment he was killed, he was lawfully killed. Jurors concluded he had been carrying a gun earlier and had thrown it over a fence.

(Below: the immediate reaction to the lawful killing verdict by the Duggan family solicitor and Mark Duggan’s brother and aunt)

There were emotional outbursts at the Royal Courts of Justice when the conclusion was given, with Mr Duggan’s brother shouting “f*** them” after the jurors had left the courtroom. Other supporters shouted “murderers”.

Outside court, the family’s solicitor Marcia Willis Stewart said the jury had made a “perverse judgment”, adding: “The jury found that he had no gun in his hand and yet he was gunned down. For us, that’s an unlawful killing.”

'I am going to keep on fighting for my son' - Mark Duggan's mother Pam speaks to Channel 4 News 

Mr Duggan’s aunt Carole Duggan said: “We are going to fight until we have no breath left in our body for Mark and his children.”

Three months of evidence

The inquest jury heard three months of evidence and had to answer five questions – ultimately, they had to decide whether he was lawfully killed by the police.

In August 2011, three separate police units were following Mark Duggan as he travelled in a taxi through Tottenham. According to Met intelligence, he had collected a gun from his associate. Crucially officers never witnessed the exchange, but responded as if it had taken place, forcing his taxi to stop on a busy main road.

Mark Duggan was shot twice as he got out the taxi. A passer-by filmed the immediate aftermath. An officer seen trying to resuscitate him – known as V53 – was the same officer who had pulled the trigger.

Mark Duggan’s brother told Channel 4 News: “I remember getting a phone call and news like that just sort of just knocks you for six, how do you deal with it? What are you supposed to do when faced with such a situation?”

The jury had to decide whether the killing was lawful. Officer V53 testified that he honestly believed Mr Duggan had a gun. He said Mr Duggan raised the gun towards him and so he fired twice.

But afterwards, the gun wasn’t found anywhere near his body – instead, some 20 feet away on the other side of this fence. During questioning, officers denied allegations that it had been planted.

Micro-second

Ex-firearms officer Roger Gray explained to me the pressures that V53 and his colleauges would have been under. “The firearms officers in a micro-second had to make that decision. If they get it wrong, someone could die. And they were dealing with someone known to have used violence.”

But was Mark Duggan really known to have used violence? It has alsways been a matter of huge contention and the jury had to examine the police’s gathering of intelligence.

The jury was asked to consider five questions:

1. Did the police do the best they realistically could to react to intelligence that Mr Duggan might be collecting a gun? The jury said no.

2. Was the stop carried out in a place and such a way as to minimise the possibility of using lethal force? The jury said yes.

3. Did Mr Duggan have the gun with him in the taxi immediately before it was stopped? The jury said yes.

4. How did the gun get to the grass area where it was later found? The jury said Mr Duggan had thrown it over a fence.

5. When Mr Duggan received the fatal shot did he have the gun in his hand? The jury said no.

In the hours after his death, reporters were briefed that Mr Duggan was a notorious gang member – linked to shootings and murders. But it’s a description his family reject.

I have spoken exclusively to Israel Immanuel, who has intimate knowledge of Mark Duggan and the gang he was allegedly connected with. He told me there is no formal structure to the gang and that Mr Duggan was not a senior member. “Why have the police never been able to prove this claim?”

Many of Mr Duggan’s supporters believe that claims of his involvement were exaggerated in order to justify the police operation – something the police reject.

Gun planted?

A huge bone of contention centred on whether he was holding the gun when he was shot. Stafford Scott has supported the Duggan family’s campaign for justice. They believe the only explanation for the gun’s location is that it was planted: “We didn’t trust what happened out here from day one and that stance has been vindicated by all that we’ve heard at the inquest.”

At the inquest, the judge strongly criticised what he called the stark problem of the evidence given by some officers – evidence contradicted by eyewitness video.

The video shows an officer in a white top walking towards the minicab and disappearing for a full 11 seconds – another witness claims she saw that same officer retrieving the gun from inside the car.

Three other officers later testified that the weapon was found the other side of the fence. Yet the video footage shows it couldn’t have been found at the time they said. Contradictory statements emerged in the immediate aftermath – and led to accusations of a cover-up.

The aftermath

Three days after Mr Duggan’s killing, his family led a peaceful protest to Tottenham police station. They wanted to know why the media was being briefed about the shooting – when they hadn’t even had an official visit to inform them of the death.

The family were kept waiting for over five hours. Many people believe that if the police and the IPCC had handled the situation more openly and honestly from the very beginning, we may never have seen the explosion of anger that followed.

That anger led to days of rioting and millions of pounds worth of damage to the economy – costing home, businesses, and lives. Many believe it also caused irreversible damage to police community relations.

Claudia Webbe is one of the original founders of Operation Trident – the Met unit which tackles gun crime within the black community and which was following Mark Duggan on the day he died.

She told me: “The community had a woeful of distrust of the police and there was a complete breakdown and failure between the community and the police at that point.”

Police criticised

The police and the IPCC were severely criticised for their handling of Mark Duggan's death. Some believe their response caused irreversible damage to police community relations.

The shooting of a young black man here on the edge of Braodwater Farm was always going to be controversial. The community has a long and troubled history with the police. It was on this estate in 1985 that a young black woman named Cynthia Jarrett died during a police search of her home. It led to widespread anger and rioting on the estate – and the subsequent death of PC Keith Blakelock.

Those events have never been forgotton on the estate and when the community heard about the killing of Mark Duggan, it sparked huge anger. His death raised important questions about our trust in officers and how we hold them to account. Because as people tried to understand what happened in the split second it took to kill him, the response of the police and its watchdog, the IPCC, would prove incendiary.