In the Media

Police to face lesser charges over Menezes

PUBLISHED July 12, 2006

The Metropolitan Police looks increasingly likely to be prosecuted under heath and safety laws for the fatal shooting of a Brazilian man at Stockwell Tube station - but no officers are expected to face criminal charges.

The family and supporters of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was mistaken for a suicide bomber, are certain to react with fury at this decision.

It has also emerged that most of the 11 police officers who were considered for possible prosecution have taken legal advice to refrain from giving full statements to investigators.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will announce the outcome of the investigation into the shooting in south London on Monday. Mr Menezes was shot seven times in the head on 22 July last year.

Lawyers for the CPS are not expected to bring any manslaughter or murder charges against the two firearms officers who shot the Brazilian, or their surveillance team, or commanding officers.

Instead it looks increasingly likely that if charges are brought they will be under the Health and Safety Act 1974, accusing the Met of failing in its duty of care to protect Mr Menezes. If found guilty the Met would face an unlimited fine. The health and safety laws have been changed in the past year so that the commissioner or chief constable is no longer personally liable for the actions of their staff.

Any prosecution would cause long delays for the two independent inquiries into the shooting and the police action that followed it. If a trial takes place then the inquiry reports, known as Stockwell 1 and 2, would almost certainly be delayed well into next year.

A decision to exonerate the officers involved in the shooting will be greeted with anger by Mr Menezes' supporters, who have been pressing for criminal charges. The inquiry into the shooting, carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is understood to have accused the Met of organisational failure, particularly in the areas of surveillance and communications.

The strong criticism of the running of the Met will be damaging to Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner, who is facing pressure to resign. He will also be censured for trying to prevent the IPCC from investigating the case.

The shooting came a day after four men failed in an attempt to set off bombs on a bus and Tube trains in London. Commander Cressida Dick was in overall charge of the surveillance and firearms operation in Tooting, south-west London, as police searched for the four bombers. Mr Menezes was mistakenly identified as one of the suspected terrorists and was followed by surveillance officers as he left his flat, boarded a bus and made his way into the Tube station and on to a train. Mrs Dick, who has told IPCC investigators that she believed the suspect was one of the suicide bombers, is said to have told firearms officers to stop the suspect at all costs. She is the most senior of 11 officers who were considered for prosecution. She was one of only a few who is understood to have given a full statement to the IPCC.

The IPCC inquiry also found that a surveillance officer had altered a logbook and written in the word "not" so that it read that the suspect had "not" been identified as the wanted man. The offending officer is likely to face disciplinary action.

The two IPCC reports into the shooting and the Met's handling of the case now look certain to be further delayed. Even if there are no prosecutions the reports will probably be delayed until late autumn at the earliest, but they may have to wait for internal disciplinary action, which could see publication put back to next year. An IPCC spokeswoman said: "We will publish as soon as the legal process allows."

The scenarios
  • The Metropolitan Police is prosecuted under health and safety law for failing in its duty of care for Mr Menezes. Unlimited fine if found guilty. The two independent inquiry reports will be delayed until after case, probably next year.
  • Officers are prosecuted. Charges could include breach of duty, negligence, manslaughter or murder. Inquiry reports published after court proceedings.
  • No charges of any kind. Disciplinary action would then be considered. Two inquiry reports may have to wait until after internal discipline. Alternatively an edited version could be published in autumn at the earliest.