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Alex Miller

The Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair is under severe pressure to resign after a court found the police force guilty of violating health and safety legislation in the shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005.

The November 3 Guardian reported that on November 1 the force had been fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £385,000 costs after a jury at the Old Bailey convicted it of exposing the public to risk when de Menezes was shot seven times in the head by armed police at Stockwell tube station in London. The police claimed that he was mistaken for a suicide bomber.

Sir Ian’s position became even more untenable on November 8 when the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) issued a damning report on the police’s conduct at the shooting and its aftermath. According to the November 9 Guardian Nick Hardwick, the IPCC chairman, stated that Sir Ian was guilty of trying to prevent an IPCC investigation into the death of de Menezes. According to the Guardian the report also stated that Sir Ian’s attempt to block the IPCC investigation had “allowed an attempt by at least one officer to tamper with evidence in an attempted cover-up”.

The police have claimed that when armed officers approached de Menezes after he boarded an underground train at Stockwell station they warned him by shouting “armed police” and then shot him as he advanced towards them. The IPCC report threw doubt on this claim and noted that “it may be of significance” that none of the 17 civilian passengers on the train at the time has any recollection of such a warning being shouted. In the aftermath of the shooting the police also claimed that de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket, but this turned out to be false.

The November 9 Morning Star reported that despite the Old Bailey verdict and the IPCC report, Sir Ian has stated that he intends to remain in post. The Star quoted Vivian Figuerido, de Menezes’s cousin, as saying that Sir Ian’s position is “untenable”. However, she continued that whether or not he resigns “does not deflect from the issues of why Jean was killed, why he was shot seven times in the head, why a shoot-to-kill policy was used and why the police did everything they could to cover up the crime. No-one has been held responsible for shooting Jean seven times in the head and then lying to us and the public. We demand action be taken to hold police officers to account and will not draw a line under this issue until that has been achieved”.

The de Menezes family is planning to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. The official police force watchdog, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), will meet on November 22 to consider Sir Ian’s future. Although they have the power to express a vote of no confidence – a move that could trigger Sir Ian’s resignation – the police chief has the support of the Home Secretary and Prime Minister and a vote of no confidence is unlikely.

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