By Crow Bar
A retired High Court judge who presided over the inquiry into the police shooting of Azelle Rodney has concluded there was no lawful justification for the killing. But will the officer who shot and killed Rodney be brought to justice?
On Friday Sir Christopher Holland, chairman of the Azelle Rodney Inquiry, published a report which concluded that there was no lawful justification for the shooting and the use of lethal force during Operation Tayport, had been disproportionate. Azelle Rodney, 24, was killed in north London in 2005 in a hail of bullets when his car was stopped by police marksmen who suspected he and two other men were about to rob Colombian rivals. The armed officer, known as E7, let off eight shots in less than two seconds from a high-powered carbine at almost point-blank range, claiming he feared Rodney was about to fire a submachine gun. Five bullets hit Rodney in the head. Footage of the incident released by the police revealed an officer was heard saying “sweet as”, as the bullets rained down.
The inquiry, which originally began in 2010, was ordered after police did not want to reveal the intercept evidence that led them to believe he and others were planning an armed robbery. The Rodney family was told by the coroner that the full inquest could not be held because large portions of the police officers’ statements had been crossed out, probably pursuant to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. The Metropolitan Police was able to hide behind the law and remain unaccountable, and plunged the family into a seven-year battle to get a proper hearing.
A central question before the inquiry had been whether E7, who had killed two men and injured two others while on duty in the 1980s, was in any way justified in using lethal force. The officer’s account of events was that once his car came up to the side of the car he had seen Mr Rodney make movements which led him to believe the 24-year-old had picked up a gun. He had told the inquiry that he fired the shots because he believed Rodney was going to open fire. But the inquiry established that E7 had started shooting on the car 0.06 seconds after stopping alongside it, and that the officer’s view would have been poor. There is no way that this officer would have been able to see Azelle Rodney do anything at all.
In his report, the judge concluded in no uncertain terms:
E7’s accounts of what he saw are not to be accepted. Prior to firing he did not believe that the man who turned out to be Azelle Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to use it.
On the basis of UK civil law […] the reports ask whether E7 believed, that Azelle Rodney presented a threat to his life or that of his colleagues such that it was proportionate to open fire on him with a lethal weapon. The answer is that he did not.
Furthermore, the report said that even if E7 had held a mistaken belief that Rodney had an automatic weapon, “there would have been no basis for firing the fatal fifth to eight shots”, which struck him in the head.
Operation Tayport, the operation which led to the shooting, was also found to be a total shambles. No risk or threat assessment had been undertaken by officers, many of whom were armed, and there was a failure of communication between commanders and officers on the ground. Silver Commanders, in charge of the operation, were not told there was aerial surveillance of the cars travelling to Mill Hill while the operation was ongoing. Officers failed to carry out a debrief and left Rodney’s body at the scene of incident for 16 hours. They also failed to clean up his blood when the family attended the scene in Edgware afterwards.
The judge made three recommendations. That the Metropolitan Police conduct a full review of all aspects of Operation Tayport. Secondly that the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Met and the Association of Chief Police Officers establish a protocol for debriefs while an IPPC investigation is progressing, and finally that in the case of any other police shootings a senior officer should conduct a full operation debriefing after the incident.
But what is relevant for the family now is that this was an UNLAWFUL KILLING and JUSTICE MUST BE DONE.
E7 has sent a letter to the inquiry saying that the report’s findings are “irrational”. This trigger-happy retired police officer can apply for a judicial review of the judge’s findings and he is understood to be wanting to do so.
The report’s findings will be handed to the IPCC. Indeed – the same organisation that in 2005 found no evidence of police wrongdoing, and carried out a shoddy investigation which allowed officers to get away with their actions. Whatever they passed on to the Crown Prosecution afterwards was worthless.
On Friday, the Crown Prosecution Service release the following statement:
The Crown Prosecution Service concluded in July 2006 that there was insufficient evidence to start a criminal prosecution against any person following the death of Azelle Rodney in April 2005. That decision was taken by the CPS Special Crime Division after an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Following the publication of the report into Mr Rodney’s death, the IPCC has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions to ask that we review the case in light of new evidence provided to the Public Inquiry. This review will be completed as soon as practicable, in close liaison with the IPCC and in accordance with the Attorney General’s undertaking to the Inquiry.
But we’ve been here before. Remember Simon Harwood, the copper responsible for the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson? An inquest found Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed, for the first time in 20 years a police death led to a criminal trial, but Harwood got off. Do take a minute to read this previous article of ours, about the ten questions that remained unanswered after the trial, and particularly the role of the IPCC, the shocking way they went about their investigation and their collusion with the Metropolitan Police.
The Rodney case bears many similarities to what happened to Mark Duggan. Duggan was shot and killed and the police peddled the lie that he had shot first, the IPCC passed this account on to journalists as truth. The officers involved have so far refused to give interviews to the IPCC, they have been able to get away with providing written statements. Again – why is the IPCC powerless/unwilling to investigate properly and why is their investigation already tainted, leading a prominent community activist to stop participating in it?
Over the past year, we have learned the truth about the Met’s involvement in trying to smear the Stephen Lawrence campaign, the Hillsborough cover-up, the killing of Sean Rigg, Smiley Culture and countless incidents of police racism. Since 1990, over 1000 people have died either whilst in custody or by being shot by the police. Since 1967 of no English or Welsh officer has been prosecuted for a death in their custody. But even when officers are suspected of wrongdoing, their word is taken as fact by the IPCC, and contrary evidence is consistently ignored. The officers involved continue with their careers uninhibited.
Only if and when organisation is created which investigates the police in ways it does any other gang of criminals in cases of suspected wrongdoing, can families like Rodney’s gain access to justice.
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!
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