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Five Thoughts on the Killing of Mark Duggan

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1. Mark Duggan was shot dead by a Metropolitan Police officer on 4 August 2011 after getting out of a minicab on Ferry Lane, Tottenham. The inquest into his killing concluded yesterday. All ten jurors agreed he had a gun with him in the taxi before police stopped it. Eight of them were sure the gun was no longer in his hands when he was shot. And yet, by an 8-2 majority, they found that Duggan was lawfully killed. The jury accepted that V53, the anonymous officer who shot Duggan, ‘honestly believed, even if that belief was mistaken’, that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself against an unarmed man. According to the police witness accounts, Duggan was holding a gun until the moment he was shot. A gun was later found behind a wall nearby. No witnesses – including the only civilian – describe seeing Duggan throw anything away.

2. Even if you believe that every officer in court at Duggan’s inquest told the truth (which the jury plainly didn’t), we already know that the immediate reaction of the police in the hours after the shooting was to lie. So Duggan fired at the police – just like Jean Charles de Menezes jumped over the ticket barrier and protesters bottled medics trying to save the life of Ian Tomlinson.

3. The media have been inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the killer but not to the victim. At the inquest, V53 could not account for the fact that the gun which he claimed to have seen in Duggan’s hand was nowhere near his body after he was shot. ‘The gun disappeared,’ he said. The BBC website briefly noted the inconsistency, but the headline said: ‘Mark Duggan inquest: Officer “saw gun in hand”.’ Yesterday afternoon, the state broadcaster tweeted a link to a profile of Duggan:

Violent gangster, ‘clothing retailer’, ‘beautiful’ son – who was Mark #Duggan?

Look at which words are in quotation marks. Duggan had no convictions for violent offences. (The tweet has since been deleted.)

4. Even if a verdict of unlawful killing had been returned, it would not have amounted to justice. To be unlawfully killed is a strange thing, a death in the passive voice. Who does the killing; who is the unlawful killer? Azelle Rodney, another black Londoner with a minimal criminal record but alleged links to organised crime, was shot dead by police in North London in 2005. A judicial inquiry which concluded in July last year found that he was unlawfully killed. No officer has been charged. According to figures collected by the charity INQUEST, nearly 1500 people have died in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police in England and Wales since 1990. In that time, inquests or inquiries have returned 13 verdicts of unlawful killing. Three of those verdicts were quashed or overturned. Police officers have been put on trial eight times. In every case they were either acquitted or the trial collapsed.

5. Lies from the police, smears from the press: the Duggans have been portrayed as a brood of gangsters whose son/father/nephew deserved everything he got. But the family are no dupes. ‘David Cameron, you’ve given the blue light to your boys to go out and murder,’ Mark’s aunt Carole said at the United Friends and Families march on Whitehall in October. ‘We want answers from you as to why you think that you can kill working-class people and nothing gets mentioned.’

Comments on “Five Thoughts on the Killing of Mark Duggan”

  1. spiggott says:

    “The jury accepted that V53, the anonymous officer who shot Duggan, ‘honestly believed, even if that belief was mistaken’, that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself against an unarmed man.”

    This is the bit that matters. Everything else is near irrelevant.

    Why did the jury conclude this? What reason do we have for thinking they were mistaken?

    All the stuff about smears and how awful it is that he should be called a violent gangster. Why was he in a taxi with a gun?

    • Harry Stopes says:

      The jury’s conclusion seems perverse. By their own conclusions, Duggan did not have the gun in his hand when he was shot. They conclude that he had thrown it away before leaving the taxi (8 jurors), or immediately on exiting the taxi (1 juror). So when he was on the pavement facing the police (with his hands up, surrendering, according to Witness B) his hands were empty. It was broad daylight (around 6pm in August) and Duggan’s hands would have been clearly visible. It’s hard to imagine why V53 felt he had to use force to defend himself (and even harder to imagine a ‘prevention of crime’ justification since Duggan could easily have been arrested.) I think you could make a case that V53 was reckless.

      It’s especially surprising that the jury have taken V53′s evidence in good faith, with reference to his state of mind (an honestly held belief, etc), while clearly disbelieving his account in other key details. V53 said that Duggan was holding a gun, and that he was upright, pointing the gun at him when both shots were fired. The jurors clearly don’t believe the former, and the ballistics evidence shows the latter to be untrue as well. We also know that the police colluded in writing up their evidence, and that the account of how, when and by whom the gun was found is so incoherent and contradictory (http://www.tottenhamjournal.co.uk/news/crime-court/mark_duggan_inquest_coroner_leaves_jury_to_resolve_stark_problem_of_contradictory_police_evidence_1_3103080) that V59, operational firearms commander in the incident, had to be recalled to account for the contradictions. The Judge said of his evidence: “It is not a question of anybody being mistaken. It is something which is a direct contradiction here; there is that stark problem.”

      Together with the evidence of Witness J, who shortly after the shots were fired saw a police officer emerging from the taxi holding a gun with a delighted face “like he’d found gold”, this is strongly suggestive of the gun remaining in the taxi throughout the incident, being found after Duggan was shot, and then planted on the scene. Also, by the way, the gun doesn’t have any of Duggan’s DNA on it, nor were there any fibres from the sock the gun was in, on his clothes or body.

  2. elisehendrick says:

    Actually, the jury had two lawful killing findings to choose from, and the written jury findings do not actually specify which one they relied on. The one was self-defence, the standards for which were described in some detail, including – quite correctly – the requirement that the use of force be proportional to the perceived threat. The other was ‘prevention of crime’, for which no standards were stated at all. We don’t really know which one they relied on, since it isn’t specified, but it seems more likely that they relied on’prevention of crime’, since it was discussed so vaguely that they might easily have believed they were compelled to reach a conclusion of ‘lawful killing’ based on a mere assertion that some offence was meant to be prevented by the killing, no matter what the offence or what the evidence was that there even was an offence to prevent.

    • Phil Edwards says:

      That’s interesting, not to say disturbing. I would have hoped that the conditions under which lethal force could be used preventively would be drawn more narrowly than the guidelines on self-defence, not less so.

      I think the inquest jury might have been willing to return a verdict implying that a given police officer had lied to them – or carried out an execution – if it hadn’t been for the obvious implication, that lying and using excessive force are things that police officers sometimes do. Denning’s “appalling vista” argument is alive and well.

      • Harry Stopes says:

        Thanks Phil for reminding us of this. I was talking about the Birmingham Six with a friend the other day and couldn’t remember Denning’s exact words.
        As I wrote in a comment above, the jury were clearly able to see that some of the police evidence was a lie, but it appears that like Denning they weren’t prepared to really accept the implications of that conclusion.

  3. luke.spanton says:

    “All ten jurors agreed he had a gun with him in the taxi before police stopped it”.

    How can this man possibly be compared to de Menezes?

    And is the reference to the ‘state broadcaster’ an allegation that the BBC is also involved in some kind of conspiracy?

    Honestly, the LRB can be pretty trying! I’m getting pretty close to swapping to the TLS.

    • Harry Stopes says:

      The reference to de Menezes – as I thought was quite clear from the paragraph in which he came up – is about the police’s default reaction after they kill somebody. They lie. De Menezes did not jump over the ticket barriers (or wear a large coat, etc), and Duggan did not shoot at police. In both cases, the police lied in order to make the victim look like he ‘deserved it.’ I don’t think it’s hard to grasp the point of the comparison.

      For all that Conservatives complain about a supposed left wing bias in the BBC, their output is pretty supportive of the establishment in its various forms, and in this case the police. Remember when they interviewed a disabled man pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged across the street by police? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXNJ3MZ-AUo) They tried to imply that he had been a threat to the officers who assaulted him, with questions like “there’s a suggestion that you were rolling forward towards the officers, is that true?” Watch the interview. Can you imagine a police officer ever being interviewed in such a hostile manner on the BBC?

      • luke.spanton says:

        Harry – thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my post. This is one of the first times I’ve ever dared to write something below the line, so it’s very gratifying for it to be read by the author of the original article (post? blog? not sure what these are called).

        Regarding the association with de Menezez. The shooting of de Menezez was a gross miscarriage of justice caused by negligence, stupidity and probably a touch of racism, which went right to the top of the government of the time. What is clear is that you drew a direct link between the his case and that of Duggan, with the intention of associating the innocence of the one with the other – a man travelling with a gun.

        Conservatives see a ‘left-wing bias’ in the reporting of the BBC precisely because it challenges their comfortably-held views. Any bias or conspiracy you perceive is, I think, because of the same reason.

        While the case of the disabled man may have also been unfair because he didn’t do what it was he was accused of (I’m not familiar with the case), I’m generally uncomfortable with the view that assumptions could be made about a man’s intentions or danger he poses purely because he’s in a wheelchair. This could be considered to be patronising and is the same as making assumptions about disabled people in other circumstances, for example what work they are capable of.

        Thanks again for taking the time.

        • Harry Stopes says:

          Hi Luke, very happy to chat when people comment on my posts, thanks for taking the time to do so. However, I’d reiterate that you have got the de Menezes reference completely wrong. The paragraph begins and ends talking about police lying. That’s the point. De Menezes and Duggan are linked not because they are both equally ‘innocent’, but because the police lied in both cases about the circumstances of their death. You know that right? The IPCC have already been forced to apologise for saying MD shot at police. And as Lee Jasper said yesterday I believe, “it doesn’t matter if Mark Duggan was Al Capone – if he was unarmed he should have been arrested, not shot.”
          I’ll come back to the bbc tomoz.

          • Harry Stopes says:

            To close off the De Menezes point – that police should tell the truth about their actions, including wrongdoing, is a principle that holds universally. The identity, criminal past or character of the people they interact with, arrest or kill, have no bearing on that principle.

            On the BBC and the wheelchair-bound protestor. I urge you to watch the video. The guy is unable to roll himself without assistance (i.e. being pushed). There is no way, whatsoever, that he could possibly have presented a threat to anybody, let alone a police officer with body armour, baton, etc.

            • Jannerbob says:

              VERDICT!

              Police were justified in removing a man from his wheelchair during a violent demonstration against tuition fees in central London, Scotland Yard has said.

              Jody McIntyre said he was tipped out of his chair and dragged across a road on 9 December, and was hit with a baton.

              A police probe found officers were right to remove him from the wheelchair based on the “perceived risk” to him, while the baton hit was “inadvertent”.

              The media went into attack mode as soon as the video surfaced,Richard Littlejohn compared him to the Little Britain character ANDY! the one who pretends to be disabled.Ealing Councillor Phil Taylor went further stating Jody is a liar and can actually walk,this despite having cerebral palsy.He also had a complaint made against him to Police accusing Jody of incitement to riot.The media,politicians and Police all lie in the same rat infested bed.They could turn Ghandi into Vlad the Impaler and people would buy into it because most people believe everything they read in newspapers,Jody McIntyre a disabled man in a wheelchair brutalized by thugs was the aggressor all along.Did you hear that noise,that was George Orwell turning in his grave.

    • Jannerbob says:

      Menezes V Duggan,the Police colluded with each other when writing up their evidence in both cases.The Police leaked stories,in both cases, to the media,Menezes was a rapist,Duggan a gangster to sway public opinion.The Police let out false testimony in both cases,Menezes ran, hurdling barriers,Duggan shot first.The Police thought Menezes had a bomb,they thought Duggan had a gun.They shot to kill Menezes using dumdum bullets,they shot to kill Duggan using dumdum bullets.The Police were cleared of wrongdoing in the JC de Menezes case and cleared of wrongdoing in the Duggan case.Duggan was not holding a gun,Menezes had no bomb.Menezes was shot execution style,Duggan was shot execution style,nobody survives a dundum,a bullet banned in warfare.

      The two cases are almost identical,execution in broad daylight in front of witnesses.Nothing to see here,move along!.

  4. Stephen says:

    ehh “but the headline said: ‘Mark Duggan inquest: Officer “saw gun in hand”.’… is actually the correct way of reporting the proceedings . It’s clear that it is a claim being made in evidence by the police rather than an unchallenged statement of fact.

    There is a consistent pattern of Met shoot someone – Met lie about it – reporters pass on Met statements as fact rather than ‘police say’ or ‘police claim’…The BBC are as complicit in this as anyone else..

    But the headline mentioned about the inquest doesn’t fall into that category… the tweet however IS indefensible

  5. Jannerbob says:

    The forensic evidence is conclusive,no fingerprints or DNA on the gun nor the sock,fingerprints on the box but not in the places needed to open the box,no forensic evidence that there was ever a gun in the box.
    You simply cannot handle a gun or any other object without leaving skin cells,hair follicles,sweat or blood just as you cannot put a loaded pistol in a box without finding residue inside that box.That the jurors concluded that Duggan did have a gun whilst absolutely no evidence exists to prove this and then conclude that he had thrown it away despite not one police officer ever claiming Duggan threw the gun is a baseless assumption.The pathologist proved the Police lied,video produced by witness B proved the Police lied,eye witness statements proved the Police lied added to their being absolutely nothing in the way of forensic evidence to back up anything that the Police claimed make the verdict an insult to the intelligence.Assumptions outweighed actual,tangible evidence,assumptions that a gun was thrown by a man who clearly never touched the gun and assumptions that the Police acted lawfully in shooting an unarmed man.3 months of listening to Pathologist’s,dozens of eye witness testimonies and forensic evaluations,just to ignore all of it,who the hell were these people?.

  6. Jannerbob says:

    Officers say they found a handgun 7 metres away from where Duggan was shot lying on grass beyond a wall. Witness B contested statements given by officers of when the gun was found and by which officer. His video footage shows one officer, V59, telling others to go and secure the gun before another, Z51 actually finds it.V59 knew exactly where it was before it was even found and the only explanation is that he put it there just like the witnesses stated.That is why Mark Duggans DNA is not on the gun,
    TRANSCRIPT!

    20 Q. We can see that’s the ARV — sorry, that’s the ARV
    vehicle that arrives with the three officers and I have
    just read to you what they say.
    A. Yes.
    24 Q. They are saying at this stage you are telling them to go
    and secure the gun on the other side of the railings
    1 I see you shaking your head — but they are saying to
    2 you to go and secure the gun on the other side of the
    3 railings. Now, there’s a problem, isn’t there? The gun
    4 hadn’t been found, so it begs the question: how did you know the gun was on the other side of the railings?

    We would not be aware of this discrepancy without Witness B and the video evidence provided.The jury completely ignored witness B’s video and oral testimony,which is shameful.

    TRANSCRIPT!
    25 Q. Why are you smiling, what’s funny?

    A natural response to being caught with your pants down.

  7. Simon Wood says:

    NLRBMD (North London Review of Books Man Dem) are brave to comment at all.

  8. bluecat says:

    Not the first time and won’t be the last.

    Reaching back to before muslims (or people who looked like they might be muslim) were the default terrorists, there’s the case of Harry Stanley, (shot dead in 1999) who was mistakenly reported to be an Irishman with a shotgun in a bag, instead of the broad Scots speaker carrying a wooden table leg that he actually was.

    Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but the police marksmen, on oath, gave testimony that was both improbable (claiming he pointed the table leg as if it was a gun he was sighting along at them, while it was still wrapped in a plastic bag) and contradicted by the forensic evidence that he had been shot from behind.

    The lying marksmen were suspended, but then 120 of their colleagues handed in their authorisation cards and they were reinstated.

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