Five Thoughts on the Killing of Mark Duggan
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.’