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Ian Blair – Part 1

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) (in S160 and Schedule 12) made some important changes to the Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA), which had set up the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). It introduced an new category of cases known as “DSI matters” (= death and serious injury matters) where there was a death or serious injury following police contact. From 1 July 2005 such matters were automatically referred to the IPCC whether or not there was a complaint or other reason for referral.

However, the main statutory instrument (SI 2004 No. 641) under the PRA provided (Reg 2, para (3)(a) ) that complaints should be referred “not later than the end of the working day following the day on which it first becomes clear … that the complaint … [should be referred]”. Menezes was shot on Friday 22 July 2005. It was obviously immediately clear that this was a DSI matter, but under SI 2004 it did not have to be referred to the IPCC until the end of Monday 25 July 2005.

Of course, there was saturation news coverage of the shooting within an hour or two of it happening, so the IPCC was quickly made aware of it in any case. That raised the awkward matter of S17 PRA which required Ian Blair to “provide the [IPCC] with all such other information and documents specified or described in a notification given by the [IPCC] to [Ian Blair], and to produce or deliver up to the [IPCC] all such evidence and other things so specified or described, as appear to the [IPCC] to be required by it …”. Suppose the IPCC made such a notification?

That is presumably why we read in 16.7.3 of the Stockwell 2 report published last Thursday that 24 minutes after the shooting Ian Blair phoned the “Gold commander for London” (Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown) to tell him that he was seeking suspension of S17 and that the IPCC would not be part of the investigation into the police shooting. Ian Blair wrote to John Gieve, then the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office to say that he thought S17 should be suspended. He did not explicitly mention the obligation to give the IPCC access by close Monday, but evidently thought that should be suspended too: “I have therefore given instructions that the shooting that has just occurred at Stockwell is not to be referred to the IPCC and that they will be given no access to the scene at the present time. The investigation will be carried out by the Met’s own Directorate of Professional Standards.”.

John Gieve was unenthusiastic and replied that “I do not believe Section 17 can be suspended as you suggest. We agreed [in a phone conversation] that the best way forward would be for you and I to meet Nick Hardwick [the head of the IPCC] to review the position and the options available. I have asked my office to arrange this as soon as possible.”

At this point, Len Duvall, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), wrote in support of Ian Blair “it would be contrary to the national interest if, for example, IPCC investigators were able to demand access to the scene”. but he went on to make emollient suggestions about a compromise solution.

These interesting letters are available in .pdf format on the MPA website. Incidentally, all letters were sent and received on Friday – Ian Blair’s is dated the day before, but that is obviously an error. The letters do not reveal what legal basis Ian Blair hoped to use for suspending the law, but the obvious basis would have been the all-purpose Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This interesting piece of legislation allows the prime minister to do almost anything that could be done by Parliament, including suspend any legislation that takes his fancy, provided that he thinks there is an emergency and that action is urgent. To work for more than 7 days this wheeze must be confirmed by an affirmative resolution of the Commons and the Lords, which in the fevered climate of late July 2005 would probably not have been difficult to achieve.

In the event, the investigation was handled by the IPCC which got access to the scene on Wednesday 27 July. The report of this investigation is known as Stockwell 1. It has not yet been published, presumably because of the Health & Safety prosecution of the Met due to start on Monday 1 October 2007. However, it has been announced that no criminal charges are being brought against anyone, and that no disciplinary proceedings have been brought. It was announced on 28 July 2006 that the two firearms officers who killed Menezes had been cleared to resume “full operational duties”. A few months later one of the senior officers involved (Commander Cressida Dick) was promoted.

On 11 October 2005, the Menezes family made a formal complaint that the Met had made or concurred with inaccurate public statements concerning the circumstances of Menezes’ death. On 25 November 2005 the Home Secretary approved various details of the investigation, which became known as Stockwell 2. Its report was issued last Thursday. It clears Ian Blair of misconduct.

Clearly the Home Office went on to look more closely at the legal position because in May 2006 another statutory instrument (SI 2006 No. 1406) specified that DSI matters should be handed over to the IPCC not later than the end of the day (not working day) following the incident, so if there is another Menezes-type case on a Friday the IPCC should get access to the scene rather quicker. Whilst welcome, one cannot help thinking that in the age of the cellphone a deadline of an hour in London or a few hours outside London might be more appropriate.

In the next article I will turn to Ian Blair’s curious claims that he was more or less the last person in the Met to find out that they had shot the wrong man.

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