'Completely unbelievable': family of Menezes condemn decision not to charge police officers

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The Independent Online

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes yesterday condemned the decision not to charge any of the police officers involved in shooting dead the Brazilian as "completely unbelievable".

Instead, the Metropolitan Police is to be charged with breaking health and safety laws, for which it could be fined.

The killing of Mr Menezes, an electrician, has become one of the most controversial shootings in policing history. It revealed the existence of a secret "shoot-to-kill" tactic against suicide bombers, and has put the job of Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, under threat.

Alex Pereira, a cousin of Mr Menezes, said it was "completely unbelievable" that no charges were being brought against individual officers. He said he had spoken to the Menezes family in Brazil: "They are shocked about the decision. They are completely disappointed about what they heard this morning."

Patricia da Silva Armani, another cousin who lived with Mr Menezes in London, said: "I am very disappointed. I was expecting a negative reply and it is shameful. My cousin was shot, they took his life inside an Underground station.

"The authorities, in reality, they did not have any shame. I feel sickened by that." Last night the Menezes family were considering whether to apply for a judicial review of the CPS verdict, or to launch a private prosecution.

Mr Menezes was killed a day after four men failed in an attempt to set off bombs on a bus and Tube trains in London. He was mistakenly identified as one of the terrorist suspects, and a firearms team was told by their commanding officer to stop him from entering Stockwell Tube station.

An inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which was sent to the CPS, criticised the Met for its organisational failure in terms of surveillance and communications between the command centre and the officers on the ground.

In its long-awaited announcement, the CPS said there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute any of the individual officers involved in the operation for murder or manslaughter.

The officers who shot Mr Menezes thought he was a suicide bomber and feared that he would "blow up the train, killing many people", said Stephen O'Doherty, a senior CPS lawyer.

The Met will be prosecuted for allegedly not taking reasonable steps to protect Mr Menezes, under Sections 3 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The trial is unlikely to begin until late next year.

The decision to use health and safety legislation to bring a prosecution against the Met was widely criticised. Lord Harris, a Labour peer and former chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: "The decision to prosecute the Metropolitan Police under health and safety legislation is a ridiculous cop-out, which will satisfy no one.

"To suggest that a health and safety prosecution is the correct response when there was insufficient evidence to accuse any individuals of negligence seems perverse."

The London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, said: "Health and safety legislation was simply not drawn up to deal with policing a city facing the terrorist threat of 7 July ... and it makes absolutely no sense to apply such legislation in the case of such an extreme situation."

Scotland Yard said it was "concerned and clearly disappointed" at the CPS decision to bring charges under health and safety laws. However, it said it was "pleased" that individual officers had not been charged. The two officers who fired the fatal shots are expected to be back on firearms duty within weeks.

The countdown

* 22 JULY 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes is shot. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, says the shooting was "directly linked" to anti-terror operations.

* 23 JULY

Scotland Yard confirms Mr Menezes was "not connected" to the events of 21 July and describes his death as a "tragedy".

* 25 JULY

An inquest into Mr Menezes' death opens and adjourns at Southwark Coroner's Court.

* 27 JULY

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) begins its investigation into the shooting.

* 18 AUGUST

The IPCC accuses Scotland Yard of having resisted an independent inquiry.

* 19 JANUARY 2006

The IPCC's report is hand-delivered to the Crown Prosecution Service.

* 17 JULY

The CPS announces that none of the police officers involved in the shooting will be prosecuted, but that the Metropolitan Police will be charged under health and safety laws.