Jurors asked if they could voice 'misgivings' over shooting

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The Independent Online

The opportunity to make wider criticisms of police was denied to jurors who examined the death of gunman barrister Mark Saunders, it can now be revealed.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman was passed a note today asking whether the panel could add further comments to the seven questions it had been tasked with answering.

The move threw legal representatives for the inquest, the dead man's family and police into a spin as the jury had already spent some eight hours in deliberations.

The note read: "Do we need to answer each question precisely?

"Is there any way in which we are able to voice any misgivings about the police's overall handling of the event?

"Are we able to answer questions which you have not asked us but we might wish you had?"

Nicholas Hilliard, for the inquest, told the coroner he had the option of adding a question asking if any other factors contributed to Mr Saunders' death.

The move was strongly opposed by Michael Egan QC, representing the Met firearms officers, who said it was not the "function" of the jury.

Dr Knapman said he would accept a majority decision before considering it further, leading to the nine-to-two narrative verdicts after a short break.

He explained to the jury how a 1984 change in the law removed their right to add a "rider" to the verdict, but that they could express some opinions through the "carefully crafted" questions.

The inquest heard the jury is not allowed to return verdicts or comments that could imply negligence or a failure of any duty of care.

The decision could raise the possibility of a similar legal appeal to that seen at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

His family launched a judicial review of the decision by coroner Sir Michael Wright to rule out a verdict of unlawful killing, but dropped the challenge three months later.