A man gunned down in the street by a "dangerous assassin" during a police undercover surveillance operation is suing the Metropolitan force for damages for allegedly failing to protect him.
A High Court judge heard yesterday that Anthony Brindle, 37, was shot and severely injured outside his home in south London in September 1995 by a contract killer, Michael Boyle, a former IRA intelligence officer.
Boyle, from Dublin, was jailed for life for the attempted murder of Mr Brindle after a trial at the Old Bailey in 1997.
Mr Brindle's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson, told Mr Justice Curtis at the High Court in London yesterday: "The police knew Mr Brindle was under mortal threat and they chose not to tell him. Having chosen not to tell him, they must have had a responsibility to do something about it to protect him.
"They knew that Boyle was a dangerous assassin and they knew that the overwhelming likelihood was that Mr Brindle was his target. They ought to have known that if it came to the pulling of guns and firing of shots, there was a serious risk they weren't going to be able to act quickly enough."
Mr Brindle was present in court for the hearing. His brother David was shot dead in 1991 by two masked men in a pub, and in 1994 his brother George was hit with several shots from a handgun fired in the street by an assailant.
Mr Tomlinson, who accused the police of negligence, said they had "taken an unacceptable risk with a man's life".
Mr Brindle, a market trader, was shot in Christopher Close, Rotherhithe, "in the presence of, I think, 39 police officers in the vicinity," Mr Tomlinson said.
Two specialist armed officers were hiding inside a British Gas van parked in the street.
Although officers were unable to prevent Mr Brindle being shot, Mr Tomlinson stressed that "in respect of the competence of the individual officers who had to react to an extreme situation when the first shots were fired" he was making no criticism.
It was not part of Mr Brindle's case that officers had acted dishonestly or in bad faith, he said. His case was that the police plan had been "misconceived", that it was the "whole strategy that was flawed – the whole strategy of observing a contract killer and trying to catch him before he committed his crime".
Mr Tomlinson claimed the Metropolitan force had owed Mr Brindle a duty of care.
He described how on the day of the incident Boyle had fired shots from the inside of a van and hit Mr Brindle. After he emerged from the vehicle, police shot Boyle "to prevent him doing anything further".
Mr Brindle sustained gunshot wounds to the left elbow, chest and thigh. He says he also suffered psychiatric injury leading to palpitations, insomnia, inability to concentrate and difficulty breathing.
The Metropolitan force is contesting the case, which is expected to last several days.
Mr Justice Curtis is only being asked to decide the issue of liability at this stage. The question of damages, if it arises, would be dealt with at a later date.Reuse content