Menezes officers escape charges

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The Independent Online

Police officers who shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes at a Tube station will not be charged, it was announced today.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute any of the individual officers involved in the operation on July 22 last year at Stockwell Tube station in south London.

The Metropolitan Police is to be prosecuted for failing to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Jean Charles de Menezes on the day he was shot seven times in the head by anti-terror officers.

The "office" of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, will be prosecuted under sections three and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), the CPS said. It was not a prosecution against him personally.

Stephen O'Doherty, the senior reviewing lawyer, said a number of individuals had made "errors in planning and communication" in the operation that led to the death of the innocent 27-year-old Brazilian.

However, he said the officers who shot him thought that he was a suicide bomber.

Mr O'Doherty, a senior lawyer from the CPS Special Crime Division, said he had considered offences as serious as murder and manslaughter. He also considered forgery and breaches of health and safety legislation.

"After the most careful consideration, I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any individual police officer," he announced.

"The two officers who fired the fatal shots did so because they thought that Mr de Menezes had been identified to them as a suicide bomber and that, if they did not shoot him, he would blow up the train, killing many people."

The evidence supported their claim that they "genuinely believed" Mr de Menezes was a suicide bomber and therefore they could not be prosecuted for murder or any other related offence, he said.

But Mr O'Doherty said he was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the "Office of Commissioner of Police" for an offence under Sections 3 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 of "failing to provide for the health, safety and welfare" of Mr de Menezes on the day of his death.

"I concluded that, while a number of individuals had made errors in planning and communication, and the cumulative result was the tragic death of Mr de Menezes, no individual had been culpable to the degree necessary for a criminal offence," he added.

Mr O'Doherty also addressed allegations that a logbook of events had been altered to hide the fact that Mr de Menezes had been mistakenly identified.

The book had been submitted for forensic examination to see if it had been altered and, if so, by whom, he said.

However, when two experts examined the relevant passage they could not agree to the required standard whether there had been an alteration or, if there had been one, who may have done it, he said.

But he concluded that "operational errors" indicated that there had been a breach of the duties owed to non-employees under health and safety laws.

He added: "I must stress that this is not a prosecution of Sir Ian Blair in his personal capacity, but will be a prosecution of the Office of Commissioner, as the deemed employer of the Metropolitan Police officers involved in the death of Mr de Menezes."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigated the shooting, said it was now in the process of obtaining and a serving a summons on the Office of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

A spokeswoman for the IPCC said: "Questions of whether disciplinary action should be taken against any officer will be considered in due course and in accordance with the provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002."

The coroner will also consider whether an inquest into Mr de Menezes' death planned to begin on September 7 can now proceed, she said.

The IPCC will publish its full report of its investigation "as soon as legal considerations allow", she added.