The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was under mounting pressure last night to reopen the file on a police firearms expert who shot dead a fellow officer at point blank range. It came after an inquest jury returned a majority verdict of unlawful killing over the “cops and robbers” training exercise in which Pc Ian Terry died while playing the part of a criminal escaping from police in a suspect car.
The jury criticised Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) firearms training unit which staged the scenario in a disused warehouse in 2008 finding evidence of systemic failure in the force’s preparation of the exercise which it said was “forseeably unsafe”. Pc Terry, 32, from Burnley, Lancashire, was killed by a colleague who was granted anonymity and known only as “Chris” during proceedings. In evidence the still-serving officer told the inquest that he had acted “instinctively” when he opened fire with a pump action shot gun loaded with specialist blank rounds normally used to burst vehicle tyres.
At the time of Pc Terry’s death the CPS said there was insufficient evidence to launch prosecutions against either the officer or the force. But yesterday the jury, which was asked to consider five questions over the handling of the exercise, decided that his life could have been saved if the appropriate precautions were in place.
Manchester coroner Nigel Meadows said he would be sending a copy of their findings and the inquest evidence to the CPS. “There are both national and local implications that should be taken into account for those who plan and take part in such exercises,” he said.
In a statement read outside court Mr Terry’s father Roy Terry described his son as “a devoted husband and loving father”. He accused the force of “complacency at all levels” and added: “We owe it to Ian to express our own disappointment at the conduct of a number of officers who Ian regarded as friends in their reluctance to accept any responsibility for their actions.” He said: “The officer with the shot gun ultimately caused Ian’s death but we firmly believe there were many fingers on the trigger.”
Much of the five-week inquest was heard in secret after GMP argued that an open hearing could endanger its officers. In evidence “Chris” admitted he had broken the “golden rule” by releasing the safety catch on his shotgun.
GMP Chief Constable Peter Fahy issued a personal apology to Pc Terry’s family. He said: “I accept that some of our systems and practices were inappropriate and did play a part in Ian’s death.” He said that since the tragedy changes had been made but that firearms training would continue.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation is still to be held and the results of an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry will not be published until all other investigations are concluded.