Senior officer backs Blair in wake of Tube killing verdict

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian Blair, the embattled head of the Metropolitan Police, received new expressions of support from senior figures yesterday as he prepared to defend his force against claims in a key report this week that there were "systemic" failings that led to the shooting of an innocent man.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) decides today when to publish its so-called Stockwell One investigation into fatal shooting of the Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 by police on a London Underground train in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber.

The report, completed 18 months ago but kept confidential until after the Old Bailey prosecution of Scotland Yard for breaching health and safety laws, will detail about a dozen major failings by the force.

The document is understood to be highly critical of the command structures at the time. Sir Ian, 54, refused to resign after his force's conviction for failing to ensure public safety during the operation that led to Mr de Menezes' death. He said there had been "no evidence at all of systematic failure".

Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), told ITV's The Sunday Edition: "It wasn't the commissioner on trial last week, it was the organisation. If the public sector is to be characterised by failures and the people at the top going, the public sector is never going to learn. I find it difficult [to understand] this cacophony of pressure on him to resign. It would not be good for policing."

The commissioner, who already has the support of the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, was also backed by the Government's policing minister, Tony McNulty, who insisted that overall he was "doing a good job".

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, whose party, along with the Liberal Democrats, led calls for Sir Ian to step down last week, repeated his demand yesterday. But Mr Davis said the decision to prosecute the Metropolitan Police under health and safety legislation had been "frankly bonkers".

The IPCC investigation, which was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, will reveal the accounts of witnesses to the shooting at Stockwell Tube station. It is believed to be critical of Commander John McDowell, who was in charge of the hunt for the failed 21 July bombers, and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, the "gold commander" who said she was told five times that the Brazilian had been identified as a suicide attacker.

The IPCC report is understood to recommend that prosecutors consider a charge of gross negligence against her. Last week, the Old Bailey jury added a rider to its guilty verdict saying it considered she had "no culpability" for the botched operation.