Blair blamed for delay in shooting investigation

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The Independent Online

Britain's top police officer was criticised by a watchdog today for delaying the investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) chairman Nick Hardwick said Sir Ian Blair was responsible for "much of the avoidable difficulty" caused after the Stockwell tragedy.

A long-awaited report also revealed that prosecutors considered and rejected murder charges against the two officers who fired the fatal shots.

Charges of gross negligence against Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was in charge of the ill-fated operation, were also considered and rejected.

The report highlighted a series of major failings, including poor communication between officers that led to the innocent Brazilian being mistakenly identified as a wanted terrorist.

Much of the 167-page IPCC report formed the basis of the successful Old Bailey prosecution against the Metropolitan Police for health and safety breaches.

But it contained previously unpublished details about the police operation and the final moments of Mr de Menezes' life on board the Victoria Line train.

It is sure to lead to fresh calls for the resignation of under-fire Sir Ian, who lost a vote of confidence at a meeting of the London Assembly yesterday.

The report revealed that:

:: Police officers failed to take advantage of a 30-minute window of opportunity to correctly identify whether Mr de Menezes was a suspected terrorist;

:: There was no contingency plan available to deal with a suspect travelling on public transport despite the nature of the 7/7 and 21/7 attacks;

:: None of the 17 members of the public on board the Stockwell Underground train recalled hearing officers shout "armed police" but all eight police in the carriage said they had;

:: Ms Dick missed part of the early morning briefing at New Scotland Yard after being sent to the wrong room;

:: Armed response officers from the Met's CO19 unit were not in place to intercept suspects leaving Scotia Road and were later in the wrong place to intercept him;

:: There were "gaps in the planning" about how the premises would be contained;

:: It was a "failure of strategy" to allow Mr de Menezes to board the number 2 bus at Tulse Hill towards central London, including an "inexplicable" failure to stop him reboarding the vehicle.

:: Ms Dick should have said that the Met's shoot-to-kill policy, Operation Kratos, had not been engaged and there was confusion over what the order to "stop" Mr de Menezes meant.