Frank Dobson: We need the truth about de Menezes' death now

The police, the IPCC and the Home Secretary should publish the basic facts

Share
Related Topics

After the attempted second round of bombings, the police were trying to prevent further atrocities. The dangers and tensions under which they operated may go some way to explaining how an innocent man came to be shot. But they do not explain or excuse the way the country was allowed to be misled about what had happened.

The police and security services have been brilliantly successful following the terrorist outrages. They rapidly identified the suicide bombers of 7 July, tracked down the failed suicide bombers of 21 July and the associates of both. The searches and arrests required professionalism and bravery, following up trails revealed by brilliant detective work. Their performance deserves our gratitude and praise. It would also have impressed and depressed terrorists and would-be terrorists.

The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and its aftermath has changed all that. Terrorists the world over will be delighted. They want us to react to terrorism and the threat of terrorism in ways that bring us into disrepute. They want to bring us down to their level. They want to be able to exploit incidents which could appear to back up their false claims that our response is indiscriminate violence like theirs, that, like them, we don't value civil liberties and that, like them, we are liars and hypocrites. And that is how they and their sympathisers are exploiting the Stockwell shooting.

Clearly, what's good for terrorists is bad for our efforts to counter terrorism. We all need to be working together to help one another. To do that we have to be able to rely on what the police and security services tell us about what has happened, what is happening and what may happen in future. The way the public were allowed to be misled over the de Menezes shooting is in danger of undermining the credibility of official statements on terrorism, and this at a time when being able to trust in those set in authority over us has never been more important.

When it was admitted that Mr de Menezes was not a terrorist, the public were led to believe he behaved suspiciously like one. On a summer's day he was wearing a heavy coat, possibly to conceal a bomb, he was challenged by the police, ran into the Tube station, vaulted the ticket barrier, rushed down the escalator and, in his hurry, stumbled and fell through the train door. He was shot as a clear and present threat to the other passengers. All this was the outcome of a "shoot to kill" policy the public had never heard of until then.

We now know, as a result of a leak, that none of the suspicious behaviour attributed to Mr de Menezes was true. But for three weeks the public have been led to believe otherwise. The police, we now know, put the facts straight with Mr de Menezes' family two days after he was shot, and before the Independent Police Complaints Commission started their inquiry.

But they didn't tell the rest of us. Instead, they allowed the news media to speculate that, although not a terrorist, Mr de Menezes may have run from the police because of his immigration status. They also sought to reassure the rest of us that the "shoot to kill" policy wasn't a threat to innocent people. Mr de Menezes' death was portrayed as an awful demonstration of what can happen when people behave suspiciously and don't stop when challenged by the police.

Surely the police should have come clean. Who would have objected to the police putting the facts about Mr de Menezes' behaviour on the record? Not getting the truth out has harmed public trust in the police, embarrassed Britain's friends abroad, and delighted our enemies.

We must not let things drag on until Christmas. when the IPCC are expected to report. The police, the IPCC, the Home Secretary and law officers should get together to thrash out and publish a clear statement of the basic facts, what each of them knew and when. The alternative is more weeks of damaging leaks, rumours and innuendo.

The struggle to counter terrorism, the ability of the police to get on with their daunting and demanding tasks without distraction, and Britain's international reputation are all at stake. The best way to limit this damage is to get the facts out now. Tell the truth and shame the devil.

The writer was Health Secretary, 1997-9

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions