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

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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us