Mark Hughes: Doubts raised once again about Met's marksmen

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The Independent Online

During the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest nearly two years ago, the Metropolitan Police's CO19 firearms unit was pilloried. They were not where they should have been on the morning of the operation, and the jury did not believe parts of the officers' testimony.

While the cases of Mr Menezes and Mark Saunders should not be conflated – one was an unarmed man, while the other had shot at the police – there are worrying comparisons in that yet again the actions of CO19 have been called into question.

In Mr Saunders' case the criticisms are of the command structure. The gold commander in charge of the operation – Ali Dizaei – was at the scene, something which is not normal protocol.

The silver commander, Superintendent Michael Wise, was confused about who was below him in the command structure. He thought Inspector Nicholas Bennett was the bronze firearms commander. But, without the knowledge of Supt Wise, Insp Bennett had delegated his duties to an officer known only as Sergeant SE. Supt Wise and Sergeant SE had no direct contact on the evening of 6 May 2008.

The jury asked if they could voice their "misgivings about the police's overall handling of the event" but were told they could not. But, the fact that they answered "yes" when asked if there was a lack of clarity in the roles of officers on the scene was enough for the coroner to say he will write to the Met Police to make recommendations.

But while the criticisms of the team's command structure are valid, it should be noted that the jury decided the officers who shot Mr Saunders did so because it was "necessary". And while Mr Menezes is still a chapter which haunts Scotland Yard, the feeling around the case of Mr Saunders is that there could have been no other outcome.