Leading article: The charges still stand

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian was asked about his conduct in the aftermath of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot seven times in the head on 22 July in Stockwell Underground station after being mistaken for a suicide bomber. In the wake of the killing, Sir Ian had erroneously claimed that the dead man was "linked" to the investigation into four attempted suicide bombings on the previous day. He then resisted an inquiry into the killing by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Sir Ian's explanation of why he did these things was unsatisfactory.

His defence appeared to rest on the fact that this was "a completely unique set of circumstances". Yet the charge that the public was misled still stands. And it is a pity that Sir Ian was not challenged on why the police allowed false claims that Mr Menezes had vaulted the barriers at the station to go unchallenged.

Sir Ian now claims that he wants the "shoot-to-kill" policy to be the subject of a public debate. We would be the first to applaud this commitment, if it was sincerely meant. But all the signs are that it is not. Sir Ian revealed yesterday that after Mr Menezes was shot, the police's policy on engaging suspected suicide bombers was "reviewed". But the Commissioner went on to claim that there were only a "small number of administrative changes" and declined to state before the committee what these were. We now have a controversial police policy - never debated in Parliament - being secretly altered. How is it possible to square this level of concealment with the Commissioner's claim to desire a proper public debate? In any case, it is evident that Sir Ian thinks "shoot-to-kill" is the only reasonable policy for the police to follow.

This is alarming. It now appears that "shoot-to-kill" is more likely to result in an innocent person being shot than innocent lives being saved. Is this genuinely what the public wants? The police must not be allowed to side-step this question. When the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into the death of Mr Menezes is finally released, Sir Ian must be called to give a proper account of himself, his force and this lethal new policy.

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