A number of weeks after Mark Duggan’s death we know little of the case. There are no lessons to learn on the police and IPCC communication following the shooting. This followed a standard cock-up line that is all too familiar, from which lessons should have been learned in the past and new procedures should already have been in place. The big lesson to be learned is that the ‘learning lessons’ excuse is just an excuse. The IPCC has been in place about 8 years and only gross incompetence can be responsible for its repeated failures at Stockwell, the Tomlinson incident and the general course of the discharge of its duties. It is not trusted by anyone needing recourse to it or the police. Eight years on, it still recruits police to its investigation teams.
The release of misinformation that police had been involved in an exchange of fire and lack of decency by police and IPCC in regard to Duggan’s family is standard fare, as is the press reporting of the dead man as a gangster. We need better rules for the media and on case material disclosure to ensure a good form of public scrutiny – rules that won’t compromise the prosecution of a case and will help to prevent people gathering round police stations and the sparking of riots.
Currently it is possible to suspect police officers involved of anything from incompetence to murder, as well as the opposite in that they may have been bravely doing their job. This is all down to lack of information. There are rumours that the non-police gun found ‘near the scene’ may have been planted, that the taxi in which Duggan seems to have been shot left the scene and returned, and there are unanswered questions about how the false information on an exchange of fire arose.
We now know the converted starting pistol has no traces of Duggan on it and that the taxi was stopped in an intelligence-led operation. The cops involved may be guilty of something, but the statistical likelihood is that they aren’t – but they are subject to protracted stress. The Duggans feel police are operating a shoot to kill policy; unlikely, yet this is not to deny substance to their feelings. How they come to feel this and be suspicious of the IPCC needs to be brought into the open and compared with others dissatisfied with police complaints. The non-IPCC story on this is utterly unsatisfactory, as is their engagement in gaming performance management.
The lack of forensics linking Duggan to the converted starting pistol is disturbing. Crooks, if he was such, are usually careless, and only a fool would chance his arm with such a weapon against the real thing. Clearly, if this is either a murder or a conspiracy to cover up a cock up we don’t want disclosure that would prejudice future proceedings; yet 3,000 people may turn out to the funeral today believing the worst.
The mistake we’re making is in the belief that information has to be kept from the public domain to allow a fair trial and that this is possible in the modern world,or even desirable. Harwood cannot now receive such a ‘fair trial’, but would not be facing trial were it not for the public scrutiny that forced a proper investigation which police clearly tried to suppress.
It is miserable in extreme that police officers should find themselves under suspicion when they may have been acting diligently and bravely. I’ve been in the position myself and it still rankles. My guess is we can’t get round the problem, but could make it more open and get matters over more quickly through procedural changes and a change in attitude on disclosure before trial or likely trial. The real problem is dated attitudes towards sub-judice and press reporting based on ‘salation’ rather than facts. This allows the kind of secrecy that leads to conspiracy and potentially, riots.
We might also wonder, in this case, on how easy it was to arrest and imprison a nurse at Stepping Hill on almost no evidence, and the treatment of the officers involved in considerable discourtesy to the Duggans, the issue of misinformation, a man dead and millions and lives lost in ensuing riots.
In circumstances like this, officers involved should not be allowed to collude and should be subject to recorded question and answer as soon as possible. A long and dark story on police evidence and its place in our system of evidence is involved here. When officers collude, they produce versions on the same story, accurate to a degree never found among other witnesses. This is regarded favourably in court, against all scientific sense which would expect some differences. Thus we have a court system based on evidence that cannot be accurate and is known to be based on collusion.
All the issues arising in the Duggan case should have been fixed from ‘lessons’ allegedly learned by police and IPCC on many occasions before. The key lesson is they use learning lessons as an excuse and do little about it. Another is the issue of police collusion on evidence – the IPCC has been against this since its inception and failed to get change. Another may be the disdain shown by police and IPCC – an important cultural problem.
I have no faith in the IPCC and most people trying to complain have none. It’s time they were gone. We’d be better off with cops under elected control and outside standard operational police work doing the job.