Learning Lessons From The Mark Duggan Killing

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.


20 thoughts on “Learning Lessons From The Mark Duggan Killing

  1. Albeit seemingly inappropriate in response to these descriptions of killing and wrongful smearing, if ever a post justified a standing ovation from Ministers, journalists, lawyers and bloggers, it is this.

    Note to JuliaM, Gadget, trigger-happy plod et al:
    Please read at least twice and if necessary, again.

  2. They are well beyond this message Melvin. The Gadget sycophants are beyond seeing what would really be in their best interests. Our journalistic and quill and ink legal system are hugely behind the times. The rancour of official disdain for the public can be cut with a knife.

  3. The IPCC are in the way of needed police reform and we a failure before their starting date. We need a body with a wider remit and to stop police control of what gets investigated. I agree on what can be suspected in the Duggan case and that this is caused by the lack of information. Like most I wish our police well. This is a long way from thinking they do their job well.

  4. This is a letter from IPCC to the Times. One has sympathies with the notion that courts and inquests are the ‘proper’ place for evidence disclosure, but this always looks ‘high-handed’ and always leaves media reporting tosh, including personal information and smears. We should have something more sensible by now, in a form agreed not to compromise a trial or active case intelligence or sources. A big fear is that such investigations may cover up evidence, as in the first autopsy of Mr Tomlinson. The easy fall back by this official on what amounts to an excuse for a lack of openness is typical of the breed. The Times presumably wouldn’t be printing rot if the case was being properly updated.

    Your headline of 8 September (Inquiry clears officer over riot shooting) is wrong, misleading and irresponsible.

    The circumstances of the death of Mark Duggan are subject to an ongoing investigation that is far from reaching any conclusions. We have a team of dedicated investigators working on the enquiry, who are following numerous leads including examining CCTV, and we are still appealing for further witnesses. Forensics tests are continuing and we have commissioned scientific experts to inform our investigation. We are in regular contact with Mr Duggan’s family, and contrary to your report, there was considerable contact between the IPCC and the family in the days following the shooting.

    We know that people want answers – they will not get them from partial and inaccurate reporting, but through the evidence from our investigation being tested – and challenged – in a public forum before a jury in a criminal or coroner’s court – which will happen in this case. I understand the frustration that this is a lengthy process, but I would urge people not to rush to judgment until they see and hear the evidence for themselves.

    Deborah Glass

    Deputy Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission

    There has surely been enough time to either arrest or clear the officers of criminal offences and tell the public.of the direction of the enquiry. If this is procedurally impossible we need submissions to change the system.

  5. The most disappointing Wit of the Week award goes to JuliaM for this gem in Gadget’s bosom:


    Truly, the funeral that taste forgot.

    All that was going through my mind as looked at some of the mourners was that song, ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’…’

  6. “We’d be better off with cops under elected control and outside standard operational police work doing the job.”

    If the Lammys and Samudas of this world claim no faith in the independent IPCC, what makes you think they will ever consider other cops an above-board investigatory force?

    • There’s no ultimate solution Julia – I just think the type of investigation needed is police work and that the units doing it could be led by elected people.. This still leaves us with the Lammy syndrome.

  7. Dear ACO,
    I write to make a formal request for a donation of £3.25 towards my new PC. This will entitle you to three comments on my great blog without any of my customary misrepresentation.

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  8. Mmm… What is it about the IPCC that you don’t like?

    That they can’t investigate their way out of a paper bag?

    That they can’t seem to find evidence?

    We have a saying: “you go where the evidence takes you and away from where it doesn’t”.

    Having been investigated a couple of times I can tell you that the officers leave no stone unturned-indeed, they go after you with some vigour…

    If there is no evidence-there is no evidence… I find it amusing how Police are attacked for being unable to secure prosecutions in some cases, but when this happens when the Police are ‘in the frame’ it’s somehow our fault again?

    With Duggan it is very obvious what happened.

    1. He was either under surveillance or someone tipped off the Police he and the others were off to do mischief…people out for a jolly don’t carry loaded firearms.

    2. He, for reasons best known to himself, pulled that firearm when he had a Police officer standing 5ft away from him with the bad end of a firearm pointed at him…

    No other Police officer in the world would be taken to task in the way we do given the above circumstances.

    As to the IPCC and confidence-some people (MTG etc…) just don’t like the Police, full stop.

    They would not be happy with ANYONE that was set up to investigate them.

    We are the most accountable Police in the world-we have so many bodies set up to watch us-and that’s without the ‘trial by blogger and media’ we suffer on a regular, if not daily, basis.

    Be content with that eh?

    • We don’t get much from police discipline generally Shij I’ve done the job and know you man well and are partly right. There’s a series called Ghost Squad that makes some of the points (it’s farcically unrealistic) – it’s free at LoveFilm. I found most cops weren’t bent until there was regular opportunity, but incompetence was rife.
      The IPCC did a good job on Harwood after being forced to, but I’ve seen no effective cases.;

  9. Pingback: Keystone Cop Discipline? | Allcoppedout's Blog

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