July 17, 2006

UK prosecutors to reveal mistaken shooting decision

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prosecutors are to announce on Monday
whether British police officers involved in the fatal shooting
of an innocent Brazilian man mistaken for a suicide bomber will
face criminal charges.

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot seven times in the head on
a London underground train during a major anti-terrorism
operation last July 22, the day after police say four men
attempted to bomb London's transport system.

The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints
Commission (IPCC), completed a report into the incident in
January and passed its findings to prosecutors to decide
whether individual officers should face criminal action.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday that the Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS) had decided against charging any
individual because there was not enough evidence.

Instead, the London police force as a whole will face
charges for breaching health and safety rules, the paper said.

Neither the CPS nor the IPCC will comment on the report
before Monday's official 1100 GMT announcement.

Yasmin Khan, a spokeswoman for the de Menezes family told
BBC Radio that, if correct, the family would be "quite
distraught" at the outcome.

"Health and safety seems like a deliberate attempt to have
a bit of a whitewash and to allow the police to act with
impunity," she said.

"When you think of health and safety, you think of food
poisoning or traffic accidents: it hardly seems the appropriate
charge for the deliberate, brutal killing of an innocent man.

"If indeed it is true, it's fair to say that it will be a
sad day for the de Menezes family, a sad day for the integrity
of the CPS and certainly a sad day for the British justice


Whatever the outcome, the IPCC's full report will not
immediately be made public and will have to wait until the end
of court proceedings should any legal action be taken.

The shooting of de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician,
shocked Britain, where most police officers are unarmed, and
damaged the police's reputation.

Chris Fox, who was chairman of the Association of Chief
Police Officers at the time of the shooting, said the officers
had acted in good faith.

"Holding people to account has to be done in the existing
laws of evidence and the existing law of the land and the law
of the land requires things like recklessness or intent to be
proved in the minds of people who commit these acts," he said.

"I know of no police officer who's ever gone out with the
intention of shooting someone just for the sake of it. They
believed there was a real threat and they acted."

Officers had been on high alert after the suspected bombing
attempts the day before, which came two weeks after four
British Islamists killed 52 commuters and injured 700 others in
suicide attacks on three underground trains and a bus.

Initial reports had suggested de Menezes had been wearing a
bulky jacket, had vaulted a ticket barrier at Stockwell
underground station in south London, and had run when
challenged by police.

But leaked evidence from the IPCC probe suggested all such
claims were untrue and there had been major blunders by
officers involved in the operation.

The Brazilian's family have repeatedly called for those
involved to face criminal charges and say a full public inquiry
may also be needed.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton)