‘UNLAWFUL KILLING’ VERDICT QUASHED – Police gunmen can kill with impunity, says

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THE widow of Harry Stanley is consulting her lawyers, after a High Court judge yesterday quashed an inquest jury’s verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ over the police shooting of her husband.

Irene Stanley is considering whether to pursue an appeal against the ruling by judge Justice Leveson that the first inquest’s open verdict stands and there could be no third inquest.

Leveson refused an appeal against his judgement but gave the family 21 days to approach the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal.

The judgement followed an application by one of the police who had shot Harry Stanley, Chief Inspector Neil Sharman.

INQUEST, an organisation that works with families of people who have died at the hands of the state, said: ‘In the meantime, she renews her call on the CPS to urgently announce its decision on whether to bring criminal charges against the police officers.’

Harry Stanley was shot dead by armed police in Hackney, east London, in September 1999. He was carrying a broken coffee table leg in a plastic bag.

INQUEST said the High Court had swept aside an inquest jury’s verdict ‘on the basis of a “realistic possibility’’ that was never advanced by the police.’

The Stanley family’s solicitor Daniel Machover said it was ‘very much’ a new interpretation by the judge.

At the second inquest into Harry Stanley’s death the coroner directed the jury that it could return one of the following verdicts: unlawful killing; lawful killing; or open.

Machover added: ‘The central issue the jury had to decide was whether the shooting of Mr Stanley was justified or not.

‘Unlawful killing was left to the jury because the coroner was satisfied that there was some evidence upon which a jury, properly directed, could be sure to the criminal standard that the officers did not honestly believe that it was necessary to shoot Mr Stanley to defend themselves or each other from attack.’

INQUEST said: ‘The second inquest into Mr Stanley’s death was held from 15th October to 29th October 2004.

‘By a majority of 8 to 1, on 29th October 2004 the jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing and provided a narrative that ended with these words: “Mr Stanley had begun to turn towards the officers in response to (their verbal) challenge when the shots were fired.’’

‘Mr Justice Leveson today quashed the verdict, while leaving the jury’s narrative untouched.

‘The judge decided that the existence of a possible explanation for the killing of Mr Stanley, even though it had never been advanced by the officers, should have prevented the inquest jury from considering unlawful killing.’

Paragraph 42 of yesterday’s High Court judgement said that it was ‘equally plausible that, having honestly believed that they were under imminent threat of being shot, when they discovered that Mr Stanley had no more than a table leg, they then panicked and felt that their true recollections would not be believed.’

Justice Leveson continued to say the finding of the inquest jury, that the police officers had fabricated their claim that they believed Harry Stanley had turned toward them in a standard firing position that he was pointing a shotgun at them, did not count.

Leveson said in his judgement: ‘The finding (even if correct) of subsequent dishonest fabrication does not exclude it and, given all the cir—–stances, it does not appear to me that there is any basis for being able to rebut that possibility beyond reasonable doubt.’

Paragraph 43 of the judgement added that ‘the evidence did not provide a basis to exclude beyond reasonable doubt what is realistic possibility.’

Both Machover and INQUEST said: ‘If this is right, it is difficult to see how any jury will be able to decide in future that anyone was unlawfully killed in a police shooting.’