I was waiting for a story like this to appear. Judged on face value the Independent Police Complaints Commission is an official body that effectively regulates the police, and enforces strict standards on police investigations and individual police behaviour. However, as the recent article in the Daily Mail shows – Is the body responsible for looking into serious complaints against officers fit for purpose? – it is impotent, and, if it is not corrupt, ineffective. The first story about the investigation into the shooting of Anthony Grainger is appalling, with no mitigating circumstances that I can see. Police are only meant to shoot suspects if there is a clear threat to life – that means, in most respects, that the suspect needs to be armed, or that evidence he or she is armed should be substantial and justifiable in legal argument. There seems to have been no genuine evidence whatsoever that Anthony Grainger was armed.
According to the document, it consisted of the fact that four days before the shooting, officers had seen one of Grainger’s friends putting a hacksaw in the boot of a different vehicle. On another occasion, the men were observed with a black bin liner containing ‘a large round object’, as well as a ‘lanyard type object and a small red-coloured bag’.
On this basis, the document adds, the police concluded that ‘they have been in possession of items which may be used either as weapons or tools to gain access to potential target premises’.
Finally, says the document, Grainger and his friends were wearing rolled-up balaclavas, which could have been ‘pulled down over their faces’.
As Anthony Grainger’s mother has said, ‘Even if the police had evidence that he was up to no good, why did they shoot him dead when he was doing nothing more than sitting in a car park without a weapon?’
One can only draw alarming conclusions from this debacle. Something deadly serious has gone wrong with the police investigation, and something almost equally as serious has gone wrong with the investigation into the investigation. Quite simply, the IPCC does not engage in proper investigations that are capable of establishing the truth of an incident, and at the conclusion of their investigations does not adequately punish those that have broken the law.
‘As an idea, the IPCC is important,’ said Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs. ‘The committee has investigated its work several times, and unfortunately we have always found it wanting. It seems to have lost its way.’
Speaking of the Mark Duggan case, ‘there will never be an inquest into his death without a change to the law, because the police operation that led to his being stopped while riding as a passenger in a taxi arose from intelligence gathered from phone taps.‘ ‘Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, phone-tap transcripts cannot be disclosed to coroners.’ (Did you know that? I didn’t – that statement in itself is worthy of an extensive essay, because it brings up numerous cases that have had a dramatic effect on the lives of thousands.)
The Mail on Sunday has established that eight months after Duggan was shot, IPCC investigators have not interviewed any of the 31 officers involved in the incident and its aftermath – something Mr Vaz found ‘astonishing’.
In fact, the officers, represented by the Police Federation, have declined to be interviewed, although, as is usual in shooting cases, they wrote brief statements at an early stage. The Commission has no legal powers to compel such interviews, unless an officer has been formally placed under investigation.
Steve Evans, secretary of the Federation’s professional standards committee, said this ban would only be lifted ‘if we get categorical assurances that they are being interviewed as witnesses, not as possible suspects.
‘While they will want to co-operate, they also need to be able to control what is said. The bottom line here is that we have to feel comfortable.’
Stop and think about what these statements mean in practical terms. To me they appear to be an admission that there is no redress against an unlawful killing by police officers of civilians. More than that, they indicate a police culture secure in the knowledge that the law cannot be applied to police officers as it is applied to civilians, and that in many acts of life police officers are above the law. This cannot be tolerated. It’s not that the demand for justice requires the malicious prosecution of police officers on non-existent grounds, but that the same standards of law are applied universally to all and sundry, without exceptions. I can live with that, I don’t see why the police shouldn’t either. I believe that the IPCC rubber stamps ineffectual investigations, with the aim of protecting the police from undue oversight, and of maintaining the current status quo. In the Justice for Carol case there are numerous indications of an alarming level of collusion between the police and so-called experts in the medical field, which appear to be tantamount to perverting the course of justice. This is a matter I have every intention of returning to in very great depth in the future. Suffice it to say, the extraordinary events in the life and death of my sister, Carol Felstead, undermine the fabric of society, and prove that next to no redress exists for those who wish to obtain knowledge of the truth, and to attain justice. However, Carol’s case is exceptional, and there are many more events due to occur, the nature of which have not as yet been publicly declared. Justice will be done in this case, even if it is not done in others. The full story will be absolutely astonishing, and the role of the IPCC in it will be seen as truly appalling.
Anthony Grainger’s stepfather has said, ‘Imagine what would happen if a group of armed men who weren’t police officers shot a member of your family dead. There would be an incident room, a huge team of detectives. But if you have the misfortune to have a family member shot by police, you’re in a totally different ball game, with totally different rules. The team working on Anthony’s death is tiny. The way it feels to us is that the cover-up starts on day one.’
The comments to the article are also interesting, if you want to pursue the matter further. My conclusion regarding the IPCC is quite simple – abolish it, and replace it with something independent and efficient that does the job it is supposed to be doing now. The sad thing about the present situation is that it really is a matter of life and death if the IPCC is to be reformed, dissolved or replaced – but at an official level life has so little value in today’s society when it opposes the pre-existing order or does not bring too much adverse publicity, that the calls for justice can easily go unheard, without anyone feeling either remorse or the slightest pangs of conscience.
Source: Is the body responsible for looking into serious complaints against officers fit for purpose? Mail Online, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2123327/SPECIAL-REPORT-Are-police-really-fit-purpose.html.