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Fed challenges IOPC over W80 case as inquiry rules lawful killing

The conduct watchdog must justify its seven-year investigation into the firearms officers who shot Jermaine Baker, the Police Federation has said.

The clearing of a firearms officer over the shooting of a suspect involved in an attempted prison break has left the Independent Office for Police Conduct with serious questions to answer, according to the Fed.

The Inquiry, led by Clement Goldstone QC, concluded that the officer, identified as W80, shot Jermaine Baker because he honestly believed Baker posed a lethal threat and it was reasonably necessary for him to shoot in order to defend himself. 

He also said W80’s “overall credibility” as a witness “remained largely intact”.

The inquiry chair also “found no evidence to support a finding that race played any part in Mr Baker’s death”.

Baker was fatally shot at close range as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 near Wood Green Crown Court in north London in December 2015.

He and other conspirators were about to free Izzet Eren, a dangerous prisoner from a custody van.

The officer told the inquiry he thought Mr Baker was reaching for a weapon.

An imitation firearm was later found in the back of the Audi.

But the inquiry also ruled mistakes were made in the planning and execution of the armed operation.

But the officer, who has remained on restricted duties since the incident, will not be able to return to the frontline.

In October 2020, The Court of Appeal found in favour of the IOPC’s decision to demand W80 face a Gross Misconduct Panel to consider whether the officer’s justification was an objectively reasonable one in all the circumstances.

The Police Federation has been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision – and fully expects the IOPC to defend the case in the autumn.

Police Federation Chair Steve Hartshorn, who has been directly involved as the Fed’s former firearms lead, said the verdict was vital for all officers carrying weapons.

He said: “The Police Federation has supported Officer W80 throughout the seven years this incident has taken to be resolved by the findings of the Inquiry.

“The findings of the Inquiry that Officer W80’s decision to discharge his firearm was justified and lawful are a welcome relief for the officer, and are important to all police firearms officers who have to make split second life or death decisions in the course of their duty,” he added.

He challenged the IOPC on whether it should continue to pursue this element of the case.

“The Police Federation continues to support Officer W80 in his challenge to the decision of the IOPC that he should face gross misconduct proceedings notwithstanding the decisions of the CPS and the Inquiry that the officer’s actions were justified,” Mr Hartshorn said.

But there was criticism by the inquiry of how the incident was handled.

It found public safety was not the primary objective of the operation, that intelligence about the imitation firearm was not passed on to W80 and others, and there was a “delusional” idea the operation would rid the streets of north London of lethal firearms.

“Whilst this may have been a laudable objective, it should not have been something that was allowed to go ahead at virtually any cost and to the exclusion of proper and meaningful risk assessments and safety considerations, as well as compliance with protocols,” the inquiry found.

“There can be no doubt that sustained public protection was the prime objective of this operation; the safety of the public was not – and it should have been.”

It said officers had failed to consider any possible outcome other than an armed stop, and had not properly assessed the risk posed by Izzet Eren’s cousin, Ozcan Eren, who was behind the escape plot.

They also failed to engage with the Prison Service about Eren’s escape risk or tell prison van staff of the planned jail break.

However, the inquiry concluded that the conduct of Detective Chief Inspector Neil Williams who was tactical firearms commander on the day, did not amount to gross negligence and did not cause Mr Baker’s death.

The Met signalled that although changes have been made since the incident, it did not accept the broader conclusions of failings.

In a statement, the force said: “The Inquiry’s conclusions, however, were that these failures did not cause Mr Baker’s death, it was reasonable in the circumstances to assume that someone in the vehicle would be armed with a real firearm, and that Mr Baker was lawfully killed.

“Since Mr Baker’s death we have made changes to how our firearms command operates in London, including how operations are run and overseen, how we train and support officers involved and how we keep records.”

The IOPC has been approach for comment.

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