This report has found that there was no lawful justification for my son’s killing by the police. He was fired at 8 times in only 2 seconds and not one of those shots was lawfully discharged by the officer concerned. I thank Sir Christopher Holland for his thorough and excellent report. I hope it will be ground-breaking and cause a shift in thinking by the police. Azelle’s death was wholly avoidable – I shouldn’t be sitting here now, beginning another chapter in my fight for justice for him.
When I gave evidence to the inquiry on 4 September 2012 I said that it seemed to me that Azelle “was executed”. The chairman’s report - after detailed study of the evidence - is that he is ‘sure and satisfied’ he shares my view.
I do not seek to justify what Azelle was doing on the day he died. But he was entitled to be apprehended, and - if there was evidence - to be charged and brought before a court of law to face a trial before a jury. The fact that he was strongly suspected in being involved in crime does not justify him or anyone else being summarily killed.
The shooter’s conduct is now a matter for the IPCC and the CPS to look at, just as if this was an unlawful killing verdict after an inquest, so I am not going to comment further on him.
All I ask for is no more delays.
What happens next must not drag on for years – I have lost too many years of my life already in trying to get justice, truth and accountability. Things have to move fast - I want regular progress reports and outcomes that can be measured in months, not years, given it has taken me over 8 years to get to this point.
What the IPCC and the CPS do now must be properly resourced: a large team needs to work tirelessly at both organisations to see what is possible within the law.
I want an immediate promise from the Home Secretary, Teresa May, and the Chair of the IPCC, Dame Anne Owers, that no expense will be spared.
But, in the meantime, I should not have to wait a moment longer for the police and IPCC to apologise unreservedly to me.
The police owe me an apology for the unlawful killing of my son, but they also owe me and everyone who was in Hale Lane, Edgware, when police carried out the hard stop an apology for the way tactics were decided that day, and for what the Chairman said was ‘the astonishing deprivation of all that could have been provided by aerial surveillance’ in Harlesden.
I trust that the police fully accept Sir Christopher’s recommendations and, as I said last September, that lessons are now finally learned by all police forces in this country and that similar deaths in the future are made less likely.
I await an apology from the Commissioner himself.
The IPCC owe me an apology for a wholly inadequate investigation in 2005. Everyone involved in suppressing the aerial surveillance should be ashamed of themselves. The IPCC’s failure to make proper use of the technical information, and their uncritical thinking about the police, is shocking. I hope Anne Owers has the courage to speak out truthfully and recognise that the public, my family and I have been poorly served by the police watchdog.
I want to thank my family for their support and the Chairman for all his work at the hearings and getting this report out, supported throughout by his legal team, who I also thank.
This was an unlawful killing. Uniquely, a police shooting has been found to violate the right to life of someone because of the planning of the police operation and the conduct of the officer who fired the shots.
1. The police failed in the planning and control on the day to avoid lethal force being used; and
2. the force used was not reasonably necessary; and
3. the force used was disproportionate
As to the planning and control:
1. There was no formal threat and risk assessments specifically directed at the arrests of the suspects, whether in Harlesden or in the context of a hard stop, that embraced police, public, suspects and victims.
2. The absence of such formal threat or risk assessments meant there was nothing to help the police to choose between tactical options, including making arrests in Harlesden
3. The Silver commander of the firearms operation had a dual role, also acting as the Senior Investigating Officer, with the ambition of securing a significant amount of class A drugs, firearms and the arrests of members from two organised crime groups.
4. As Silver commander and SIO, he was not fully supported by his senior firearms officer on the scene, E1, who also had dual role– acting both as Bronze commander and tactical adviser to Silver.
5. There was a systemic failure of communication between the firearms team and others
6. The lack of any such exercise in threat and risk assessment had its impact. Silver’s tactics had no input by way of any such assessment over and above the assurances of the senior firearms officer that the tactics could be implemented simply by leaving everything to his officers’ training, experience and courage. This reliance was clearly misplaced.
7. The senior firearms officer did not understand his tactical role to include proactively giving practical advice, for example to carry out the stop as quickly as possible after the suspects were thought to have become armed.
8. Silver was hampered by the system that meant that only the head of the surveillance team was aware of the aerial surveillance. This wrongly deprived Silver of vital information in Harlesden, which offered a safer opportunity to make arrests than Hale Lane, or give information whether the road ahead of the Golf was suitable for a hard stop, as was the case in Scrubs Lane.
9. The hard stop itself was botched, with deliberate ramming of the Golf, which wasn’t supposed to happen, officers were not wearing caps identifying themselves as police and the misuse of Hatton guns, used to flatten the Golf’s tyres.
The police must take ownership of all these findings, but also conduct their own further review and come up with their own learning, as the Chairman has recommended.
Susan still needs more questions answered about the IPCC’s decision to suppress the aerial footage once they learned about it in November 2005, because she has not heard anything during this inquiry which makes her confident that the IPCC has not made the same mistakes which have yet to come to light or would not make the same mistakes in the future.
In his report, the Chairman has made an understated criticism of the IPCC and CPS: “the contrast between my conclusions on justification for the shooting and those of the IPCC (as adopted by the CPS) is unfortunate.”
Susan does not need to be so diplomatic. Not only is it shocking that the IPCC’s investigation found nothing to criticise as regards the shooting itself, but it found the whole operation virtually faultless, whereas this inquiry has found the whole operation deeply flawed.
As to the shooter, E7, as Susan has already said his conduct must now be the subject of fresh consideration by the IPCC and CPS, who will no doubt confirm their own positions today. So, I will only refer you to the key findings
1. The Chairman finds he is ‘sure and satisfied’ that the shooter did not honestly believe that Susan’s son had (1) picked up a weapon and (2) was about to use one.
2. The shooter’s honest belief was no more or less than the existence of a generalised threat; and he acted on that ‘by way of an immediate burst of fire seemingly as a pre-emptive measure’.
3. Sir Christopher Holland finds that, as Azelle was not engaged in any attack justifying shooting at sight, it was not reasonably necessary for E7 to shoot at him, even once.
4. The Chairman finds there was no lawful justification for shooting to kill, whether applying the domestic criminal law or otherwise.
5. But, even if contrary to his clear findings, the shooter did have an honest belief in an imminent threat, the Chairman is “wholly satisfied that firing so as to kill Azelle (shots 5 onwards) was disproportionate, unreasonable and unlawful.”
INQUEST commend the Judge for his highly significant findings at the end of this unique inquiry. The finding that Azelle Rodney was unlawfully killed demonstrates what is possible when the state affords appropriate resources and a robust independent approach is taken to an investigation into a contentious death. This Inquiry shows that thorough investigation and scrutiny can ensure that the right conclusions are reached that reflect the evidence heard.
What this exposes is the systemic inadequacy of the current mechanisms for scrutinising deaths following the use of force by state agents that are characterised by poor resources, a closed mindset that assumes immediately that there is no possible criminality and an expectation that legal proceedings where the death will be examined will be the inquest. We hope that outcome of the IPCC's current review of the way it investigates deaths, due to be published later this year, will mark a sea change in both attitude and approach
But it is the Metropolitan police who must act upon the findings of the whole report and the Chairman's recommendations that should involve asking themselves serious questions about the culture and management of firearms officers and undertake a fundamental review of the whole governance framework. That should address the whole ethos and approach that creates the perception that firearms officers view themselves and are viewed by others as a uniquely privileged group. This systemic problem contributes to a lack of management accountability and control.
If firearms tactical officers had felt themselves to be and were seen by the other police officers as being totally integrated into making decisions about risk this and similar situations could be avoided. That will serve the public best.
We have repeatedly raised questions about the planning and control of these operations and whilst these events occurred in 2005 there have been other fatal shootings by police since then, some which are still under investigation, and we cannot be confident that any lessons have been learned and that further lives (both suspects and the public) will not be put at risk.