About an hour ago we learnt that the Metropolitan Police have been found guilty of endangering the public in pursuing Jean Charles de Menezes.

Sir Ian Blair has just been on TV promising to learn the lessons of the trial and vowing to continue to lead the Met.  That is not enough for Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.

Mr Davis has followed LibDem calls for Blair to go:

"There is something wrong with a process of accountability that, two years on, continues to prevent the publication of the review of the events leading up to 22 July 2005. Health and Safety legislation is an inappopriate mechanism for scrutinising a counter-terrorism operation – and risks a counter-productive impact on policing.  However, the trial has shed light on the serial failures that led to the tragic death of Mr De Menezes. They include failures of organisation, command and operations. The failures were systemic, falling within the clear responsibility of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. His position is now untenable, in light of these findings and the overriding need to restore public confidence.  We think the jury is right to say Cressida Dick should not be blamed for this failure. Neither, should the frontline officers, because this was a serial failure of organisation, training, tactics and resourcing. Only one person can be held overall accountable for that.”

3pm 2/11/07 update: Letter from Davis to Jacqui Smith…


Yesterday the Metropolitan Police Force commanded by Commissioner Sir Ian Blair was convicted of criminal breach of duties for the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Sir Ian Blair responded by saying that he would not resign because the ‘case thus provides no evidence at all of systematic failure by the Metropolitan Police Service and I therefore intend to continue to lead the Met’.

In fact, the trial judge, Mr Justice Henriques, noted a series of serious failures, including the failure to deploy the firearms team ‘as a matter of urgency’ for which ‘no explanation has been forthcoming’. He regretted the failure to make a positive identification of Mr de Menezes, noting the ‘serious failure of accurate communication which has not been explained’. He also referred to ‘the failure to have a firearms team in place and thus the failure to stop Mr de Menezes before he boarded public transport’ and ‘the failure of the control room to adequately receive or have communicated to them broadcasts from the surveillance team’. He concluded:

‘This was a corporate failing with a number of failures contributing to the ultimate tragedy.’ (emphasis added)

Ken Livingston said on the Today program this morning:

‘The system did fail.  I can’t say to you for certain but I am pretty certain that if we had police radios that worked underground, Jean Charles de Menezes … good chance he would be alive today.’ (emphasis added)

He went on to blame under-funding of the police for the failure of the system.

Sir Ian Blair himself publicly stated on the morning of 7 July 2005 that the Met had ‘set the gold standard in counter-terrorism’ (Today Program, BBC, 7 July 2005). This clearly indicates that Sir Ian believed that the organisation, procedures and systems in place were as rigorous, robust and effective as they possibly could be. However, the criminal trial illustrated failings of preparation, organisation, resourcing, equipment, command, control and communication that directly conflict with the Commissioner’s judgment.

Mr Justice Henriques spoke for many of us when he expressed his hope that the further necessary lessons would be learned. However, in dealing with national security, the public expect the police to exercise foresight – not just hindsight – in designing our strategy and securing our capability to respond to the terrorist threat we now face.   

I regret to say that in view of the systemic failures that led to the death of Mr de Menezes, the public can have little confidence that Sir Ian Blair is the right person to ensure those vital lessons are learnt.

In your response, you said that Sir Ian had your ‘full confidence and our thanks and support’. I would ask you to reconsider that judgment in the interests of public safety and confidence.

The trial shed light on serial, systemic errors that the judge described as a ‘corporate failing’. We now need the right leadership, at every level, in order to restore public confidence. The judge, opposition parties and the mayor of London have acknowledged the systemic failure for which only the Commissioner can bear responsibility. I put it to you in the strongest terms that the most important and immediate action that the Home Secretary can and should take, in these circumstances, is to replace Sir Ian Blair with a Commissioner who can command the force’s confidence, restore the public‘s trust and protect the nation’s security.

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