Jean-Charles de Menezes: "legal" murder?

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
5 November 2007

Last Thursday, an Old Bailey jury found the Metropolitan police guilty of breaching health and safety rules on 19 counts and therefore failing to protect the public during their pursuit and execution of Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005.

Breaching health and safety rules? Is that all? When the police had shot a suspect on sight, without even identifying him, in a tube carriage full of passengers, using 7 dum-dum bullets which explode on impact and then discovered that it was all a mistake?

Yes, of course that is all! How else to protect those who were responsible for the murder of this innocent young Brazilian electrician? If the chain of responsibility is followed, from the hysterical "special officers" of so-called CO19 unit who did the shooting, all the way through police command, the judiciary and the Home Office, it can only end right at the top - not just with "Sir" Ian Blair, but with Tony Blair. Yes, the prime minister who will always be known for his invasion of Iraq, and one of its domestic consequences: home-grown suicide bombers. Because this is the root cause of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes two and half years ago.

So the outcome of this absurd trial, which was actually intended, right from the word go, to avoid every single one of the real issues involved, should come as no surprise. It was deliberately designed to allow all those who have Jean Charles' blood on their hands to go scott-free. The judge decided that "no individual was responsible" and that this was a "corporate failure."

As all workers know only too well, "corporations" and those heading them do not get jailed for killing people when they have breached health and safety. They get fined. And just so, in this case. The officer in command of the operation, Cressida Dick, was specifically mentioned, praised and exonerated by the judge. And the Met will have to pay a fine of just £175,000 and £385,000 costs... for putting the public's lives at risk!

But even this was too much for Mayor Ken Livingstone. He declared that this judgement was "disastrous". He asked how Londoners would be able to feel safe in the future if armed police had to think twice before pulling the trigger on terror suspects? Perhaps he should address this question to the surveillance officer who had a gun pointed at him just after Jean Charles was shot, because the CO19 shooter did not know who he was. Or the two postal workers from Forest Gate - one of whom was shot - who had nothing to do with terrorism, but became suspects anyway, thanks to a neighbour's petty mischief. Anyway, the answer is obvious. We would all feel much safer!

Yes, what this trial showed up - and in that it was probably some use - is that this system protects its own, but certainly not the rest of us.