/ 10 October 2005

UK police chief tried to block inquiry

Sir Ian Blair personally ordered that independent investigators be denied access to the scene where an innocent man had been shot dead by police after being mistaken for a suicide bomber, it emerged recently.

The commissioner of London’s Metropolitan police (Met) wrote to the Home Office to block an independent investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station on July 22. By law the In-dependent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) should have been called in by the Met to investigate the case.

Blair’s letter to the top civil servant at the Home Office, Sir John Gieve, was made public after a freedom of information request. It reveals Blair’s orders to deny IPCC investigators physical access to the cordoned-off tube station and that he had asked the Home Office for support in the decision. Blair said his letter was a request for ”guidance” when he testified to MPs about the row last month.

The family of De Menezes said it exposed another attempt by Scotland Yard to mislead them and the public.

The letter was written within two hours of the Brazilian’s shooting, which came a day after failed bomb attacks on three tube trains and a bus.

Scotland Yard says the letter was written when Blair believed the shot man was a terrorist, and he writes: ”There is much concern about revealing either the tactics that we have and/or the sources of information on which we are operating.” The commissioner writes that he should be able to suspend the law requiring police to give the IPCC any information it requests while investigating a death resulting from an anti-terrorist operation.

Britain’s top officer says he is worried about what he terms the IPCC’s duty ”to provide as much information as it can” to the victim’s family, saying: ”This could put further lives at risk.”

In the letter, Blair then announces his decisions: ”I have therefore given instructions that the shooting that has just occurred at Stockwell is not to be referred to the IPCC and that they will be given no access to the scene at the present time.” He says the Met will investigate the shooting itself and adds: ”I ask for your support for this measure, which may form the basis for amending legislation in the future.”

Also released was the reply from Gieve, which rebuffed Blair, saying the law that mandated the IPCC investigate fatal shootings could not be suspended. — Â