On 8 January 2014, the jury at the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police in August 2011, reached its conclusion. Leslie Thomas represented the loved ones of Mr Duggan.
On 4 August 2011 at 18:41, Mark Duggan was shot and killed by V53, a Metropolitan Police firearms officer, in Tottenham. At the end of an inquest lasting more than three months, and after deliberating for seven days, the jury delivered its conclusions in open court on 8 January 2014. The jury had responsibility for considering when, where and how Mr Duggan came by his death, including determining whether he was lawfully killed, unlawfully killed or whether the appropriate conclusion to draw was an open one. The jury found, in what some are saying is an unjust and perverse conclusion, that Mr Duggan was lawfully killed. Much has been made of the conclusions of the jury in the media and amongst the general public, with seemingly everyone having their own take on the case and the jury’s determination.
It is important to recognise that the jury’s conclusions were not without criticism of the Metropolitan Police Service and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (now the National Crime Agency). The jury unanimously found that in the period between midday on 3 August 2011 and 18:00 on 4 August 2011, neither agency did the best they could realistically have done to gather and react to intelligence about the possibility of Mr Duggan collecting a gun from Mr Hutchinson Foster. In particular, the jury concluded that there was “no emphasis on exhausting all avenues which could have affected reaction and subsequent actions”. This is significant because the family and loved ones at the inquest argued that the police failed to do all it could reasonably do to apprehend the gun supplier before Mr Duggan could pick up the gun from him, or to make the arrests of the gun supplier or Mr Duggan much earlier in the day or days leading up to the shooting.
When considering the way in which the stop was conducted, however, the jury unanimously found that the stop took place in a location and in a way which minimised to the greatest extent possible recourse to lethal force.
A central issue in this case was whether there was a firearm in the taxi with Mr Duggan and how a firearm later came to be on the grass. The jury unanimously concluded that there was a firearm in the taxi with Mr Duggan immediately before the police stop. During the inquest the jury heard evidence relating to a number of theories about how the firearm could have ended up on the grass. In the latter stages of the evidence, the possibility of the police having planted the gun was put to one of the officers, V59. However, the jury rejected this proposition and concluded, by a majority of nine jurors to one, that Mr Duggan threw the firearm onto the grass. Eight thought he did so as soon as the minicab he was travelling in came to a stop, prior to any of the officers being on the pavement, while one thought that he threw it whilst on the pavement. The remaining juror was not convinced that Mr Duggan had thrown the firearm from the vehicle or the pavement because, they said, none of the witnesses gave evidence to this effect. Again this is an interesting finding, given that no witness did give evidence of that kind. More significantly, W42, the one officer who said he was in a position to see whether the gun was thrown out of the minicab as Mr Duggan exited it, denied this was a possibility.
The jury also had responsibility for determining whether Mr Duggan had the gun in his hand at the time he received the fatal shot. During the inquest they heard the evidence of Witness B, who said that he was sure Mr Duggan did not have a gun in his hand at all and that what Mr Duggan was holding, while his arms were raised above his head, was a mobile telephone. They also heard, in contrast, the evidence of V53 and another firearms officer, W70, who claimed to have been sure that they saw a gun in Mr Duggan’s hand. If the jury were sure that he did not have a gun in his hand, they were then to go on and consider unlawful killing, lawful killing or an open conclusion. A majority of eight jurors were sure of the fact that Mr Duggan did not have a gun in his hand at the time he received the fatal shot. On the balance of probabilities, one juror believed it more likely than not that he did have a gun in his hand, while the remaining juror believed it more likely than not that he did not have a gun in his hand at the time of the fatal shot.
The final conclusion of the jury to be delivered was on the ultimate issue: whether Mr Duggan was killed lawfully, unlawfully or whether the jury had insufficient evidence to record any other substantive conclusion. In determining this issue, the jury was asked to consider V53’s honest belief and whether the force used was reasonable in all the circumstances. Contrary to some reports of the case, the jury was not asked to consider whether V53’s belief was one that he had reasonably held. By a majority of eight to two, the jury announced their conclusion that Mr Duggan was lawfully killed. The minority of two jurors drew an open conclusion.
The sanctity of jury deliberations is such that, while it is possible to speculate, one can never truly know the reasons for the conclusions of the jury.
Leslie Thomas represented the loved ones of Mark Duggan, leading Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers, and Una Morris, Pupil Barrister at Garden Court Chambers. Michael Mansfield QC of Mansfield Chambers was representing Mark Duggan’s family leading Adam Straw. Leslie was instructed by Marcia Willis Stewart and Cyrilia Davies of Birnberg Peirce and Partners and Nogah Ofer of Bhatt Murphy.
More information can be found on the Mark Duggan Inquest website, including court hearing transcripts and the jury’s conclusions.
The inquest was reported widely in the media, in including this article in the Guardian by Stafford Scott.