Shooting of Cherry Groce caused by serious police failures

Friday 11 July 2014

Garden Court's Dexter Dias QC and Richard Reynolds have secured a highly critical jury narrative verdict on behalf of the family of Cherry Groce, who was shot by the Metropolitan Police in 1985.

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Mrs Groce's shooting was followed by the Brixton Riots and, along with the Scarman Report into the 1981 Riots and the murder of Stephen Lawrence, has been one of a handful of events that have shaped police-community relations in south London. After an unprecedented inquest at Southwark Coroner's Court, where jurors heard testimony about events almost 30 years ago, the jury found that Cherry Groce's shooting was caused or contributed to by a series of serious failures by the police in the planning and execution of the armed raid.

The Groce family has fought for 29 years for the truth to be uncovered about how and why their mother was shot. For a long time, they were denied legal aid and it was only when they launched a petition on change.org and threatened to challenge the funding refusal by judicial review that the government relented.

Dexter has been commissioned to write an article for the Guardian about the case, and we will post the link shortly. Here is an extract:

At just after 7am on Saturday 28th September 1985 officers of the Metropolitan Police smashed their way into an ordinary family home in south London with a sledgehammer.  They were armed with loaded lethal weapons. A few seconds later, a young mother was shot by a trained police firearms officer with a Smith & Wesson revolver. She was 4 feet 10 inches tall and wearing a skirt and blouse. She was unarmed. She was shot in her bedroom in front of her children. The bullet fired into her body lodged in her spine and condemned her to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Ultimately, the bullet killed her. The woman’s name was Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce.

The shooting of Cherry Groce by the Metropolitan Police was followed by the Brixton Riots of 1985. It is an event – and a tragedy – that has scarred a family, a community and a nation. Yesterday an inquest jury in south London found that serving Met officers unnecessarily put life at risk. The jury found that the raid should have been aborted.

It emerged during the inquest that the independent senior police investigator examining why Cherry Groce was shot concluded that the Met’s armed raid created ‘grave and unnecessary’ risks to members of the public. This was known to the Metropolitan Police in 1985, but Cherry Groce was never told this.  She lived the next 26 years confined to a wheelchair without being told this truth. In April 2011, when the profound damage caused by the police bullet finally killed her, she died without knowing it. Cherry Groce was an entirely innocent member of the public killed by the Metropolitan Police.

Dexter and Richard worked on this important case with colleagues Mark Scott and Clare Richardson from Bhatt Murphy. They and Cherry Groce's family were assisted by the charity INQUEST and Deborah Coles and Anita Sharma. The INQUEST press release can be found here.

This case has been reported widely in the media, including by the BBC, the Guardian, and The Telegraph.

You can follow Richard on Twitter @RReynoldsLaw, and you can follow Dexter both on Twitter @DexterDiasQC and at justicebrief.com.

Dexter Dias QC and Richard Reynolds are members of Garden Court Chambers Inquests Team.

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