Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Secret Inquiry Into Police Shooting Opens Tomorrow


The inquiry into the death of Azelle Rodney, who was shot dead by Metropolitan police officers over five years ago on 30 April 2005, is to begin on Wednesday 6 October. It is being held instead of an inquest because there is evidence that is deemed to be so sensitive that it cannot be seen by a coroner, a jury or the family and their legal team.

The inquiry is chaired by Sir Christopher Holland, a retired High Court Judge. Sir Christopher’s appointment was announced to Parliament on 10 June 2010 by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, following the previous government’s announcement on 30 March 2010 that an inquiry would be held.

The terms of reference of the inquiry are: “To ascertain by inquiring how, where and in what circumstances Azelle Rodney came by his death on 30 April 2005 and then to make any such recommendations as may seem appropriate.”

The suppression of some of the evidence relating to this death gave rise to the highly controversial proposals for ‘secret inquests’ twice rejected by Parliament, first during the passage of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 and subsequently during the passage of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. However, the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 does include the power to substitute an Inquiries Act 2005 inquiry for an inquest.

Susan Alexander, Azelle Rodney’s mother, said:

I have been waiting for over five years to find out how and why my son died. I hope this inquiry will be full and fearless in exploring the full circumstances of what happened to Azelle and that it is held as much as possible in public and with the maximum disclosure possible of relevant evidence.

Daniel Machover, solicitor for Susan Alexander, said:

After this long wait, Susan and her legal team fear that the inquiry is going to be immediately stalled when it confronts the same problem as the coroner faced over three years ago: English law has to find a way of complying with the procedural protections of the ‘right to life’ under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (and the Human Rights Act 1998). We can’t see how a bereaved mother can lawfully be locked out of hearings that examine core evidence relating to the circumstances of her son’s death at the hands of the state.

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, said:

Susan Alexander has been waiting for almost five and half years to find out the truth about her son’s death, having found herself at the centre of a political controversy. We will be watching the progress and conduct of the inquiry to assess whether it ensures proper public scrutiny of this use of lethal force by state agents.

The inquiry opens at 10.30am tomorrow, sitting at Court 9, Fourth Floor, Technical and Construction Court, St Dunstan’s House, 133-137 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1HD

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