Mark Duggan case highlights wider issues in seeking justice where an individual has died at the hand

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Mark Duggan, 29, was shot dead by a police marksman in Tottenham in August 2011

Yesterday it was announced, four years after Mark Duggan was shot dead by a police officer, that the said police marksman was acting lawfully and will not face any criminal charges.

For many yesterday’s report – published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – will come as no surprise, inevitable even, given how few cases there are where police officers are found guilty of misconduct even where evidence strongly indicates just that.

The police, along with other state officials, it seems are too often treated as if they are above the very laws which they are supposed to enforce and defend. A report by the Institute of Race Relations publicised last week revealed that over 500 black and ethnic minority people have died in highly questionable circumstances whilst in state detention in the UK, 137 being individuals who died whilst in police custody. Yet, not one state official has been successfully charged and held accountable for any of these deaths. Statistics like this naturally create major distrust towards the police and force us to question who they are primarily protecting – us, or themselves?

The circumstances surrounding the death of Mark Duggan are murky at best, with conflicting reports and evidence having complicated the search for truth and justice from the very outset. There are so many questions that are yet to be answered. A fascinating article by the Daily Mail on Sunday has further fuelled suspicions that police misconduct and various police cover-ups partly account for why the investigation into Duggan’s death has been drawn out for so long, with certain supposed facts failing to quite add up.

Why were police targeting Mark Duggan?

The article details how Duggan’s death may have been avoided entirely had the Met’s Trident gun crime unit instead invested their efforts in apprehending the man who supplied the gun that Duggan was allegedly holding when he was shot dead. Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, who is believed to have supplied the gun found at the scene of Mark’s death, was a well-known crime figure to the police and had carried out violent crime with that very gun in the time immediately prior to Duggan’s death; less than a month earlier the gun had been used to shoot a man in a supermarket and just days before Duggan’s death the weapon has been used to pistol-whip a man in a barber shop. So why did the police not act more quickly to arrest Hutchinson-Foster and remove him and the weapon from the streets of London? Why, in other words, was Duggan their primary target? Police sources have previously justified the focus on Duggan as being the result of them acting upon intelligence which suggested that he was a dangerous individual who wanted a gun to carry out a revenge attack following the death of his cousin, Kevin Easton. However, a report conducted by Superintendent Helen McMillan, a specialist tactical firearms commander, found that: ‘There was no specific intelligence at the time regarding any particular intent to use firearms by any individual, including Mark Duggan.’

In January another major blunder, furthering doubts over the validity of the investigations into Duggan’s death, was reported by several newspapers; vital documents directly related to the case had got ‘lost in the post.’ On the ‘lost’ disks, reportedly, was confidential information central not only to the Duggan inquest but also to case of Azelle Rodney, another black man shot dead by the police in questionable circumstances. Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, which has closely supported the Duggan family in their search for answers, was appalled that such important files could be handled so carelessly. Ms Coles said: “This is an astonishing and unacceptable lapse that will further undermine public and family confidence in the way contentious deaths are dealt with.” She continued, “It is shocking that such sensitive material can be treated with such apparent disregard, particularly considering the strict confidentiality undertakings families and their lawyers have to sign up to.”

The Duggan family want transparency and definite answers regarding the death of their loved one but it seems increasingly unlikely that they will get that in a case riddled with discrepancies, absent information and guesswork.

The IPCC's report is full of terms of uncertainty, which do not inspire confidence regarding their truthfulness. For example, the report states that it is the "most plausible explanation" that Mr Duggan was throwing away a weapon at the time of being shot at by the police officer. Elsewhere the report states that: ‘There is insufficient evidence to conclude that the CO19 officers did, or did not, shout ‘Armed police.’’

Mark Duggan’s family have been fighting for justice for their loved one since that fatal day in August when he was killed and for them it has been four very long years. Surely they deserve some clearer answers. The family have released a statement in response to the IPCC’s report, which for them only ‘confirms their belief that the IPCC are unfit for purpose.’ Still far from satisfied the family have pointed to the fact that the IPCC has been "far from robust about a number of matters," which is why they now demand a "supplementary report” which addresses concerns and details that they need clarified.

It is not only the Duggan family who deserve greater transparency and for whom this case is extremely important, rather it involves the entire British public and what we expect from our police. Aforementioned is the mismatch between the number of people who have died whilst in police custody and the number of officers who have been charged over those deaths. It is in the interests of every Briton that our police forces are always serving to protect us and are held accountable and punished – just as anyone else would be – where they do neglect or abuse their duties and it has resulted in the harm (or, death) of another.