Family’s fury over verdict on shot Scot
AN INQUEST was brought to a dramatic standstill yesterday as the family and friends of an innocent man shot dead by police who believed he was armed, stormed out in protest at the coroner’s "one-sided" direction to the jury.
After being denied the option of returning a verdict of the unlawful killing of Scot Harry Stanley, 46, - who was shot in 1999 when police mistook a table leg he carried for a sawn-off shotgun - the jury returned a unanimous open verdict.
Outside St Pancras Coroner’s Court, in London, Mr Stanley’s widow, Irene Stanley, said: "It’s disgusting. We have been denied justice. The jury should have been allowed to make up their own minds."
She announced that she would be suing the Metropolitan Police, making a formal complaint about the coroner, Dr Stephen Chan, and requesting a judicial review of the inquest into her husband’s death.
She added: "It’s not right. No officers have been charged. After two-and-a-half years, the officers stood in the dock and didn’t even say, ‘We’re sorry’."
Mrs Stanley, her family and friends had angrily marched out of the court when Dr Chan directed the jury to only two options - lawful killing or an open verdict. One man shouted: "You mean murder."
Mr Stanley, a painter and decorator, was shot in the head by Inspector Neil Sharman and in the hand by Pc Kevin Fagan on 22 September, 1999 after a drinker in a pub he had visited reported that the table leg he carried wrapped in a blue plastic bag was a sawn-off shotgun.
In his summing-up, Dr Chan told the jurors they should come to a verdict based on what they thought the police officers believed at the time they shot Mr Stanley, 50 yards from his home in Hackney, east London.
He told the jury if, in their judgement, the officer believed or may have believed he had to defend himself against an armed man and did no more than he honestly and instinctively thought was necessary to do, they may think that the amount of force he used was "reasonable".
"If you are satisfied then you should return ‘lawful killing’ as the verdict," he added.
An open verdict should be used, he said, if the "the evidence did not fully disclose the means whereby the cause of death arose" or if there was "insufficient evidence" to consider the alternative.
In what the Stanley family solicitor, Nogah Ofer, described as a "blatant error of law" Dr Chan failed to mention forensic evidence that Mr Stanley had been shot in the back of the head.
When Dr Chan finished summing up, a member of the jury asked: "Are we only to take into account what the officers believe or are we to take into account whether they took enough care before they got there?" He replied: "The issue is self-defence as I just said."
After the verdict in court, Dr Chan extended his "deepest sympathy" to the Stanley family but they were not present .
Deborah Coles, co-director of the family support group Inquest, described the coroner’s conduct as "utterly reprehensible" but added: "In rejecting the verdict of lawful killing, the jury rejected the officers’ evidence that it was self-defence."
She said she had made formal complaints about Dr Chan before and would do so again.
"I have not heard such as biased and one-sided summing-up by a coroner. Why should the family have to endure two-and-a-half years of a system which then deprives them of proper public scrutiny of this case?"
His summing-up "completely ignored the forensic evidence showing that Harry was shot in the back of the head," she said.
Ms Ofer added: "The most important piece of evidence were the forensic hard facts and the coroner didn’t even mention them. I’ve never seen a coroner leave out a most important piece of evidence before.
"He took away that option from the jury. It’s not about revenge or money - we just wanted the truth to come out."
Outside the court, Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the two officers had been "vindicated". He said that the night had been a "a tragic incident, first and foremost for the loved ones of Harry Stanley", but also for the officers involved, who had been "stunned and shocked immediately after the event took place".
When asked how the officers were vindicated by an open verdict, he said "in as much as this has been before the Criminal Prosecution Service on two occasions" when leading treasury counsel concluded there was "not evidence to prosecute them for any criminal offences." He added that the independent witnesses supported the officers’ account.
Outside the court, a jury member shook Mrs Stanley’s hand and said: "No favouritism. We just did what we thought was right."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East