THE mother of Mark Duggan, whose death sparked riots across England after he was shot by a police marksman, is asking the High Court to overturn an inquest verdict that he was “lawfully killed”.
Pamela Duggan and her family reacted with shock after the inquest jury returned their majority verdict in January on 29-year-old Mr Duggan. Yesterday they were back at the Royal Courts of Justice for the appeal.
Michael Mansfield QC, for the family, asked three judges to declare coroner Judge Keith Cutler misdirected the jury.
Mr Mansfield told a packed court the “nutshell” of his case was in the question: “How is it a man who is manifestly unarmed can be lawfully shot?”
The inquest jury found Mr Duggan was lawfully killed by a police marksman in August 2011 in Tottenham, north London, despite being unarmed.
An officer can only legally open fire if he honestly believes there is an imminent risk to his own life or to others.
The Duggan case raises complex issues of law, including the criminal law of self-defence. It includes questions over what the marksman “may” have believed or “probably” believed, even if mistakenly, about the risk posed by Mr Duggan.
Armed police officers intercepted the minicab Mr Duggan was in on the basis of intelligence that he was part of a gang and had collected a gun. He was shot twice by an officer known as V53. One of the shots was fatal. V53 gave as the reason for opening fire that Mr Duggan had a “gun-shaped” item contained in a sock in his hand and that he believed he was presenting a threat.
Lawyers for the coroner say a gun, contained in a sock, was found on grass in the vicinity of Mr Duggan’s body, and there was “a significant issue” about how it got there.
Mr Mansfield said the ten-strong inquest jury concluded by an 8-2 majority that they were sure Mr Duggan did not have a gun in his hand when shot –“however eight of the jurors also decided Mr Duggan’s death was lawful killing”. Two jurors came to an open conclusion.
Mr Mansfield said the conclusion was the result of flawed directions from the coroner.
He argued the definition of lawful killing “was rolled up with unlawful killing”, with the result elements of what amounted to “lawful killing” were not properly delineated, leaving it open to them wrongly to bring in the lawful killing verdict.
He and fellow QC Leslie Thomas, who is also acting for the family, want the verdict quashed and replaced with an open verdict – or a fresh inquest held.