Monday, November 28, 2005

Checking the small print

The IPCC has decided to launch an investigation into Sir Ian Blair's conduct following the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. Given that Sir Ian gave orders which, by his own admission, he did not have the authority to issue, this sounds like good news.

Unfortunately, the terms of the investigation are very narrow. It appears that it will concern itself only with the possibility that Sir Ian and other senior officers made false statements concerning the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

At the time, Sir Ian very carefully said that "the shooting is directly linked to the expanding and ongoing anti-terrorist operation". At night, he secretly dreams of being a politician. There was nothing factually incorrect about that statement.

He also said that "the man was challenged and refused to obey the police instructions". We now know that that didn't happen and Sir Ian will find that statement more difficult to justify to the investigation. We can, however, see how it's likely to go. "At the time, we were in the middle of the biggest anti-terrorist operation ever seen in this country. I was constantly receiving huge amounts of information from my officers and in that the course of that process, some confusion was inevitable." Yes, very plausible. Except it actually does nothing to explain how it was that Sir Ian came to believe that "the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions". Confusion does not normally cause an entirely new version of events to be created in this way.

How the IPCC will interpret Sir Ian's comments remains to be seen. Did I mention that the investigation has been authorised by Charles Clarke? Call me a cynic but I suspect that might tell you all you need to know about its likely conclusions. We shall see.

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