Family face ‘almost unbearable’ wait for shooting inquiry to open

The family of Jermaine Baker who was shot dead by police in 2015 say they face an “almost unbearable” wait for a public inquiry into his death to fully open next summer.

Chairman of the inquiry Clement Godstone QC ruled on Tuesday that oral evidence hearings will not begin until June 14 2021.

Mr Baker, from Tottenham, north London, was shot dead by a Metropolitan Police marksman during a foiled prison break-out near Wood Green Crown Court on December 11 2015.

At a preliminary hearing, held remotely and live streamed on YouTube, counsel for the family Phillippa Kaufmann QC said that the delay was “simply not acceptable”.

She said: “To wait five and a half years for a full investigation to take place of a state shooting is just unimaginable.”

Counsel to the inquiry Kate Blackwell QC said that the hearings should not be listed “unrealistically soon” to avoid them being postponed.

So far the team has received 23,000 pages of documents, which need to be reviewed and redacted by the end of the year.

Lawyers also need to instruct expert witnesses, and orders for anonymity of certain witnesses will need to be dealt with.

Representatives for the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency are also taking part in the inquests into the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist stabbings that start in April 2021, and so are not available until the summer.

Accompanied during the hearing by Mr Baker’s mother Margaret Smith, Ms Kaufmann said that the availability of barristers involved in the case should not be used as a reason to justify the wait.

Speaking about the delay, she said: “It is almost unbearable and we cannot accept it. We simply can’t accept that this inquiry cannot take place before June of next year and moreover we absolutely can’t accept that a delay can be justified for the convenience of counsel and for the Fishmongers Hall inquiry to take place before this one does.

“The death of Jermaine Baker preceded by many years the tragic deaths arising from Fishmongers Hall. The convenience of counsel who are already instructed in that inquiry simply cannot justify any further delay.”

She added: “It’s insulting to the family and it’s extremely painful to them to think that counsel’s convenience could possibly justify waiting any longer.”

Ruling that oral evidence hearings will begin on June 14, Mr Godstone said that while the availability of barristers was not his prime concern, it was a relevant factor because changes mean extra cost and work needing to be repeated.

He said: “In my judgment the work which remains to be done is of such magnitude that any savings in time by ordering earlier hearings would be marginal at best and give rise to the risk of an even worse scenario of further adjournment.”

Priti Patel
Priti Patel

Preparatory hearings dealing with anonymity applications will take place in the week beginning March 15 2021.

Mr Baker was among a group of men trying to free prisoner Izzet Eren as he was transported from Wormwood Scrubs prison to be sentenced for a firearms offence.

An inquest was originally opened into his death, but in February Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that a public inquiry would be held.

The Crown Prosecution Service did not bring charges against the marksman, known as W80 for legal reasons, saying there was insufficient evidence.

W80 claimed to be acting in self-defence, fearing Mr Baker was reaching for a gun. No firearm was found but police did recover an imitation Uzi machine gun in the rear of the car.

Last year the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced it had directed the Metropolitan Police to launch disciplinary proceedings into the officer over alleged use of excessive force.

But the police watchdog’s decision was quashed by a High Court ruling in August which found it had applied the wrong legal tests to order the gross misconduct hearing so this did not go ahead.

The IOPC has appealed against the decision and the case is due to be heard at the Court of Appeal by December.