Decision for Met officer who shot man to face misconduct hearing ‘unreasonable’

The decision for the firearms officer who killed Jermaine Baker during a foiled prison breakout more than seven years ago to face misconduct proceedings has been labelled “unreasonable” by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

The national chairman of the PFEW, Steve Hartshorn, called on the Government and policing leaders to determine a time limit for disciplinary proceedings against officers, after the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said the officer, known only as W80, will now face a gross misconduct hearing.

It follows a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that said the officer could face misconduct proceedings after a lengthy legal battle.

Mr Baker, 28, of Tottenham, north London, was shot during a Metropolitan Police operation that thwarted a plot to snatch two prisoners from a van near Wood Green Crown Court in December 2015.

Jermaine Baker
Jermaine Baker (Family handout/PA)

The police federation said it was “disgraceful” that the IOPC “disregarded” the Metropolitan Police’s invitation to “review and reconsider” its earlier decision directing the force to bring gross misconduct proceedings against W80.

Mr Hartshorn said: “There is no doubt the individual’s death and the following case has had a significant impact on their and the officer’s family, friends and colleagues.

“It is unreasonable that despite the case having passed stringent legal scrutiny establishing W80’s actions were lawful the IOPC has renewed its direction to the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) to bring gross misconduct proceedings against W80 even after the MPS disagreed last year and offered detailed evidence in favour of this position.

“This is not a fair or rational way to run a police misconduct system.

“Today’s development forces the question – how is it right to allow endless, repeated and ongoing investigations into officers’ actions at an incident without any time limit at all?

“The negative impact of this prolonged uncertainty on an individual, their families and their colleagues cannot be ignored or underestimated, nor can the impact it has on others involved.

“PFEW has been calling to determine a time limit for disciplinary proceedings against officers and is campaigning for it to be set at 12 months from the day allegations are made. I take this opportunity to call on the Government and policing leaders to come together and bring about this much-needed reform in regulations.”

The IOPC’s acting director general Tom Whiting said the watchdog “carefully reviewed our original decision” following the Supreme Court ruling and considered evidence from the public inquiry, invited additional representations from all parties, and sought additional independent assurance.

The IOPC said it has asked the Metropolitan Police to consider asking another force to hold the hearing to “provide additional reassurance about the independence of the process”.

It comes after more than 100 armed Met Police officers reportedly stood themselves down from duty over the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge another officer with murdering Chris Kaba in Streatham Hill last year.

The Met said on Thursday that all firearms officers had returned to normal duties, but Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has demanded increased legal protections for armed officers in a letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Jermaine Baker public inquiry
Margaret Smith, the mother of Jermaine Baker, has welcomed the move (PA)

Mr Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, welcomed the IOPC decision and said the family “strongly support” the request for another force to conduct proceedings, criticising Sir Mark for “capitulating to firearms officers’ demands for impunity”.

She said: “The commissioner’s position seriously calls into question whether, when push comes to shove, he and the MPS as an organisation have the will or the ability, in Jermaine’s case and others, to hold his officers to account for misconduct.”

The Met said it was reviewing the IOPC decision and “considering our next steps”, including seeking legal advice over the request for another force to conduct proceedings.

Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens said: “We do not accept that our wider call for support and legal reassurance for armed officers impinges upon our independence, nor the impartiality of the misconduct hearing process.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens reiterated the Met’s independence (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Prosecutors decided not to bring criminal charges against the marksman in 2017, but, subsequently, the IOPC directed the force should bring disciplinary proceedings against the officer for gross misconduct.

That decision was quashed by the High Court in August 2019, after it was challenged by Officer W80, but the Court of Appeal overturned that ruling in October 2020 after the IOPC brought an appeal.

A public inquiry in July 2022 found Mr Baker had been “lawfully killed” but said police made numerous failures in the planning and execution of the operation.

In July this year, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling and dismissed an appeal by Officer W80, which was supported by the Met.

A panel of five justices unanimously ruled the IOPC applied the correct legal test when directing the Met to bring disciplinary proceedings against the officer.

The judges held that the civil, and not criminal, law test applies in disciplinary proceedings in relation to the use of force by a police officer in self-defence.

Mr Baker was among a group of men trying to free Izzet Eren and his co-defendant as they were transported from Wormwood Scrubs to be sentenced for a firearms offence.

A number of men were jailed in 2016 for their parts in the plot.