Unarmed man shot by police during prison break was ‘lawfully killed’

File photo dated 11/12/2015 of police Officers at the scene in Bracknell Close, Wood Green north Lon

Officers at the scene in Bracknell Close, behind Wood Green Crown Court, after Jermaine Baker died after being shot during an "intelligence led" police operation - Credit: PA

An inquest has found that while an unarmed father-of-two was “lawfully killed” by a firearms officer during a foiled prison break, there were numerous police failures in the planning and execution of the operation.

Jermaine Baker was fatally shot at close range by police as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 in Bracknell Close - behind Wood Green Crown Court - on December 11, 2015.

Police suspected he and other conspirators were about to free a dangerous prisoner from a custody van.

The 28-year-old, from Tottenham, was unarmed at the time he was shot by a counter-terrorism specialist firearms officer known only as W80, who told the inquiry he thought Mr Baker was reaching for a weapon.

An imitation firearm was later found in the rear of the Audi.

Inquiry chairman His Honour Clement Goldstone QC concluded that, while Mr Baker was lawfully killed, there were police failings at almost every stage of the operation.

The chairman said these would “serve as a loud wake-up call” to the next Met  commissioner, following the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick.

Most Read

He said: “I conclude that, when W80 shot Mr Baker, he held an honest and genuine belief that Mr Baker was moving in order to reach for the firearm.

“As such, W80 perceived that Mr Baker posed a lethal threat. I draw the conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, that the perceived threat from the actions and movement of Mr Baker was such that W80 honestly believed that it was reasonably necessary for him to shoot at Mr Baker.”

Mr Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, said the family could not accept the inquiry’s findings and that her son had been raising his hands in surrender before he was shot.

She said: “Jermaine was dead before he got in that car. His life was taken for no good reason – as I have always said, he should have gone to prison like the rest of the men in the car.

“I therefore cannot agree with the judge’s conclusions that Jermaine did not die as a result of these failures. That is a conclusion that I cannot understand and the judge has not explained why he has drawn that conclusion.

“After seven years of waiting and two months of evidence we deserved more.”

Mr Baker’s family had called on the inquiry chairman to consider whether him being black could have been a factor in him being killed, but Mr Goldstone said he “found no evidence to support a finding that race played any part in Mr Baker’s death”.

He also said that W80’s “overall credibility” as a witness “remained largely intact”.

The inquiry chairman highlighted a number of failures, including that public safety should have been – but was not – the primary objective of the operation, that intelligence that the conspirators had only been able to source an imitation firearm was not passed on to W80 and others, and the “delusional” idea that the operation would succeed in ridding the streets of north London of lethal firearms.

The report said: “The combined effect of the evidence of DI Robert Murray, Detective Ch Insp Neil Williams and DS Craig Turner reveals a determination – bordering at times on the obsessive – to achieve a successful outcome to Operation Ankaa and with it, if not the demise of the Tottenham Turks, then certainly their emasculation.

“Whilst this may have been a laudable objective, it should not have been something that was allowed to go ahead at virtually any cost and to the exclusion of proper and meaningful risk assessments and safety considerations as well as compliance with protocols.

“There can be no doubt that sustained public protection was the prime objective of this operation; the safety of the public was not – and it should have been.”

The most that the officers could have hoped for on the day was the arrest of some “small fry” and the seizure of one gun, the inquiry found.