After almost two-and-a-half years of waiting, Mark Duggan's family were yesterday insulted with the laughable finding that his killing by police was 'lawful'. During this lengthy wait almost every version of events given by the police has unravelled completely and been shown to be a lie. This sham verdict, and the scrutiny it is being subjected to by a baffled public, reveals very clearly the way in which the law is nothing more than a tool of the rich and powerful.
Anyone who has taken any time to follow the inquest and the labyrinthine tales and counter tales given by the police and right-wing media will certainly find it very strange that the killing was 'lawful', especially given that the very same jury found that Duggan did not have a gun when he was shot. Millions are asking how he can both have not been in possession of a gun and yet posed sufficient threat to be killed by several armed police surrounding him?
Police lies and contradictions
We must start by pointing out that the police version of events has, from the very beginning, been exposed by all investigation from experts and witness accounts as wrong. The story that we have been left with does not hang together. They initially claimed that he had shot at police, and for that reason had justifiably been shot in self-defence. That was almost immediately proven false when forensics showed that the bullet supposedly from his gun was actually from police!
]Furthermore, no witnesses corroborated this story. But quite how one can wrongly imagine someone has fired a gun at you, when in reality you have fired it at them, is not explained by police, because it cannot be explained. Just as with the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, the police story was nothing more than a cynical fabrication.
The police have themselves admitted that three days after the events and the initial bogus story, the new story was agreed to after they all sat down together in the same room, using a flipchart with agreed "facts"! What was the content of this new version of events? That, although he hadn't shot at them, Mark Duggan, when apprehended, did point his gun at the police, thus threatening them and making the use of lethal force legitimate.
You'll notice that this is based on Duggan's possession of a gun, not only in general, but actually having one on his person at that moment, and pointing it at the police threateningly. First of all, we must ask what kind of man would be foolhardy enough to point his gun at and attempt to kill a policeman when surrounded by multiple armed police!
It quickly became apparent that this new story was also nonsense. The only witness to the events has confirmed that Duggan not only wasn't armed, but had his hands behind his head, as any sane person would do when surrounded by armed police! The only straw the police could now clutch onto was that, for some reason, the killer of Duggan ('V53') 'believed' (wrongly) that Duggan was pointing a gun at him!
The final claim the police could make was nothing more than an attempt to smear Duggan's character, in an attempt to make the jury and public perceive Duggan as lowly criminal scum who more or less deserved what was coming to him anyway. He hadn't had a gun on his person when he was shot, but he was being apprehended because he had taken hold of a gun, the story goes. He sneekily managed to throw it over a fence to the side just before the police surrounded him, where it was then later found in a sock by police.
The trouble is, this story, which if true would go no way to justifying his killing at the hands of trained armed police, since he could not have posed a threat, is also extremely suspicious. How did Duggan manage to throw the gun over without the police noticing? Why did this gun and its sock contain none of Duggan's DNA or fingerprints, according to forensics? Why did forensics also find none of the sock's fibres on Duggan at all? Why was the ballistics expert told not to investigate the scene? Why was a member of the police team, V59, caught on CCTV cameras walking to where the gun was found (before it had been found)? Why did a witness say she saw a policeman walk to the minicab Duggan had been in and take out a gun?
It seems clear that in fact, the gun had been in the cab in which Mark Duggan was travelling, was not touched by him, and was then removed by police at the scene of the (their) crime and planted to look as though he had been holding it, and then thrown it away at the last moment.
Given that the jury did not accept the police's claim that Duggan was armed, how on earth could they have concluded that the killing was lawful? Is it lawful for a man to be gunned down because someone 'felt' they might be a threat, and yet weren't?
The answer is that for the police, yes, this is lawful. For an examination of the inquest reveals the way in which the law and the operation of the courts have been consciously engineered to give the police a permenant get out clause for any crime they have committed, however blatant. According to the Guardian,
"The jury was told by the coroner, Judge Keith Cutler, that they could only return a verdict of unlawful killing if they were "sure" the police officer (V53) had acted unlawfully. Use of reasonable force, the judge reminded jurors, is permitted to defend oneself or others from threat of attack.
"What constitutes "reasonable force", the jury were told in the written form provided for their verdict, should be determined by "the circumstances as the police officer believed them to be" [the operative word here is 'believed']. That action had also to be proportionate to the officer's belief [once again the emphasis not on reality but on belief].
"A verdict of lawful killing, the form stated, should be returned if "you conclude it was more likely than not that the fatal shot which killed Mark Duggan was the use of lawful force".
The impunity of the bourgeois state
Essentially, the police can be let off any killing, as they were here, so long as the lethal force was proportionate 'to their belief'! Whether or not their belief, as they claim it to be, was justified by reality, is not to be questioned. This goes some way to showing how the law is so constructed as to be vague, subjective, flexible and full of loopholes in all the 'right places' by the powers that be.
Juries are forcefully reminded, over and over again, by the judge - a member of the ruling class - that they cannot use their intelligence to work out whether the policeman really is guilty or not. They cannot stray from the extremely carefully and narrowly defined task they are given, which is simply to say whether or not the police acted in accordance with their beliefs!
It is through this method that the state has managed to guarantee that none of the 333 times people have died in or immediately after leaving police custody in the past 11 years have resulted in a police prosecution.
How can this be so? If we take a look at the situation in other countries, whether dictatorships or 'democracies', we see the exact same picture. In each and every country, to left-wing activists and minority groups, the police are synonymous with violence, intimidation and the perversion of justice.
Only recently, revelations regarding the Battle of Orgreave in the Miners' Strike and the Hillsborough disaster show the same thing. Twas ever thus and ever thus will be under capitalism. The police are not neutral guardians and keepers of the peace. The truth is that if we want peace, ordinary people could police themselves far better than the police and their aggression and the division they foster - if they were given the resources.
The police are a prized asset for the ruling class, a private army for the intimidation of the oppressed. For this reason, the ruling class cannot allow them to be at risk of being found guilty in the course of their duties. They will always be, under capitalism, invincible to the very justice they supposedly enforce.
It is this control of the levers of power that has also been used to besmirch Mark Duggan in the media. Instead of being shown pictures of him smiling with family, we are shown images of him looking mean and intimidating, as if this could justify his being shot.
The Daily Mail in particular has carried out a vile, racist campaign in which they have branded him 'one of Europe's most violent and feared criminals', with no real proof at all. When we examine this claim, which emanates from the police, we can see that it has no serious foundation whatsoever. He was apparently one of the 48 most dangerous in Europe on account of his maybe being a member of a gang of 48 members, which the police tell us in their opinion may be the most dangerous in Europe! From this, with a little help from racial and class prejudices, we are ushered to arrive at the conclusion that he, not the gang he could have been in, was in the top 48 most violent people in Europe!
The Daily Mail has also based their account of his being a criminal - which, if true, presumably means it's OK for him to be killed - on extremely thin evidence. Regarding his previous activity, he was never charged with anything by police, and according to the BBC "some of the police intelligence on Mark Duggan was graded 'E', the lowest on the scale the police use to grade accuracy. It was, said the coroner, "certainly a very poor quality [of intelligence] indeed" and DCI Foote told the inquest "I had no information on which I could have arrested Mark Duggan.""
The reality is that, as a black man from a poor and neglected part of London, Mark Duggan was a victim of all the injustices of modern capitalist Britain before he was killed. For the tiny wealthy minority in society, who have contempt for the working class and the dilapidated areas they live in, he is as good as guilty. He was black, he was from Tottenham, he was a no hoper, and he probably deserved it. That is the logic the police force bases itself upon.
We must fight every injustice of this biased system. The unfolding of this case has helped millions in Britain to question the police, the establishment and also the poverty in society in general. But until the working class majority take power in their hands from the ruling class and run society for their own benefit, we can guarantee that police killings will continue free from prosecution. Mark Duggan's killing was lawful in the eyes of the bourgeois state, but not in the eyes of the working class.