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De Menezes family's justice plea

Published 10/06/2015

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by armed police in 2005
Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by armed police in 2005

No one has been held to account over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, his family's lawyer said today at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as they challenged the decision not to bring charges over his death.

Relatives of the Brazilian took their case to the Strasbourg court's Grand Chamber almost 10 years after he was mistaken for a suicide bomber and shot dead by police marksmen on a London Tube train.

Lawyers for the family argue that the assessment used by prosecutors in deciding that no individual should be charged over the 2005 shooting is incompatible with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to life.

They claim the evidential test applied by the Crown Prosecution Service - that there should be sufficient evidence for a "realistic prospect" of conviction - is too high a threshold.

It means that, in effect, the decision not to bring a prosecution was based on a conclusion that there was less than a 50% chance of conviction, they say.

The case has been lodged by Patricia da Silva, a cousin of Mr de Menezes.

In front of a panel of more than 20 judges, Hugh Southey QC, representing Mr de Menezes's family, said: " This is a case in which an entirely innocent man was deliberately shot by agents of the state.

"The Government accepts in essence, there were systemic organisation failures but no individuals have been prosecuted.

"No individual has been held to account."

Arguing for a change to the definition of self-defence, Mr Southey said English law could offer a defence to the US police officer who was filmed shooting a black man in the back as he ran away.

The death of Walter Scott in South Carolina in April prompted renewed outcry over the use of lethal force by law enforcement.

Mr Southey told the court: "English law would provide a defence if the officer could argue he had the honest belief his life was under threat."

Clare Montgomery QC, representing the British government, told the court there was "huge operational pressure" on police at the time of Mr de Menezes's death in the wake of the July 7 bombings.

"Both senior officers in command had virtually no sleep," said.

"Fifty two people had been killed on the 7th of July. On 21st July, the day before this event, four bombs had been set in Tube trains and buses and there was a hunt on for the four people who placed them, which was what led to this tragic event."

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot dead by Metropolitan Police firearms officers at Stockwell Underground station in south London on July 22 2005.

The following year the CPS announced that no individual should be charged.

In 2007 the Met was fined £175,000 after being convicted of breaching health and safety laws.

An inquest jury later rejected the police account of the shooting and returned an open verdict. The coroner had already ruled out a verdict of unlawful killing.

In 2009, the family of the electrician agreed an undisclosed settlement with Scotland Yard.

Today's hearing comes more than seven years after the original application was lodged at the ECHR. The claim is also challenging the definition of self-defence.

Before the hearing, Ms de Silva said: "For 10 years our family has been campaigning for justice for Jean because we believe that police officers should have been held to account for his killing. Jean's death is a pain that never goes away for us.

"Nothing can bring him back but we hope that this legal challenge will change the law so that no other family has to face what we did."

The case was adjourned following the lawyers' arguments, with judgment reserved to a later date.

Yasmin Khan, spokeswoman for the de Menezes family campaign, said a judgment in the case was not expected for at least six months.

Following the hearing, she said: "The family thought today was really positive. They are quite hopeful.

"Today was a really important opportunity to have the family's arguments heard. We can't underestimate the significance.

"It goes to the heart of why there have not been any successful prosecutions of police officers."

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