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Inquest on Brixton gun victim Groce

An inquest into the death of a mother whose shooting sparked the 1985 Brixton riots is due to take place today.

Cherry Groce was paralysed below the waist when she was accidentally shot by police seeking her son, Michael, during an early morning raid on her home.

She died in April 2011, having spent 26 years in a wheelchair.

Ministers overturned a decision to block legal aid for lawyers to represent Mrs Groce's family at the inquest after a petition attracted 130,000 signatures.

The Legal Aid Agency initially denied funding but referred the case to ministers following a campaign by her relatives and Labour MP Chuka Umunna.

Dozens of civilians and 10 police officers were injured in the unrest on the streets of Brixton, south London, following the shooting of Mrs Groce.

Days later, disorder broke out on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, north London, following the death of another black woman, Cynthia Jarrett, who collapsed with a stroke after police raided her home.

Pc Keith Blakelock was stabbed to death during the subsequent rioting.

Inspector Douglas Lovelock, the marksman who shot her, stood trial in 1987 charged with inflicting unlawful and malicious grievous bodily harm, and was acquitted.

The inquest into Mrs Groce's death comes after documents obtained by Channel 4 News revealed that a pathologist for the family and a pathologist for the police both concluded there is a causal link between the shooting and her death.

Mrs Groce's son Lee Lawrence, who was 11 years old when he saw his mother shot, said: "We have fought long and hard to be heard and get answers.

"It is thanks to each and every one who signed the petition to grant our family legal aid that we will be properly represented in court.

"We have had to carry the weight of what happened to mum for almost 30 years but we will not rest until justice has been served.

"We owe it to her so that she may finally be able to rest in peace knowing that we did all we could to get to the truth. I pray justice prevails."

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST, said: "The shooting of Cherry Groce was devastating for her and her family. But it also raised serious questions for the public at large about the oppressive policing of the black community and the use of lethal force by our police services generally: questions which remain as pertinent now as they were three decades ago.

"When citizens are shot and seriously injured by police officers, there must be a robust and fearless inquiry into the planning, operation and aftermath of the use of force to ascertain whether its use was lawful and necessary."

Clare Richardson from Bhatt Murphy, the solicitors representing the family, said: "The passage of time since Mrs Groce was shot in her home 29 years ago cannot be a reason to obscure the need for rigorous public scrutiny into all the surrounding circumstances.

"Our clients now look to the Metropolitan Police to ensure that they finally own up to their responsibility for those events: this means that they should approach the inquest with the courage to allow the kind of scrutiny that they have so markedly failed to provide over these decades."

The inquest before Assistant Coroner Lorna Tagliavini at London's Southwark Coroner's Court is listed for eight days.


From Belfast Telegraph