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Pleas for peace at Duggan vigil

Britain's most senior police officer believes a remembrance vigil for Mark Duggan will remain peaceful despite fury after an inquest jury found the 29-year-old was lawfully killed by a Scotland Yard marksman.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe met with political and community leaders from Tottenham, north London today as part of moves to rebuild the fractured relationship with the police in the wake of the shooting and its aftermath.

Mr Duggan was gunned down when the taxi in which he was travelling was stopped by armed officers in Tottenham in August 2011, and his death sparked protests that in turn led to a wave of rioting and looting across the country.

His family, who have vowed to carry on fighting for justice and want a judicial review of the inquest conclusion, have refused to meet Scotland Yard top brass and are holding a protest vigil in Tottenham at the weekend.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard said: "We're all conscious that some people are very angry in that area and we have to work hard to make sure that we provide a good police service for them too.

"Obviously the family are angry and to some extent confused by the verdict, but also they are shocked. They didn't expect that verdict, they expected another verdict. That's something that was clear from their reaction at the time.

"A vigil is to commemorate Mark Duggan's death, that's what the vigil is about. It's a terrible tragedy that someone's lost a life in this case, and clearly the family want to register, I believe, their protest about the outcome of the inquest.

"They've got every right to do that, and we as the police have got every opportunity to facilitate that so that's exactly what we will do.

"We will continue to talk to the family and others to keep our communications alive, and also to make sure, as I believe, that the protest will happen and that there won't be disorder."

He would not be drawn on details of precautions that the force is taking in case of unrest, but said that contingency plans are in place.

Earlier Prime Minister David Cameron also appealed for peace in the wake of the jury's conclusion, and his aunt Carole said she wanted "no more violence".

The jury of seven women and three men found that it was more likely than not that Mr Duggan had a gun with him in the taxi, but had thrown the weapon onto a nearby grass verge before he was shot.

Sir Bernard said that he hopes Mr Duggan's family will agree to meet with police in the future.

"We do hope that one day the family will be able to take up that offer. I'm not at all surprised that their first reaction was not to take up the offer, they've lost a member of the family. They've had an inquest finding that is not one that they wanted, and they're angry and confused."

He said that officers involved in the operation had faced "a great dilemma".

"I hope that one day we will be able to have conversations and hope to be able to understand all sides of this issues. Obviously we're concentrating on the family, but police officers had a great dilemma in this case too. They have had to deal with someone who was carrying a gun on the streets of London, and that's the wrong thing to do. Police officers have got a duty to intervene, these are very difficult situations and as with the family they have had to wait two years to hear the outcome.

"We all need to have a bit of understanding of other people's perspective - I do understand the family's, I hope other people are able to understand the dilemma for a police officer."

The force will decide in the coming months whether the marksman, known only as V53, should return to firearms duties.

The Commissioner said: "We will work together with them (the marksman) to see how we help them in their professional development. We have to be aware that the Independent Police Complaints Commission have not yet closed their inquiry. I'm sure they will want to reflect, as they've said, on what they've heard in the inquest. I hope that inquiry can come to a conclusion fairly quickly, given that we're now over two years from the incident itself.

"We will help that officer to return to full professional duties. They have been at work but not involved in firearms operations.

" We have to consider the officer, who if we give them that responsibility to carry a gun again how do they feel after such a long period? I don't think that is something that we rush to, we have to look at training and their development. But is is something we will consider in the coming months."

Speaking after meeting Sir Bernard today, the Rev Nims Obunge, who buried Mr Duggan, said the 29-year-old's family want the vigil to remain calm.

"The message from the family is that this vigil is intended to be a very peaceful vigil. We expect that anybody who would come would stand with the family. It is a vigil in remembrance and respecting the life and death of Mark Duggan. His children will be there, and we don't expect anybody to come to where Mark Duggan's children are to create unrest or anarchy."

The Prime Minister praised Carole Duggan for her appeal for calm, and Sir Bernard thanked the family for discouraging unrest.

Mr Cameron told BBC London: "I very much respect Mark Duggan's aunt for saying they want to pursue their case through the courts rather than on the streets, I think that's absolutely right.

"These issues raise very strong emotions but I hope people can react calmly and recognise that we have proper judicial processes in this country and they are the ones that must be followed and respected."

Following the conclusion of the inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, Carole Duggan cried out: "No justice, no peace" - but she insisted she was not calling for a repeat of the rioting which followed the shooting.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme she said: "No more demonstrations, no more violence. We will have to fight this, go through the struggle, peacefully through the right channels, to get justice for as long as it takes."

Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has vowed to meet with the Duggan family next week.

A spokeswoman said they would discuss the "next investigative steps, some have been ongoing during the inquest as evidence was coming out and some have been identified as a result of the jury conclusions".

She added: "We will be sharing these with the family and also asking them to clarify with us the questions they still feel need to be answered."

When asked if the Duggan family were owed an apology, Sir Bernard told ITV News: "I'm not going to talk about apologies.

"I think the only thing I can do is to respect the outcome of the jury's verdict. Clearly the family still has concerns, and they're asking questions, and of course the IPCC have yet to conclude their investigation into this event.

"So I think it would be unwise for anybody at this stage to say anything further than we accept the jury's verdict."


From Belfast Telegraph