Death of Harry Stanley

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This article is about a man shot dead by police. For the English cricketer, see Harry Stanley (cricketer).

Harry Stanley (ca. 1953 – 22 September 1999) was a painter and decorator who was shot and killed by British armed police in contentious circumstances. Initially his death was recorded with an open verdict, before being ruled as unlawful killing by a jury on appeal and finally returned to an open verdict by the high court.

Background[edit]

Stanley was born in Bellshill, near Glasgow, Scotland, where he lived for the first 19 years of his life. He moved to London in the early 1970s in search of work, and married his childhood sweetheart, Irene. They had three children, and grandchildren, and lived in Hackney, east London. He had a previous criminal record, being a convicted armed robber,[1] and had served 4 years in prison for grievous bodily harm.[2] This was unknown to the police officers who responded to the call about "an Irishman with a gun wrapped in a bag".[3] The 46-year-old painter and decorator had only recently been released from hospital after an operation for colon cancer at the time of his death.

Shooting[edit]

On 22 September 1999, he was returning home from the Alexandra Pub in South Hackney carrying, in a plastic bag, a table leg that had been repaired by his brother earlier that day. Someone had phoned the police to report "an Irishman with a gun wrapped in a bag".[4]

At the junction of Fremont Street and Victoria Park Road in South Hackney, close to his home, Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan, the crew of a Metropolitan police Armed Response Vehicle challenged Mr. Stanley from behind. As he turned to face them, they shot him dead at a distance of 15 feet (5 m).[5]

Hearings[edit]

First inquest[edit]

The first inquest jury in 2002 returned an open verdict.[6] Stanley's family were unhappy with this outcome, particularly as the coroner, Dr. Stephen Chan, had only allowed the jury to return either a verdict of lawful killing or an open verdict.[7]

Judicial review[edit]

His widow, Irene, petitioned the High Court and succeeded in obtaining a judicial review of the first inquest.[8] On 7 April 2003 Mr. Justice Sieber ordered a fresh inquest after ruling that there had been an "insufficient inquiry".[9]

During the new hearing, coroner Dr. Andrew Reid heard that the two officers fired the shots after being given wrong information in a tipoff; they had been told that Mr Stanley was carrying a weapon and had an Irish accent. The new jury returned a verdict, in November 2004, of unlawful killing,[10] which resulted in the suspension of the officers involved.[11]

In protest at the suspensions, over 120 out of the 400 Metropolitan Police officers authorised to use firearms handed in their firearms authorisation cards, with Glen Smyth, a Police Federation spokesman saying, "The officers are very concerned that the tactics they are trained in, as a consequence of the verdict, are now in doubt."[12] The officers' suspensions were lifted shortly afterwards.[13]

High Court[edit]

In May 2005 the High Court decided that there was "insufficient evidence" for the verdict of unlawful killing, overturning it and reinstating the open verdict of the first inquest.[14] Mr. Justice Leveson also decided a third inquest should not be held, but added his weight to calls for reform of the inquest system.[15] Glen Smyth described the ruling as "common sense",[16] but the campaign group Inquest was disappointed, saying the verdict sent "a message that families cannot have any confidence in the system. They feel they cannot get justice when a death in custody occurs."[17]

Police action[edit]

On 2 June 2005 the two officers involved in the shooting were arrested and interviewed, following an investigation by Surrey Police involving new forensic evidence.[18] The Crown Prosecution Service decided in October 2005 not to press charges, saying that they "concluded that the prosecution evidence is insufficient to rebut the officers' assertion that they were acting in self defence".[19]

On 9 February 2006 the Independent Police Complaints Commission published their report into the incident, recommending that no further disciplinary action be taken against the officers.[20] Representatives of the Stanley family expressed their "bitter disappointment" and stated the case was a failure of the criminal justice system.[21][22] The Metropolitan Police Federation stated, "We are, of course, delighted by the vindication of the officers. But we remain deeply disturbed at the way the whole matter has been handled."[23] The report did make notable recommendations to the police in the post-incident procedure to be followed after a shooting.[24]

Film[edit]

The Strange Death of Harry Stanley is a multiple award-winning short film about the case released in 2012. The film was longlisted for BAFTA Best Short Film, and won many awards, including Best Short Film at Milan International Film Festival and Best British Film at the Super Shorts Festival. Written and directed by Jeremiah Quinn, and made with the full permission of the Stanley family, the film presents 22 September 1999 from Harry Stanley's point of view. The Metropolitan Police declined to join a panel discussion at the premiere, saying nobody was familiar with the case any more.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.standard.co.uk/news/table-leg-man-was-armed-robber-6327886.html
  2. ^ http://www.standard.co.uk/news/table-leg-man-was-armed-robber-6327886.html
  3. ^ "How tip-off led to shooting death". BBC News. 2004-11-02. 
  4. ^ "How tip-off led to shooting death". BBC News. 2004-11-02. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  5. ^ "PC 'feared he would be killed'". BBC News. 2002-06-20. Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  6. ^ Bowcott, Owen (2002-06-22). "Open verdict on man shot dead by police". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-04-10. .
  7. ^ "Family's anger at shot man verdict". BBC News. 2002-06-21. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  8. ^ "Judicial review of shot man verdict". BBC News. 2003-02-04. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  9. ^ "New inquest into police shooting". BBC News. 2003-04-07. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  10. ^ Cheston, Paul (2004-10-29). "Police shooting 'unlawful'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  11. ^ "Unlawful killing police suspended". BBC News. 2004-10-29. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  12. ^ "More police join firearms protest". BBC News. 2004-11-02. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  13. ^ "Gun death officers return to work". BBC News. 2004-12-10. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  14. ^ "Police gunman is cleared of unlawful killing". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 2005-05-12. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  15. ^ "Court quashes table leg shooting verdict". The Guardian (London). 2005-05-12. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  16. ^ "Table leg killing verdict quashed". BBC News. 2005-05-12. Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  17. ^ Muir, Hugh (2005-05-13). "Officer cleared after killing man carrying table leg". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-04-11. 
  18. ^ Steele, John (2005-06-03). "Firearms officers are arrested over 1999 'table leg' shooting". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  19. ^ "No charges for gun death officers". BBC News. 2005-10-20. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  20. ^ "Harry Stanley - IPCC publishes decision and report" (Press release). IPCC. 2006-02-09. 
  21. ^ "Police to escape discipline over table leg killing". The Guardian (London). 2006-02-09. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  22. ^ Cowan, Rosie (2006-02-10). "Met officers in 'table leg' shooting will not face action". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  23. ^ "Stanley case: myth and fact". Metropolitan Police Federation. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  24. ^ Cragg, Stephen (2006-02-14). "Legislation update". The Times (London). Retrieved 2006-04-10.