Jermaine Baker: Unarmed suspect shot dead by police was lawfully killed, public inquiry concludes

·5-min read

An unarmed suspect shot dead by police as he waited to help two prisoners escape was lawfully killed, a public inquiry has concluded.

Jermaine Baker, 28, was part of a group waiting to spring two men from a prison van on their way to court to be sentenced in December 2015.

Police learned of the plot and followed the gang as they waited in a stolen Audi car behind Wood Green Crown Court in north London.

A Metropolitan Police firearms officer said he fired at Baker, who was one of three in the car, because he saw him reach for what he feared was a gun.

He said he had ordered Baker to put his hands on the dashboard.

The anonymous officer, known publicly as W80, told the inquiry he fired a single shot when he saw Baker's hands moving up towards a bag on his chest.

He said: "Given the information, I was sure that there was a gun in that bag. That's why I decided to fire."

The inquiry heard audio from police bugs in the Audi, in which some officers could be heard telling the car's occupants to put their hands up, but many of the words shouted were lost in the general noise.

W80 denied suggestions that Baker was putting his hands up to surrender and he could have waited a few more seconds before pulling his trigger.

He said: "No, my training is that his actions could beat my reactions. So I reacted to his actions, moving towards the bag."

'We're not getting the shottey'

The inquiry was told that police intelligence on the gang suggested they had experienced difficulty finding a gun to use in the planned prison van ambush, but firearms officers had been briefed that they could be armed.

After the shooting police found a replica Uzi machine-gun in the back of the car, but no working weapon.

The inquiry heard that W80 opened fire only a couple of seconds after the Audi passenger door was opened and that Mr Baker may have been asleep at the time.

The bugs in the car also revealed the men appearing to suggest that they had failed to get a real gun as they travelled to Wood Green Crown Court.

One of them was heard asking: "What's this ting gonna do?", to which another replied: "Nothing bruv, nothing."

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Kate Blackwell QC, counsel to the inquiry, said: "There are clear and repeated references to 'we're not getting the shottey' (shotgun). There are clear references to an intention to use a firearm of some sort in order to effect the escape.

"The reference to a canister suggests some form of gas or explosive device, or a Co2 canister inside a replica BB gun perhaps."

She said that it is clear, with hindsight, that they were discussing the lack of a live firearm and the disadvantage it would have on their plan.

Ms Blackwell said: "The inquiry will determine whether or not it is reasonable to expect that those listening to the live feed should have appreciated the meaning and effect of this conversation."

Officer still serving and resisting gross misconduct charges

Officer W80 was investigated by the police watchdog, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), on suspicion of murder, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge him with any criminal offence.

His bosses at Scotland Yard also refused to take any disciplinary action against him but, after a series of court challenges, were later ordered to do so by the IOPC and then by the appeal court.

The officer, who is still serving, is continuing to resist being charged with gross misconduct and is awaiting another appeal at the Supreme Court in the autumn.

Philippa Kaufmann QC, who represented Baker's family, told the inquiry the Met Police commissioner at the time, Dame Cressida Dick, had no interest in holding her officers to account either to the rule of law or the code of ethics.

She said the family wanted to know "how did W80, a highly trained firearms officer, a firearms instructor, conclude that Jermaine was reaching for a gun when he had not even given Jermaine time to comply with his instructions?"

The public inquiry, which ran for four months last summer, was ordered by Home Secretary Priti Patel so that all the evidence of the shooting, the events that led up to it and the aftermath could be heard in full.

'I'm never going to be able to hold or cuddle or kiss him again'

Speaking after the inquiry concluded, Baker's mother Margaret Smith said her son was "dead before he got into the car".

She told reporters: "The judge has pointed out numerous, really serious failings by the Met. Running the risk that my son's life would be taken was never justified.

"Jermaine's life was taken for no good reason - as I've always said, Jermaine should have gone to prison like the rest of the men in the car."

Ms Smith said she "cannot agree" and "cannot understand" the result.

"After seven years of waiting... we deserve more," she added.

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While waiting for the inquiry's report, Ms Smith described the process as "really physically exhausting" and said she was "sort of grateful" for it to be over.

"He should have gone to prison. I've always said he should have, then been out and asked us as a family to help him get back on his feet," she said prior to the conclusion.

"But he doesn't have that option now. He's dead. I'm never going to be able to hold or cuddle or kiss him again."

In a statement issued after the inquiry ended, the Met Police said it offered "every support" to the investigation and its thoughts are with Mr Baker's family.

However, it noted that while the report criticised how the policing operation was carried out, it did find that "these failures did not cause Mr Baker's death".

"Since Mr Baker's death we have made changes to how our firearms command operates in London, including how operations are run and overseen, how we train and support officers involved and how we keep records," it added.

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