On 30 April 2005 an armed police officer of the London Metropolitan Police fatally shot Azelle Rodney (shown below), a passenger in a car believed to have armed criminals inside, in a bungled ‘hard stop’. Although weapons were subsequently found in the vehicle, Mr. Rodney was not holding a gun when killed by the police.
Investigations by both the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service found no reason to criticise the police’s conduct. No inquest was held, and eventually political pressure persuaded the Lord Chancellor to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry on 10 June 2010.
The recently published Azelle Rodney Inquiry Report is critical of:
- the Metropolitan Police’s planning procedures,
- the execution of the ‘hard stop’,
- their handling of the aftermath of the shooting, and
- concluded that there was no lawful justification for shooting Mr. Rodney so as to kill him.
Specifically, the report criticised the conduct of the ‘hard stop’, a tactic used by the police to ‘box in’ a suspect vehicle and use overwhelming force to shock the occupants into compliance. The report’s authors considered this ‘hard stop’ fell short of Police standards.
They found fault with:
- the decision to ‘box in’ the vehicle directly outside a pub when better opportunities for the manoeuvre had previously presented themselves,
- the deliberate ramming of the suspect vehicle on two separate occasions,
- the officers who alighted from the police vehicles failed to wear caps so identifying themselves as police officers,
- the officers fired a shotgun into the suspect vehicle’s tyres after it had been rammed and hemmed in when there was no likelihood of the vehicle escaping
- the disproportionate force used by the police officer who shot Azelle Rodney, who opened fire only 0.06 seconds after his car stopped alongside the suspect vehicle with first six bullets, then followed up with two more shots. Shots 5-8 were found to have been directly to the head.
- the evidence given by that officer was unreliable. The report found that the officer could not have seen or believed that Azelle Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to use it, despite his earlier statements. It considered that the policeman would be liable in civil and criminal law for the killing as there was no basis for firing the fatal fifth to eighth shots
- the post-assault procedures, in which Mr. Rodney’s body was left on the pavement for more than 16 hours, his blood was not cleaned away prior to his family attending the scene, and unauthorised press reports were released.
The report recommends that the Metropolitan Police conduct a thorough review of their procedures.
Police assaults as a result of ‘hard stop’ action
Our modern police force has evolved to deal with changing threats. In particular, the risks caused by firearms and weapons means that the police have developed a tactic to create ‘shock and awe’ in the minds of their suspects. The police will now use the ‘hard stop’, expletives, physical force, ‘boxing in’ (where police vehicles are used to corner a suspect’s vehicle), and other aggressive behaviour to dominate and intimidate. They justify this by stating that they may have to deal with the threat of lethal force from potentially armed suspects.
The bungled ‘hard stop’ which tragically resulted in Azelle Rodney’s death was over eight years ago. Have the police learned from their mistakes? As two of my cases involving the London Metropolitan Police show, a pattern of unjustifiable police assaults is emerging that may suggest not.
Police assault, hard stops and ‘verbal stunning’
My clients Claire Clarke, James Barber, Nicholas Fairbairn and Ruth Fairbairn were on the receiving end of aggressive police assault tactics, described in an official response to their complaint as ‘verbal stunning’, when they were driving home from visiting friends on 19 April 2010. (You can read a case report here.)
The four friends in their late twenties were driving in Harrow when their car was boxed in by three marked Police cars while executing a ‘hard stop’.
A number of armed police officers surrounded them and trained their weapons on the car. James (the driver) had his car window was smashed, was roughly pulled out, thrown to the glass-covered ground and handcuffed. The armed police officers screamed expletives and contradictory instructions at the terrified friends. Nick and Ruth were also forcibly removed and handcuffed. The friends were separated. After 20 minutes the police explained they had made a mistake, and that they had stopped the wrong car.
All suffered physical and emotional distress as a result. As with Azelle Rodney’s case, the Independent Police Complaints Commission rejected their complaint saying there was no evidence of misconduct. I disagreed and instigated a civil action on their behalf and ultimately recovered compensation for my clients for this police assault on the basis that the police failed to conduct basic checks before executing the ‘hard stop’ on the friends’ car.
Police assault with gun during a ‘hard stop’
My client Mr. A had just walked into an underground car park on 04 September 2009 when he was set upon by five or six armed men, all dressed in plain clothes. One of the men approached him and without warning smashed the butt of his gun into the side of Mr. A’s right temple, causing him to fall to the ground.
Mr. A was dragged away from the car park doorway by his attacker.
When Mr. A asked ‘why are you beating me?’ the man said ‘keep your f**king mouth shut’ and struck Mr. A with the butt of his gun again in the right temple.
Mr. A adopted a foetal position on the ground. While defenceless he felt people pulling at his limbs, kicking his heels, ribs and left hip. He was stamped on by the men. Then he was struck with the butt of the gun a third time to the head by the same man, who shouted ‘F**king c*nt, move!’
Mr. A, who was bleeding heavily and in great pain by this time had no idea who was attacking him, or why.
The man with the gun was told to ‘back off’ by a colleague, who came over and said ‘it’s not even f**king him’. Despite this, Mr. A was told that he was being arrested.
It then dawned on Mr. A that he had been repeatedly assaulted by police officers, not gangland thugs. As with Azelle Rodney’s case, the officers had failed to wear caps or other identifying clothing.
Mr. A was arrested (even though the officers would not tell him why), taken to hospital and thereafter a London police station where he was held for over 24 hours before being released, even though the police had clearly arrested the wrong man.
Ultimately, no action was taken against him.
He has suffered serious injuries which have left him with permanent scars to his face and scalp, and emotional trauma. I am now pursuing an actions against the police claim for his police assault, wrongful arrest & false imprisonment. Mr. A seeks additional compensation for the police’s arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional conduct.
The police have denied liability and refused to apologise for their conduct. I have issued court proceedings on his behalf and the case is ongoing.
Police assault failures
There are chilling similarities between my clients’ cases and that of Azelle Rodney.
Eight years on, when faced with a potentially lethal threat, police officers are still failing to comply with proper procedures, using unnecessary force and mishandling the aftermath, knowing that they will be protected by the IPCC and their solicitors. We can only hope that the criticism of all involved in the Azelle Rodney case will convince the police to clean up their act.
If you are a victim of police assault and want to make a claim for compensation against the police, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via the www.dpp-law.com website.