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

July 05, 2022

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

The retired judge in charge said he accepted that the firearms officer who fired the fatal shot, known publicly as W80, honestly believed Jermaine Baker had ignored his instruction to show his hands and was reaching for a weapon.

He said: "I have concluded that W80 shot Mr Baker because he honestly believed that Mr Baker posed a lethal threat and that it was reasonably necessary for him to shoot in order to defend himself."

But Clement Goldstone QC identified 24 specific failings by the Metropolitan Police in the planning and execution of the firearms operation.

He said in his report: "I cannot help but believe and observe that if Mr Baker had not been fatally shot, none of the shortcomings… that this inquiry has exposed would have come to light and the operation would have been hailed as an outstanding success by and for the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service).

"If it achieves little else, therefore, this inquiry should serve as a loud wake-up call to a newly-appointed Commissioner."

He also criticised Dame Cressida Dick, who resigned as Scotland Yard Commissioner in February, saying: "Although many of my criticisms relate to failures that occurred several years ago, there are others that are far more recent.

"The outgoing Commissioner's claims to have addressed many MPS failures in recent years should be considered in this light."

He also said the complexity and difficulty of the task facing armed police in protecting the public from terrorists and serious criminals could not be overestimated, but it had to be subject to "the most searching scrutiny".

Baker, 28, was part of a group waiting to spring two men from a prison van as they travelled to court to be sentenced in December 2015.

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

A 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 him to put his hands on the dashboard.

Read more:
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'I reacted to his actions moving towards the bag'

The anonymous officer, W80, told the inquiry he had 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 was played 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."

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

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

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'We're not getting the shottey'

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 to 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."

W80 was investigated by the police watchdog, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct, on suspicion of murder, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge him with any 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 then Met police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, had no interest in holding her officers to account either to the rule of law or the code of ethics.

'I'm never going to be able to hold him again'

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.

Baker's mother Margaret Smith told the inquiry her son, a father-of-two, had been written off by his school teachers and struggled to find a job after serving a prison sentence.

As she awaited the inquiry's report she said: "It's been really physically exhausting. I'm sort of grateful that it's done and dusted now, because now all the evidence that we've had to sit down and say nothing about for all these years has finally come out.

"But my son's gone, me and him had such a lovely bond, and he's gone and he's not coming back, so regardless of what answer we get at the end of it, he's not coming back, so it feels a bit bittersweet."

She accepted that her son broke the law, but said she would "still fight for justice for him as a family".

She added: "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. 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."

Metropolitan Police said in its evidence that W80 had fired "because he genuinely and honestly believed that there was an imminent threat to the lives of his 14 colleagues".

In response to the inquiry's findings, it said its thoughts were with Baker's family but that the judge had found that failures in the police operation had not caused his death and that "it was reasonable in the circumstances to assume that someone in the vehicle would be armed with a real firearm".

"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," the Met said in a statement.

"We are always open to improving our capability to tackle the threat of firearms. We will now take time to carefully study the Inquiry's recommendations before responding in more detail."

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