Shoot to kill police may get more legal protection

Armed police in Sheffield this summer
Armed police in Sheffield this summer
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Action to give armed police greater legal protection if they shoot terrorists and other suspects is being examined by the Government, it was reported.

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered a review amid concerns that officers who “shoot to kill” fear prosecution if they pull the trigger, senior government sources told The Sunday Times.

An armed police officer. Photo: PA.

An armed police officer. Photo: PA.

It said concerns were expressed by senior figures including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe during discussions at the National Security Council over how to protect the public from a Paris-style attack.

The move will be controversial as it came in the same week that an officer was arrested and interviewed under caution as part of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry into the death of Jermaine Baker.

The 28-year-old, from Tottenham, north London, died from a single gunshot wound during an operation against an alleged attempt to spring two convicts from a prison van near Wood Green.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has expressed reservations about having a “shoot to kill” policy outside of anti-terrorist operations, warned that community relations could be damaged and raised fears it was a “political stunt”.

The newspaper said it was told that the Prime Minister was prepared to change the law to reduce the prospect of officers facing lengthy court proceedings.

It quoted a senior source as saying: “Terrorist incidents both at home and abroad have shown very clearly the life and death decisions police officers have to make in split second circumstances. We must make sure that when police take the ultimate decision to protect the safety of the public they do so with the full support of the law and the state - there can be no room for hesitation when lives are at risk.”

The review, which will report privately to the PM in the new year, will be conducted by the Home Office, the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice and could lead to measures being included in the forthcoming Policing and Justice Bill.

Mr Corbyn told The Sunday Times: “If you want the public as a whole to have confidence in the police force and confidence they can co-operate with them in the future, any shooting on the street diminishes that confidence.”

In July, a top police marksman who blasted suspected armed robber Azelle Rodney six times at short range walked free from court - after 10 years of controversy surrounding the killing.

One High Court judgment during those proceedings concluded that there was “considerable force in the expressed concern that minute dissection of fractions of a second with the benefit of hindsight will discourage an appropriate response, in real time, to threats thereby resulting in potentially increased danger to those involved in (or likely to be affected by) these exceedingly difficult operations.”