THERE are now to be two official inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the killing by members of the Metropolitan Police of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell underground station in south London on July 22. The first, into how an innocent man came to be killed, has been in progress since late July and is expected to be completed by the end of December. The second, announced yesterday, concerns the conduct of the Met's Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, in the immediate aftermath of the Stockwell shooting. Both inquiries are being undertaken by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It comes as something of a surprise that Sir Ian's public role on July 22 and 23 is not part of the main inquiry which has been under way for four months, and as an even greater surprise that the new inquiry has been set up only as the result of a recent formal allegation by the de Menezes family that Sir Ian and the Metropolitan Police service misled the public about the fatal shooting. There were many media and public criticisms of statements made by Sir Ian following the shooting. He said, for instance, that the shooting of Mr de Menezes was directly linked to the ongoing terrorist investigation and that the man was challenged and and refused to obey police instructions Both statements proved to be inaccurate. Sir Ian has also said that he did not know the wrong man had been shot until the following day whereas there is evidence that the Police Complaints Commission was told on the same day that a serious mistake had been made. There is also documentary evidence that Sir Ian tried to persuade the Home Office that any inquiry should be undertaken by the police themselves rather than by the Complaints Commission and that this led to a delay in the start of the Commission's work. Sir Ian Blair recently asked in a BBC lecture for the public to say what kind of a police service they wanted. One answer must be that they want a service that is answerable to the public for its actions. In this case they seem likely to get just that.
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