Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has issued the following statement in the wake of the publication of the IPCC’s findings
into the conduct of officers following the
shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by Metropolitan Police Service
officers on 22 July 2005:
“On behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service I am now going to respond to the report which the IPCC have released this morning. Before I do so, however, I also want to use the publication of this report, just after the second anniversary of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, to apologise once again to the de Menezes family for the dreadful way in which he died. His death was an absolute tragedy.
Next year, the Metropolitan Police will have to account for our actions at an Inquest. The report today is not about his death but deals instead with the entirely understandable concerns of the family about what was said about it afterwards. It concerns the Met’s internal and external communications. The report is long and complex. Given that the Metropolitan Police only received it this morning, I thought it might be best if I began with some straightforward responses to it, on which I will then enlarge further. This has to be only an immediate view but the main points of our response are as follows:
After an extensive investigation, this is a very detailed report into an enormous organisation on an astonishingly difficult day: few organisations would not be found wanting in such circumstances, particularly in relation to communication.
The Metropolitan Police fully accepts, as the report notes, that we made mistakes in both internal and external communications. I am sorry these mistakes occurred.
At the heart of the report is concern about our procedures and processes for sharing and analysing information. We recognised the faults almost immediately and, eighteen months ago, the Met published changed procedures for a new internal briefing system, in a critical incident, in a report to the Police Authority. We only saw the IPCC’s recommendations this morning. It appears our new approach concurs with their findings. Albeit we have been operating it for the last eighteen months, it is useful to have IPCC support for what we are already doing.
The IPCC has found all allegations which it has investigated to be unsubstantiated, with one exception to which I will refer in a moment.
In particular, that means that, despite much speculation to the contrary, I did not lie to the public.
The IPCC describes me, when I left New Scotland Yard on the evening of 22nd July as ‘being almost totally uninformed.’ My duty was to the safety of London as a whole and to prepare my force for the coming days, which, of course, turned into an extraordinary eight day manhunt. As far as the shot man was concerned, I knew my officers were conducting enquiries expeditiously, I knew that identification was going to be really difficult but dreadful as it was, this matter was only one of my concerns. I neither believe that my senior colleagues let me down, nor that my position on that night was unreasonable.
I cannot comment on the disciplinary allegation against Andy Hayman because this is now under consideration by the Metropolitan Police Authority; equally, nothing I say about any issue arising out of this report should be seen as referring to that allegation: however, what I can say and I do say is that Andy Hayman has a distinguished record of service: he led the investigations into the bombings of July 2005 and all the counter-terrorist investigations since and he retains my full support in the crucially important job he undertakes for this country.
I need to explain the command structure of the Metropolitan Police Service. I had overall responsibility for the conduct of the Met. In July 2005, I appointed Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman to lead the counter-terrorist investigations and I asked Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, now retired, to lead on all the necessary support services to assist that investigation and prepare for further attacks. These three roles are well set out in a statement made by Alan Brown. My press statement today is now being placed on the Met’s internet site: Alan Brown’s useful explanation of the command responsibilities is attached, together with his clear explanation as to when he briefed me about Mr de Menezes identity.
We have co-operated fully with the IPCC investigation: while it is a matter for another day, I therefore cannot accept the emphasis the IPCC has placed on our contribution to the delay of this report.
That said, I want to say again that I am very sorry that some information released to the public was wrong and increased the grief of the de Menezes family. I hope, however, that the shortcomings which occurred will be seen in the light both of the extraordinary challenge we faced and the significant steps we have since taken to improve.
I will now give as detailed an appraisal of the report as has been possible to put together in the time that?s been available, expanding on some of what I have just said, as well as considering other aspects of the report.
Very fairly, the IPCC has laid out the context of their investigation: the events of July 2005. I will not repeat all that but I do want to emphasise the very difficult situation we were facing and pay tribute to how well officers and staff of the MPS did in protecting Londoners.
July 2005 was a month unparalleled in the modern history of the Metropolitan Police Service. Dreadful as were the events of 7 July, for the Met it was 21 July and the days immediately thereafter that were the centre of that challenge; an unprecedented hunt for a number of suicide bombers on the run. Our grave fear was that they would attack again. They had to be found before they had the chance to do so.
The IPCC has considered allegations that I and other Met officers, either separately or together, deliberately misled the media in press statements concerning the shooting. Except for the separate matter concerning Andy Hayman, the IPCC does not uphold any allegations against either me or any one else. Speaking personally, I have always made it clear that it was not my intention to mislead and, that if I had lied, I would not be fit to hold this office. I did not lie.
Nevertheless, the IPCC does conclude that our internal briefing processes were not adequate to deal with the pressures of 22 and 23 July, which meant that some press statements, although made in good faith, were partially inaccurate. We entirely accept the IPCC conclusions about this.
I now want to deal with what the IPCC has to say about the fact that I was not informed about the identity of Mr de Menezes until 10:30 am on the day after his death, 23 July. Of course, we will take time to examine the IPCC recommendations concerning this point but for now I want to say two things about it.
The first is that the identification of Mr de Menezes was difficult to confirm. During both 22nd and 23rd July, an armed operation was underway to enter the premises where one of the attempted bombing suspects appeared to be living ? which was in the same building as Mr de Menezes. This meant that most of the normal processes of identification were therefore unavailable.
During the course of 22nd July, I was fully aware both of the situation at the flats and its impact on identification and that the Met, through a number of channels, would be seeking reliable information and to establish the extent, or otherwise, of his involvement in terrorism.
I knew, as did my colleagues and this is the second point about the timing – that terrorists repeatedly use false identities. Thus, given the risks of false positives in identification, it is professionally understandable that those leading the investigation chose to wait until the various pieces of information became more coherent before briefing me the next morning. These were extremely senior and experienced officers making difficult judgments, at a time when extraordinary events were taking place.
As I left that evenin
g at 9pm my duty was to think ahead as to how to protect London as a whole, which the Metropolitan Police Service did magnificently in the days that followed. As I have said, I did not criticise the officers who supported me when interviewed by the IPCC and I do not do so now. All retain my full confidence. As I have said, I believe both their position and mine is explicable and reasonable in the circumstances of the day, rather than in the light of hindsight.
Secondly, having been informed of Mr de Menezes identity and innocence 45 minutes after the officer in charge of that line of inquiry was clear about the position, I took all the actions necessary to ensure that the Met did absolutely everything we could to reach out to the family and to take care of the welfare of the officers involved. Then I continued with ensuring that everything was being done in the continuing search for the bombers.
Lessons Learned from the events of July 2005
Organisations faced with enquiries like this always say the same thing: we will learn lessons. In this case, however, these events took place more than two years ago and we have already learned the lessons, by changing our processes for handling information in a major crisis.
Immediately after 7 July 2005, I set in train a review of our response to the original bombings. This then took into account the attempted bombings of 21 July and the death of Mr de Menezes. Seventeen months ago, in February 2006, we published a report to the Metropolitan Police Authority, identifying changes that needed to be made in internal and external communications in the face of another event of this scale.
The principal development – which I think answers the central IPCC recommendations is an entirely new approach to our system for briefing senior officers during complex and critical incidents. The first few hours after a major incident are often very fast moving and full of imprecision. Whilst our existing processes had worked well during critical incidents in the past, what was being faced in July 2005 was a level of operational activity never previously encountered.
Our learning from these events has produced a more structured briefing process where information, gathered from a variety of sources, can better distinguish between what is known, what is believed and information which may or not be accurate. We have tested this system in action during both the Alexander Litvinenko investigation and the attempted bombings, five weeks ago, in London and in Glasgow. It worked extremely well on both occasions.
There are two other important issues which are to some degree covered in the report but which I believe deserve further comment. I have long been a strong advocate of independent scrutiny and oversight of police actions. I supported the creation of the IPCC. I am therefore going to take this opportunity to comment on the decision that I took initially to exclude the IPCC from the scene of the shooting. That decision was taken with the best of motives, that the rigorous investigation of this shooting needed to be fully co-ordinated with the needs of the counter terrorism investigation underway at that time the search for the attempted suicide bombers. With hindsight, there could have been other ways of achieving that objective.
Secondly, the length of time that mis-information was allowed to circulate about the shooting of Mr de Menezes needs a fuller explanation. The IPCC report centres upon three press statements made during the course of 22 July and what led them all to contain some mistaken information.
It mentions but does not particularly comment on the reason why, in the days that followed the revelation of Mr de Menezes’ innocence, the Metropolitan Police did not correct these and other erroneous statements made about him. Although some of those comments were made not by the Met but by others, I am sure the fact that they were not corrected remains one of the most damaging aspects of this whole matter. I believe that public confidence was damaged when statements, for instance, about Mr de Menezes’ behaviour and clothing were revealed to be inaccurate, largely by a leak rather than by official clarification.
The problem stemmed from the fact that once the investigation had been referred to the IPCC, the Met was no longer the lead agency and, as the report notes, was asked by the IPCC to make no further public statements about the case. I think that arrangement was just wrong. Both organisations were responsible for that and now this report is to hand, I will work with the IPCC to clarify responsibilities for communication once they take over investigations. I should also add that, while there may have been delay in correcting misinformation to the wider public, the Met made every effort to explain what it could as early as possible to the de Menezes family, both here and by sending a senior officer to Brazil.
Before I finish, I want to make clear that I remain immensely proud of the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Service who risked their lives for Londoners on those days in July 2005 and who continue to do so, every hour of every day.
In summary, the Met has learned from what happened: but not only from the events of 22 July. We face the fastest evolving terrorist threat ever seen in Britain. We are continuously learning. We have to.
As this report makes clear, communications on 22 and 23 July 2005 were not adequate to the pressure of events. I deeply regret that this happened particularly in connection with something as profoundly shocking as the death of an innocent man, particularly for his family. I hope what we have done to improve our briefing processes since will reassure the public that such shortcomings in communication will not occur again.“