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A coroner has threatened the Independent Police Complaints Commission with contempt of court for refusing to hand over material relating to their investigation into the police shooting of Mark Duggan.
In angry exchanges with the barrister for the police watchdog, the north London coroner, Andrew Walker, said he was no closer to establishing whether an inquest could take place than he was earlier this year.
He ordered the IPCC to hand over the evidence they had gathered during their 10-month inquiry within 28 days or face being in contempt of court.
“I am being told, if I understand it correctly, that I am not being given copies of the statements and evidence [the IPCC] have gathered until they choose to give it,” said Walker, adding that he found this extraordinary.
“My statutory obligation is being undermined, is that not a contempt of court?” he said.
It is understood that the only material to have been handed to the coroner so far is the initial statements taken from members of CO19, the Metropolitan police’s armed response unit, who were involved in the fatal shooting on 4 August last year.
Duggan was shot dead by armed police during an operation to arrest him in Tottenham, north London. Evidence suggests he was carrying a firearm wrapped in a sock. Protests over his death sparked riots across the capital, which spread across the rest of England over four days.
After the pre-inquest hearing on Thursday, Duggan’s family called for the watchdog to be abolished, claiming it had tried to lie and cover up the truth.
Carole Duggan, the dead man’s aunt, said: “There is a lot of anger from the family because we are almost 11 months down the line and we are still no further on – we know nothing more than we did last August.
“They are incompetent and they should be abolished – 65% of the IPCC are made up of ex-police officers. We do not trust them: they have to be abolished and replaced with an organisation made up of ordinary people.”
The coroner called the hearing to see how much further the IPCC had advanced on serving evidence. The inquest is listed for January, but Walker raised concerns that it would not take place then if the IPCC continued to delay.
In March the watchdog said it might not be able to disclose some information at all, which would make an inquest impossible. That material related to evidence from a phone tap which, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), cannot be heard in open court.
But Walker criticised the police watchdog on Thursday for not serving any of the evidence as it was gathered.
He said he had not moved “one inch further” since the IPCC raised the issues in March and the time had come to make a decision on whether the hearing could go ahead.
Michael Mansfield QC, representing Duggan’s family, accused the IPCC of dragging its heels and interfering with the inquest because it had mismanaged its investigation. He claimed the watchdog was only now approaching police officers to establish where they were positioned at the time of the shooting.
“The problem with this case has been mal-management by the IPCC; that’s the explanation they do not wish to give you,” Mansfield said.
“The recent foray to police illustrates this. They are only now asking officers to provide plans of where they all were – why wasn’t this asked for before?”
BBC footage which was broadcast in April has not been handed to the IPCC, but it is understood the corporation has allowed it an informal viewing.
“We now know from footage publicly aired that what we have been told up until know has been misleading, there has been misleading information put out and then corrected, and this process seems to have been going on all the way through,” Mansfield said.
“We are asking for cohesion, co-ordination and logic to the processes.”
Walker called the pre-inquest review at short notice because the local authority was about to restore Hornsey town hall for the inquest in January. The coroner wanted to find out whether the hearing would take place at all before the “significant public expense” of the restoration began.
Robin Tam QC, for the IPCC, told the coroner it would be dangerous not to hand over the information in one file.
“The investigation being conducted by the IPCC is very complex, probably the most complex they have ever had to deal with and in very high-profile circumstances,” he said.
He cited that, and the fact that “significant evidence” – thought to be the BBC footage – had just come to light, as two of the reasons why the IPCC has refused to comply with requests for disclosure as the investigation progressed.
He said he could not give a hard date for when the inquiry would be completed, but insisted that partial disclosure “would be dangerous for a proper understanding of the case”.
Neither the coroner nor the family can initiate contempt proceedings, but they can make representations to the attorney general.
The CO19 officers who shot Duggan have refused to be interviewed and have instead provided statements about the killing. The inquest was initially delayed until after autumn in order for criminal proceedings against a man accused of handing the gun to Duggan to be completed.
It was relisted for January but if the IPCC delayed its release of the information that may also have to be abandoned, the coroner warned.
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