Police marksman who shot dead gangster faces sack despite being cleared

Jermaine Baker was shot dead in Wood Green, north London, but officer W80 was cleared of wrongdoing
Jermaine Baker was shot dead in Wood Green, north London, but officer W80 was cleared of wrongdoing

A Metropolitan Police firearms officer who shot dead a gangster eight years ago faces being sacked despite being cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, The Telegraph can reveal.

The marksman, known as W80, shot dead 28-year-old Jermaine Baker in a police operation in December 2015 as Baker was preparing to spring two prisoners from Wood Green Crown Court, in north London.

He was not charged in connection with the death, but now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is set to announce that W80 will face a gross misconduct hearing that could result in him being sacked.

The announcement is likely to further inflame tensions within the Metropolitan Police’s firearms command, coming a week after another officer, known as NX121, was charged with murder for the shooting of Chris Kaba.

About 300 armed officers laid down their weapons at the weekend and Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, has admitted that London is currently less protected than normal.

At one stage the military was put on standby to cover for counter-terrorism officers who were refusing to carry guns and Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, announced a review into armed policing.

Chris Kaba
Chris Kaba

The IOPC announcement relating to W80 could come as soon as Thursday, The Telegraph understands.

One source within armed policing said: “The timing of this announcement is unfortunate to say the least. There are thousands of firearms officers right across the country contemplating their future right now.

“Not only do they risk being charged with murder when things go wrong, but even if they are cleared by the courts they could still be sacked for gross misconduct.

“The system is unfair and it doesn’t make any sense. How can you be cleared of wrongdoing by one system but found guilty in another?

“Nobody is saying we shouldn’t be accountable for our actions, but there has to be some consistency so we know where we stand. If things don’t change then I’m afraid nobody is going to want to do the job and we are going to have a major crisis on our hands.”

Supreme Court sides with police watchdog

While Baker was not holding a weapon when he was shot, an imitation Uzi submachine gun was recovered from the rear of his car. W80 later said he believed Baker had been reaching for a firearm when he opened fire.

A public inquiry later concluded that Baker had been lawfully killed, despite identifying a string of police mistakes in the planning of the operation.

Within days of the incident, the officer was arrested and investigated by the IOPC on suspicion of murder.

Under criminal law, police officers can claim self-defence if they can show they had an honestly held belief – even if that was mistaken – that their life was in danger.

In June 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction and the officer would not face criminal charges.

But the IOPC recommended that W80 face a gross misconduct hearing because disciplinary offences are based on the civil test that states an honest but mistaken belief must also be “reasonable”.

The Metropolitan Police disagreed with the decision and took the case to the Supreme Court to try to have it overturned.

It argued that the criminal threshold ought to be applied in both cases. However, in July the Supreme Court rejected the appeal and sided with the IOPC.

Following the walkout by firearms officers at the weekend, Mrs Braverman announced a review into armed policing.

Sir Mark also published an open letter calling for the subjective criminal law test for self-defence to be applied in misconduct cases. He said: “One simple test will avoid delay, simplify the process and provide better protection for the public.”

What happens when an armed officer shoots someone?
What happens when an armed officer shoots someone?

The fact that the W80 case has still not been concluded almost eight years on from the incident has also caused grave concern, with Sir Mark appealing for the legal and disciplinary processes to be speeded up to provide more confidence for all concerned.

In his open letter, he wrote: “In the small proportion of cases where officers have acted improperly, the system needs to move swiftly and assertively to deal with them, rather than tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes over many years. This saps the confidence of all officers to act against criminals.”

The officer known as NX121 is expected to stand trial next year and a hearing to determine whether he can be identified will take place at the Old Bailey next week.

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