The family of a man shot dead during a foiled prison break in 2015 have been praised for their patience waiting for a public inquiry to begin into his death.
Father-of-two Jermaine Baker was killed by a Metropolitan Police marksman in Wood Green, north London, on December 11 2015.
On Monday, chairman of the public inquiry Clement Goldstone QC said: “Jermaine Baker’s family have waited anxiously but patiently and always courteously for this day.”
During his opening comments as oral hearings in the inquiry began, the chairman stressed that he will be led by the evidence when he comes to write his report on the case later this year.
He said: “I wish to emphasise now to all core participants that I will not shirk my duty if I am driven on the evidence to make findings of fact which are unpalatable to some and unwelcome to others.
“But equally the fact that an unarmed man was fatally shot in tragic circumstances does not mean that it is the objective of this inquiry to be in the position to find fault with the actions or omissions of an individual or individuals, or with corporate systems and practices.
“That will be my duty if, but only if, the evidence drives me to such conclusions.”
Mr Baker, 28, was among a group of men trying to free inmate Izzet Eren from a prison van near Wood Green Crown Court in north London when he was shot by a marksman known only as W80.
The armed officer said that he thought Mr Baker – the front seat passenger in a stolen Audi waiting for the van – was reaching for a gun.
No firearm was found, but police did recover an imitation Uzi machine gun in the rear of the car.
Making her opening statement on Monday, counsel to the inquiry Kate Blackwell QC went through the stages of police planning in the run-up to December 11 2015.
In October that year, there was an aborted attempt to break out Mr Eren from custody after he was arrested in possession of a loaded Skorpion gun.
Police intelligence records made reference to any future escape attempt being “firearms enabled”.
Ms Blackwell said: “The inquiry’s policing experts are of the view that the use of the term was not helpful.
“It would have reinforced the view of all involved that those planning the escape attempt had access to some sort of firearm or firearms, which indeed they did have, but in addition that the firearms were live firearms, with the enabling ability to kill or cause serious injury.”
The intelligence up until the morning of the shooting was that the gang was having trouble sourcing a real gun, and had failed to do so, the inquiry heard.
There was also nothing to suggest that members of the gang behind the plot were routinely armed, although the mastermind Ozcan Eren, Mr Eren’s cousin, was said to sometimes carry a pistol for protection.
Issues of how much information was passed to prison bosses and security guards who would move Mr Eren from Wormwood Scrubs to Wood Green Crown Court were also raised.
The Serco staff in the van were not told about the police plan, and the inquiry heard that Mr Eren, classified as a category B prisoner, would have been raised to the highest security level category A had staff been told about the escape plan.