The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has confirmed that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer, known as W80, will face a gross misconduct hearing for the fatal shooting of Jermaine Baker nearly eight years ago in December 2015.
This decision comes despite recent turmoil within the MPS, including all-time low morale and a significant number of departures from the force. The impact on firearms officers who have recently resumed armed duties remains uncertain.
Background of the Case
On December 11, 2015, Jermaine Baker, a 28-year-old man, was shot and killed by W80 in Wood Green, London. W80 was part of a firearms team deployed to intercept a car containing a gang who were attempting to break a dangerous criminal out of custody.
Baker was in the passenger seat of a car involved in a planned operation to intercept a van transporting two prisoners to court.
W80 fired through the windscreen, striking Baker in the neck, who subsequently died at the scene. An imitation firearm styled as a black Uzi sub-machine gun was found in the rear of the car, although Baker himself was not in possession of it.
An inquest into Baker’s death determined the shooting was lawful but pointed out several failings in the police operation, including inadequate equipment and training.
The Legal Journey
W80 was initially suspended in December 2015. He returned to work in June 2017 after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge him with any criminal offence.
The IOPC’s original recommendation for a misconduct hearing was met with disagreement from the MPS. A legal battle ensued, culminating in a Supreme Court ruling in July 2023, which confirmed that the civil law test applied in determining the use of force, thus siding with the IOPC.
Only recently, hundreds of MPS firearms officers handed in their firearms permits in protest after an officer was charged with murder following the death of Chris Kaba. Morale within the MPS has plummeted, and thousands have left their posts over the past year.
In a recent statement, the MPS announced they are reviewing the IOPC’s decision for W80 to face misconduct proceedings. The MPS has consistently disagreed with the IOPC on the standards applied for self-defence in police disciplinary proceedings, advocating for the criminal law test.
Public Inquiry Findings
An independent public inquiry in July 2022 found that W80 shot Baker because he “honestly believed that Mr Baker posed a lethal threat” and deemed the killing lawful.
Despite this, and a detailed letter from the MPS to the IOPC asking for a reconsideration, the IOPC maintained its direction for a gross misconduct hearing as of September 29, 2023.
Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens said:
“Today’s announcement follows protracted legal proceedings which we know have had a significant personal impact on Mr Baker’s family, the officer, their family and colleagues.
“A public inquiry, concluded in July 2022, determined Mr Baker was lawfully killed. We disagreed with the IOPC decision to direct we hold a gross misconduct hearing for W80 and wrote in detail to the IOPC inviting it to review and reconsider its direction. We wrote to the IOPC more than a year ago and have today been informed of its decision.
“The IOPC has told us that the direction to bring proceedings stands and we must hold a misconduct hearing. We will review the IOPC decision and reasons and consider our next steps.
“We note that the IOPC has asked the MPS to consider asking another force to hold the hearing to provide additional reassurance about the independence of the process.
“We do not accept that our wider call for support and legal reassurance for armed officers impinges upon our independence, nor the impartiality of the misconduct hearing process.
“We will be seeking legal advice in light of the IOPC’s request.
“Last week, the Commissioner wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary calling for reforms intended to simplify and speed up the process by which officers are held to account, particularly when they use force in the course of their duties.
“We welcome the announcement of a review by the Home Office which we hope will bring much needed clarity about the legal powers of armed officers and the threshold for investigating police use of force.
“We will engage fully with the review with a view to avoiding the sort of delay witnessed in this case, achieving greater clarity and providing better protection for the public.
“Our firearms officers do an incredibly difficult job in some of the most challenging and often dangerous circumstances. It is right and they expect and accept their actions are open to independent scrutiny – but officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, with confidence it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour.”
IOPC Acting Director General Tom Whiting said:
“This case has been through protracted legal proceedings which have been extremely challenging for everyone involved, not least W80 himself and Jermaine’s family.
“Following the Supreme Court ruling, we carefully reviewed our original decision. We considered evidence from the public inquiry, we invited additional representations from all parties, and sought additional independent assurance.
“We have now upheld our original decision that W80 should face a gross misconduct hearing. This isn’t a decision we have taken lightly, but we believe that it was the right decision in 2015 and remains so following the clear ruling from the Supreme Court in July.
“It’s important to stress that the IOPC does not decide whether or not W80’s actions amounted to gross misconduct – that is the role of the hearing panel who will come to a decision after considering all of the evidence.”
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