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Secret inquest for Azelle Rodney shooting?

azelle-rodneyThe inquest of a black man shot several times in the head by police could be the first case to be held behind closed doors, after the government narrowly won a Commons vote for “secret inquests.”

Azelle Rodney was shot six times after he and two other men were ‘hard stopped’ by armed officers in the afternoon on Edgware Road, north London, in 2005.

The incident happened just two months before Jean Charles de Menezes was infamously shot dead in Stockwell tube station by cops, who were hunting the men responsible for an attempted suicide bombing the day before.

Yet the case of Azelle Rodney has received surprisingly little coverage. This may be because the victim, and his two friends, had guns and ammunition in their car. The pair were later jailed for firearms offences.

The mother of the deceased, Susan Alexander, and her lawyers, are very keen to explore whether the shooting was justified.

It is accepted that Rodney was not seen brandishing any weapon. The key question they want answered is this: was the 24-year-old shot while he was actively surrendering? Did the police marksman panic? In short, was the killing justified?

If the inquest into his death is not held in public, will we get the answers to those crucial questions?

That is why Alexander mounted a legal challenge to the Coroners and Justice Bill earlier this year. But her four year campaign to know the truth about the exact circumstances of her son’s death received a setback when the government passed the Bill through the Commons yesterday.

Her lawyers, Hickman and Rose, have questioned why an inquest has not yet been held into the shooting so long after the incident. Some believe it has been delayed on purpose to allow the “secret inquests” to come into law.

The family have already been informed that the government have concerns about intercept evidence used by police to monitor the movements of Rodney and his colleague being revealed to a jury, public and press. The state claim this could undermine the techniques of  intelligence-gathering and compromise national security.

This claim needs to be seen in the context of the highly-publicised de Menezes inquest, when police and security services intelligence was laid bare before the public.

Is there anything special about the Rodney case that would expose intelligence-gathering any more than de Menezes? Or is it just about avoiding embarrassment?

The only way to get to the bottom of these issues is to hold the Rodney inquest before a jury and in public.

Should the government’s Coroners and Justice Bill be passed into law, this can only lead to other such cases being hidden from public scrutiny, and that would be a travesty of justice.

By Lester Holloway

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