Today in London’s radical history: Inspector Lovelock acquitted of maliciously wounding Cherry Groce, 1987.

In September 1985, police shot & crippled Cherry Groce, mother of 6, in a dawn raid while searching for her son in Brixton, South London. A large-scale riot broke out in Brixton, in response.

A team of armed officers had gone to Cherry Groce’s home, in Normandy Road, to find her son, Michael, who they claimed had done a runner on a charge of armed robbery. In fact he hadn’t lived there for a year… (And it later turned out, he was no longer considered a suspect… although, the officers involved in the raid hadn’t been informed of this by the higher-ups…) The cops smashed their way in, with a sledgehammer, and then Inspector Douglas Lovelock rushed in… allegedly shouting “armed police”. Mrs Groce said he ran at her pointing a gun, she moved backwards and he shot her. She was paralysed and confined to a wheelchair by her injuries.

On her arrival at hospital, surgeons found that the bullet had penetrated Mrs Groce’s lung and exited through her spine, paralysing her from the waist downwards. She was hospitalised for over a year, and in hospital-based rehabilitation for a further year; friends within the local community looked after her children.

Inspector Lovelock was prosecuted on the charge of ‘maliciously wounding’ Mrs Groce, but was acquitted on 15th January 1987. “The police and the media made sure he got off… by vetting the jury, by calling queues of star witnesses to say how UPSET the POOR man was, how fearful, nervous and unlucky etc…”

Inspector Lovelock told the court it was a “terrible, terrible accident”, which he would regret for the rest of his life. He maintained he hadn’t meant to shoot, and denied telling her to get up afterwards.

About 100 people picketed Brixton Police Station in response to his acquittal, followed by a march through Brixton.

Cherry Groce suffered paralysis for the rest of her life as a result of the shooting. The cops eventually paid her £500,000 in compensation “with no admission of liability.”

She died in 2011, from kidney failure, linked directly to effects of the shooting.

After her death, the district coroner announced that a judicial inquest was to be held into Cherry Groce’s death, which opened in June 2014. Separate pathologists working on behalf of both the family and the police, both independently concluded that there was a more than casual link between the shooting and the death of Mrs Groce.

Although both the Metropolitan Police and (now) former Inspector Lovelock were both to be represented at the inquest by Queen’s Counsel, the Legal Aid Agency refused the Groce family funds on the grounds that “there are no new issues.” This was reversed after a campaign and petition launched by the family.

The inquest found that the police had bollocksed up the whole operation; failing to check who lived in the house, and failing to communicate to the cops on the ground the fact that Michael Groce was not even wanted any more, among numerous mistakes; it concluded that the police were responsible for her death. The Met publicly apologised to her family for her death in April 2014.

A few years too late.

Following the trial of Inspector Lovelock, a review of fire arms procedures within the Metropolitan Police led to new policy which authorised only centrally-controlled specifically-trained specialist squads to be armed. This included parts of Special Branch, but excluded others including CID officers. They’re still shooting and killing people though, huh?

For a firsthand account of the 1985 riot that erupted after Cherry Groce’s shooting, check out Brixton: Through a Riot Shield, published by past tense:

http://alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/past tense publications.html

More interesting Groce family info at
http://cherrygroce.org/

An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out:
http://www.alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/calendar.html

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