Harry Stanley was a 46-year-old Scottish painter and decorator, who lived in Hackney, East London. In September 1999 he was recovering from a successful cancer operation.
On September 22nd Harry left home, went to visit his brother, who had been fixing a table leg after it had been damaged earlier in the year. On his return home he went for a drink in a local pub.
Another punter in the pub, mistaking Mr Stanley’s accent for Irish rather than Scottish and noticing that he was carrying ‘something long in a bag’, telephoned the police to say that a man with an Irish accent was leaving the pub with a sawn-off shot gun in a plastic bag.
Within a few minutes PC Fagan and Inspector Sharman, an armed response unit from the Metropolitan Police service specialist firearms unit SO 19, arrived in the area. The officers approached Mr Stanley from behind. They shouted, “Stop, armed police!” Mr Stanley (who had no reason to imagine that the police wanted him or having any idea that they were police officers) did not stop at that command.
The police say that they shouted again, to which Mr Stanley responded by turning around. The police officers opened fire, killing him. One shot hit Harry Stanley in his head, the other hitting him in his left hand.
In the bag he was carrying was the repaired two-foot table leg, which he had collected from his brother.
Surrey Police carried out a criminal investigation under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority (which was replaced in April 2004 by the IPCC).
In June 2002, after the CPS decided the officers should not face criminal charges, an inquest was held. HM Coroner for Inner North London Dr Stephen Chan refused to allow the jury at the inquest into the shooting by Metropolitan Police officers of Harry Stanley to consider Unlawful Killing as a verdict, they returned instead a unanimous “Open” verdict rather the only alternative left to them of “Lawful Killing”.
This verdict was, however, quashed by the High Court and a second inquest was held in October 2004. The second inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but this was also later quashed by the High Court.
However, the officers were arrested by Surrey Police in June 2005, after new forensic evidence emerged. The damage caused to the rear of the left shoulder of Harry Stanley’s jacket indicated that the fatal shot DID come from behind him before entering the left side of his head, above his ear.
When Surrey Police and the officers obtained expert opinions about the new forensic evidence a reasonable doubt was nevertheless raised that the officers and Harry Stanley both had time to perceive a threat to each other before the fatal shot was fired. Therefore, in October 2005, the CPS announced that they had advised Surrey that there was insufficient evidence to charge the officers with any criminal offence, including perjury. Both officers had claimed Harry Stanley had pointed the table leg at PC Fagan in a threatening manner – neither inquest jury accepted this, and neither did the IPCC.
Harry Stanley’s widow Irene and other friends and family organised as the Justice for Harry Stanley campaign. The campaign succeeded in getting the initial inquest’s “open verdict” overturned. In November 2004 a new jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”.
The two officers who shot Harry Stanley were then suspended from duty. This resulted in a protest from fellow armed Metropolitan Police officers, 120 of whom handed in their gun permits. Since the stare really can’t afford to piss of its own armed wings, this lead to a “a review of procedures for suspending officers” concluding that the two officers could return to work, although on for “non-operational duties”.
In May 2005 the verdict of “unlawful killing” was itself overturned in the High Court, reinstating the original “open verdict”.
The two officers were arrested and interviewed, but in October 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges because there was insufficient evidence to contradict the officers’ claims that they were acting in self-defence.
Evidence, like a chairleg, perhaps?
The investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission also recommended that no further disciplinary action be taken against the two officers, but was critical of the way that they had conferred in the process of making their notes about the shooting. Indeed the IPCC recommended that police officers should give video recorded statements immediately after events rather than making their own notes in collaboration with others.
How many more?
Mainly taken from Inquest’s briefing on Harry Stanley
You can read the very lovely self-justification of the cops who shot him. You really couldn’t make this up…
An entry in the
2016 London Rebel History Calendar