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Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Jean Charles de Menezes family loses European court fight
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes have lost a human rights challenge over the decision not to charge any UK police officer for his fatal shooting.
The Brazilian was killed at London's Stockwell Tube in 2005 by police who mistook him for a terror suspect.
His family had argued that the bar for prosecution should be lower, and that officers should not have been allowed to claim they acted in self-defence.
Judges said UK prosecutors' decision did not breach human rights laws.
British authorities had thoroughly investigated and concluded there was not enough evidence to prosecute any one officer over the shooting, the court ruled.
Mr de Menezes, an electrician who was 27, was chased and shot by police marksmen who mistook him for a suicide bomber. The incident came amid heightened tensions two weeks after the 7 July London bombings.
BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the ruling was "the last opportunity for the family to hold the state accountable".
"The government and the Met were both very quick to acknowledge that what happened was a catastrophic mistake, but this ruling means the end of the road for the family in terms of changing the law," he said.
'End of the road'
Mr de Menezes's family had challenged the test used by British prosecutors to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to charge someone with a crime.
Known as the 51% test, it says that authorities should only prosecute if a conviction is more likely than not.
Lawyers for Mr Menezes's family claimed the threshold for evidence was too high, and was therefore incompatible with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights - which covers the right to life.
However, judges ruled against them by 13 votes to four.
What is Article 2?
In short, the article says the state must never arbitrarily take someone's life, and must also safeguard the lives of those in its care.
It lists three scenarios where force at the hands of the state could be justified:
In defence of any person from unlawful violence
In order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained
In action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
It also requires the government to carry out a independent investigation into all deaths caused by the state. This investigation must be brought about by the state of its own accord, and include an element of public scrutiny.
The judgment said the case was "undoubtedly tragic" and the frustration of Mr de Menezes's family at the absence of any individual prosecutions was understandable.
However, the decision not to prosecute any individual officer was not due to any failings in the investigation "or the state's tolerance of or collusion in unlawful acts", the judgment said.
"Rather, it was due to the fact that, following a thorough investigation, a prosecutor considered all the facts of the case and concluded that there was insufficient evidence against any individual officer to meet the threshold evidential test in respect of any criminal offence."
The UK government said the Strasbourg court had handed down "the right judgment".
"The facts of this case are tragic, but the government considers that the court has upheld the important principle that individuals are only prosecuted where there is a realistic prospect of conviction," a spokesperson said.
The CPS ruled out prosecuting officers in 2006, but they did charge the Met Police with breaching health and safety laws, leading to a £175,000 fine.
22 July 2005: Shot dead by police at Stockwell Tube station
17 July 2006: CPS says no officers will be prosecuted, but Met Police will be tried for breaching health and safety laws
1 November 2007: Met Police found guilty of breaching health and safety laws and fined
22 October 2008: Inquest under way - coroner rules out unlawful killing verdict a month later
12 December 2008: Inquest jury returns open verdict
16 November 2009: Met Police settles damages claim with family
10 June 2016: De Menezes family take legal challenge to European Court of Human Rights
30 March 2016: Family lose challenge over decision not to charge any police officer over the shooting