In Brief

Jean Charles de Menezes: What happened in 2005?

European Court of Human Rights backs decision not to prosecute police over shooting

The European Court of Human Rights has backed the decision not to prosecute UK police over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube Station in London in 2005.

The 27-year-old Brazilian was mistaken for a terrorist and shot seven times in the head.

His family has long struggled to understand why no individual officer was ever prosecuted. Last year, his mother, Maria, said her son's killers "tore my soul away".

"I never thought I would see myself burying my son because this goes against the natural order of life. It still causes too much pain," she said.

However, the ECHR ruled today that the UK authorities had investigated the case thoroughly and concluded there was not enough evidence to prosecute any individual officer, reports the BBC. This decision did not breach human rights laws, said the judges.

What happened?

On 7 July 2005, 52 people were killed and more than 700 people wounded in coordinated suicide bombings across the London's transport system, the deadliest terrorist incident on British soil since the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.

Two weeks later, the capital was targeted again, but the explosives failed to detonate. Police found a lead for the suspects in an unexploded bag – an address in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill.

Menezes, who had been working as an electrician in London since 2002 and lived on Scotia Road, was wrongly identified as one of the suspects, Hussain Osman. Police followed him to Stockwell station and onto a train, where they pinned him down and shot him seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

Why wasn't anyone prosecuted?

Scotland Yard was fined £175,000 for breaching health and safety laws, but the Crown Prosecution Service said there was less than a 50 per cent chance of convicting any individual officers, based on insufficient evidence that an offence was committed.

An inquest jury subsequently returned an open verdict after the coroner said it was not possible to conclude that Menezes had been unlawfully killed. However, the inquest jury said that it did not accept the officers' accounts of what happened.

In a subsequent review, the CPS agreed that there were some inconsistencies in what the officers said at the inquest, but pointed out that there were also inconsistencies in other witness accounts.

Reviewing lawyer Stephen O'Doherty said: "I concluded that in the confusion of what occurred on the day, a jury could not be sure that any officer had deliberately given a false account of events." The Metropolitan Police settled a damages claim with the Menezes family in 2009, although the amount of compensation was not disclosed.

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