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Mark Duggan family lose appeal against inquest’s lawful killing verdict

Mark Duggan was shot dead by a police marksman in August 2011.
Mark Duggan. His family said after losing the appeal: ‘We need to consider this decision and then decide what action to take.’ Photograph: Rex

The court of appeal has rejected an appeal by the mother of Mark Duggan, whose fatal shooting by a police marksman sparked nationwide riots, to quash the inquest verdict that he was lawfully killed.

Duggan, 29, was shot by a Metropolitan police firearms officer known as V53 in Tottenham, north London, on 4 August 2011. Police said they believed he was planning an attack and that he was in possession of a handgun.

At Duggan’s inquest, the jury found that he was lawfully killed despite deciding he was unarmed at the time. Duggan’s mother, Pamela, 58, and other family members argued that the coroner had misdirected the jury.

They said that Judge Keith Cutler, who sat as assistant deputy coroner in the inquest, should have made clear that if they found Duggan to be unarmed at the time he was fatally shot they could not return a conclusion of lawful killing.

Mrs Duggan was not present for the ruling by the master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Davis and Lord Justice Underhill.

The Duggan family’s solicitor, Marcia Willis Stewart, of Birnberg Peirce solicitors, said: “We need to take time to consider this decision and then decide what action to take.”

The family’s barrister, Hugh Southey QC, had argued that Cutler and the high court “fell into error”. He said the coroner “directed the jury that the lawfulness of the lethal force, and the question of whether V53 was acting in self-defence, should be judged solely by reference to V53’s honest belief as to the threat posed”.

He added: “They were not told that, in deciding whether the belief was honestly held, they should consider whether or not that belief was based on reasonable grounds.”

Submitting that the direction was unlawful, the QC said the coroner “failed to direct the jury to consider whether V53’s belief was reasonable”.

But the court of appeal judges held that there was no need for the coroner to spell out to the jurors that, as part of their decision whether V53 honestly believed Duggan had a gun and was about to use it, they needed to consider whether such a belief was reasonable.

In a summary of their decision, the court said: “That consideration was, as a matter of common sense, an inevitable part of the exercise that they had to carry out.” The judges said that providing too detailed directions for the jury could lead to them being “confused”.