All for nothing?

anthony grainger and gail

The perennially ineffective Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has completed the last of three investigations instigated as a result of the Public Inquiry into the death of Anthony Grainger (pictured above alongside his partner Gail Hadfield Grainger).

Anthony was fatally shot in Culcheth, Cheshire, by a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) firearms officer during a deeply flawed armed police surveillance operation in March 2012. It was part of the now infamous covert investigation codenamed Operation Shire.

Two of the firearms officers involved in the operation in which he was fatally shot, had previously failed a Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officer training course.

It emerged during the inquiry that the officer who fired the gun – referred to as Q9 – had seriously injured a suspect during a previous arrest. He had also been disciplined for assaulting two people. He was cleared of 10 other separate assault allegations – yet remained a firearms officer.

Another officer, known as X7 – who had directed the operation on the ground – had failed a firearms course with the Met Police, who removed him early as his performance was said to be adversely affecting other students.

A third, known as Z15, had failed a safety course shortly before the operation after three extreme safety breaches in potentially life-threatening situations. A firearms expert told the Inquiry these were so fundamental and inherently dangerous that it should have led to Z15’s immediate suspension.

Following the conclusion of the Inquiry in July, 2019, GMP referred several matters to the IOPC that led to three independent investigations starting in March 2020. The Anthony Grainger Public Inquiry report can be read in full at this link.

As part of the overall process the watchdog looked at the role of two former senior GMP officers in acquiring a CS gas canister used during the operation, which was not approved by the Home Office. The use of the device was not a factor in Anthony’s death but has led to significant, and potentially permanent, impairment to one of the passengers in the vehicle that the police targeted.

The Inquiry heard that GMP had used the unauthorised CS dispersal canisters since 2007. The effects of their use elsewhere has never been revealed and the IOPC do not appeared to have addressed this issue.

Prior to their introduction, the force had used Round Irritant Personnel (RIP) cartridges to deliver CS gas into vehicles, with the aim of temporarily incapacitating suspects. During the IOPC investigation, they say it was established that this police force had concerns over the efficiency of this method and tasked one of the officers under investigation with finding an alternative.

The CS dispersal canisters were considered to be an improvement and the officer, via their line manager, who was also a subject of the watchdog investigation, submitted documents seeking approval for their use.

Whilst national protocols for evaluating and acquiring the canisters were not followed, the evidence considered by the IOPC did not indicate to them that either officer acted dishonestly, or in bad faith, at any stage. Further questions will be asked by the Grainger family as to what that evidence consisted and how it was validated by the watchdog.

The Public Inquiry found the relevant Code of Practice did not expressly prohibit the use of weapons that had not received approval from the Home Secretary. As a result, it made a recommendation to improve the wording to provide greater clarity around the processes required to be followed. Ultimately, it has proved to be yet another legal loophole that GMP has managed to slip through.

IOPC Regional Director Amanda Rowe said: “My thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Anthony Grainger, and all those affected by his tragic death. His family has shown incredible bravery as we, and the Public Inquiry, sought to get answers to many of their questions surrounding what happened on that day.

“Both officers under investigation gave consistent and candid accounts of their actions, which were supported by other evidence. They took responsibility for their actions and decisions and we agree with the Inquiry’s finding that the guidance in place at the time was ambiguous.

“In the circumstances, we did not find the conduct of either officer to have been deliberate, reckless or so unreasonable as to amount to a breach of the police standards of professional behaviour.

“This marks the end of our investigations linked to Anthony’s death. This work has been thorough and covered many lines of inquiry, ultimately leading to criminal and disciplinary proceedings being started, as well as crucial learning for the police based on our findings.

“Our work is vital for public confidence in policing by ensuring cases such as this are thoroughly and independently investigated. We would like to thank those who assisted and once again extend our deepest condolences to Anthony’s loved ones.”

Gail Hadfield Grainger has a rather different view to Ms Rowe’s blue sky thinking. There has never been any perception on Gail’s part that any State agency, or politician, involved in the death of Anthony has wanted anything other than a ‘whitewash’ of the events leading up to the shooting of an unarmed man, through the windscreen of a parked car in a busy supermarket car park, on 3rd March, 2012.

Let down by the police, the IPCC, as the watchdog was then called, MPs, and the Police and Crime Commissioner before the Public Inquiry was set up, it has been much the same story since the blistering findings of His Honour Judge Thomas Teague QC.

Both GMP and the Crown Prosecution Service pulled off a masterclass of smoke and mirrors to ensure that the former assistant chief constable, Steve Heywood, was not charged with any criminal offence and matters raised by HHJ Teague neither tested before a jury or a police misconduct hearing.

This is Gail’s analysis of the CPS decision. Since the death of her partner she has studied criminology and law and has a Masters’ degree in the latter to assist her in matters such as these.

Promised every assistance by the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, on network television no less, Anthony’s family say he has been conspicuous only by his absence on any meaningful attempt to hold the chief constables, past and present to account. During the Public Inquiry, Leslie Thomas QC, counsel for the bereaved family, described Greater Manchester Police as ‘rotten to the core’. A prescient remark that appeared to have little or no impact on the Mayor as he remained personally, and professionally, and much too close to the chief constable at the time, the now disgraced Ian Hopkins.

Today’s announcement by the IOPC means that not one single officer, or the force as a body corporate, has faced any meaningful proceedings over Anthony Grainger’s death.

Since 2004, when the IPCC was formed, Gail Hadfield Grainger cannot find a single bereaved family, out of hundreds, that has been less than disappointed by the watchdog’s handling of the death of their loved ones. The ‘brand’ became so toxic that it changed its name, in January 2018, to the IOPC. Since then, the ‘whitewashing’ appears even more layered and the links with the police even more tight.

In May, 2020 a response from the Government to the findings of the Public Inquiry set out how the stakeholders (National Police Chiefs Council, Greater Manchester Police, HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services), the Home Office and the College of Policing) to whom the recommendations were addressed will respond to the concerns that were raised. It described the lessons learnt to improve the safety of armed policing operations in the seven years since the death of Anthony Grainger. The full response can be read at this link.

Gail Hadfield Grainger argues, with no little justification, that this ‘response’ was simply part of a wider State position not to undermine confidence in the police service and its associated gatekeepers. As a result, others remain in serious and present danger of the same happening to them or a loved one.

Previous IOPC findings, published in February 2021, which cleared three other GMP officers can be read here. They comprised another ‘whitewash’, says Gail.

The IPCC had, in the aftermath of the shooting, carried out an independent investigation into the fatal shooting of Anthony Grainger. On 14th January 2014, Sir Peter Fahy, who was at the time Chief Constable of GMP, was charged with a single offence of failing to discharge a duty under s3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Following a ruling by the High court, in January 2015, regarding the disclosure of certain material to the defence, the prosecution offered no evidence against him and the judge was invited to direct a not guilty verdict.

When contacted earlier today, a spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: ‘We will not be commenting on the IOPC’s findings’. There was, surprisingly, no affinity or sympathy with the bereaved family expressed which is, however disappointing, very much in type over the past nine years.

Page last updated at 0450hrs on Wednesday 1st December, 2021

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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