Wednesday 11 August 2021

The Mark Duggan case ~ a recent report by Forensic Architecture

Questions continue to be raised about the August 2011 shooting in London of Mark Duggan. On 26 May 2021, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), refused a request by "Forensic Architecture" to reopen the investigation by its predecessor (the Independent Police Complaints Commission - IPCC) into the shooting of Mark Duggan on 4 August 2011 - see IOPC letter to Forensic Architecture.

Brief facts:

On the evening of 4 August 2011,

at Ferry Lane (Tottenham, London), the Police intercepted and stopped a taxi (or minicab) carrying Mark Duggan.

The Police believed that Duggan was in possession of a handgun given to him by Kevin Hutchinson-Foster. 

When the minicab stopped, Duggan got out. Two shots were fired at Duggan by one of two Police Officers who confronted him. The officer who fired is referred to as V53. The other officer is W42. Mr Duggan died as a result.

A handgun was found at the other side of a fence which was alongside the pavement where the Police shot Duggan. (There was also a short section of wall). The Police claimed that officer V53 acted in self-defence in the honest belief that Duggan was armed and about to fire at the officer(s).

There is no entirely satisfactory explanation of how the gun got from the minicab to the place where it was found. No Police Officers reported that they saw Duggan throw the gun, or make any kind of throwing motion. 

According to this report in The Guardian, the shoebox was found in the minicab.


In February 2013, Hutchinson-Foster was convicted (at a retrial) of selling or transferring a prohibited firearm to Duggan between 28 July 2011 and 5 August 2011. He was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment on that count plus a further 4 years for other offences. [It is not unusual for indictments to contain an earliest and latest date but the inclusion of 5 August has not been publicly explained].

Forensic Architecture:

"Forensic Architecture" is a research agency, based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

It undertakes investigations into alleged human rights violations including violence committed by States, police forces, militaries, and corporations. Investigations have included European arms bombing in Yemen, Torture and Detention in Myanmar, Chemical attacks on Douma in 2018, Grenfell Tower in 2017.

Forensic Architecture also conducted an investigation into the death of Mark Duggan. Here is a link to their report -

This report states - "The possibility that the gun was moved by officers after the shooting appears to have been discounted by the IPCC without serious consideration" and, later, "Our analysis does not show that officers moved the gun from the minicab to the location at which it was found. It does, however, show that the IPCC cannot rule out such a possibility based on the contents of the footage."

Inquest and Judicial Review:

An inquest - conducted by His Honour Judge Cutler sitting with a jury - concluded that Mr Duggan was lawfully killed by the Police - see the Duggan Inquest website . The conclusions of the inquest were also covered by a previous blogpost - here

With a view to preventing future deaths, the Coroner issued a report under Schedule 5 to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 - see the report of 29 May 2014

The finding of lawful killing was challenged in the High Court by way of a judicial review brought by the Duggan family.  The review was heard by a court comprising Sir Brian Leveson (President of the Queen's Bench Division), Burnett J and HHJ Peter Thornton QC (Chief Coroner). The judicial review failed for reasons set out in the judgment of the court - [2014] EWHC 3343 (Admin).

An appeal to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) also failed - see the judgment at [2017] EWCA Civ 142 - Sir Terence Etherton MR, Davis and Underhill LJJ.

The Court of Appeal noted (para 16 and 17) -

  1. Nobody gave evidence of seeing the gun being thrown by anyone. That gun was a Bruni pistol, a substantial and heavy weapon. It was found about 7.5 metres from the minicab door and five metres from where Mr Duggan fell. Its muzzle was in a sock. The gun was forensically linked to a box that was still in the minicab, which also had Mr Duggan's fingerprint on it. There was medical evidence which indicated that he could not have thrown it after he was shot. The medical evidence also suggested that at the time he was shot in the chest (the fatal shot) Mr Duggan was leaning forward at an angle of at least 30 degrees. The other shot hit Mr Duggan's arm but the forensic evidence was unable to establish in which order the shots were fired. On one view, the forensic science evidence adduced at the inquest cast significant doubt on the account given by V53.
  2. The question whether a police officer had been responsible for placing the gun on the grass was explored at the inquest, but rejected by the jury.

IPCC (now IOPC) report:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) conducted an investigation and, in April 2015, issued a report. This may now be found at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) website - National Recommendations Mark Duggan Investigation.

Police liability for the death:

The law was stated by the Court of Appeal (para 30 et seq) - "

  1. In the criminal law self-defence in a prosecution for assault or homicide has two limbs. The first limb is directed to the question whether the defendant had an honest belief at the time he inflicted the injury that it was necessary to use force to defend himself. In R v Williams (Gladstone) [1987] 3 All ER 411 it was confirmed that, if the belief was in fact held even though it was mistaken, its unreasonableness, so far as guilt was concerned, was neither here nor there. The reasonableness or otherwise of the belief was only material to the question of whether the belief was in fact held by the defendant at all.
  2. The second limb, also confirmed in Williams, requires the force used in reaction to any perceived threat to be reasonable in all the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be."
Those were the key points for the jury at the inquest. If Officer V53 honestly believed that it was necessary to use force AND the force used was reasonable in all the circumstances as V53 believed them to be then the defence would be made out.

Civil action:

In October 2019 it was reported that civil proceedings against the Police had been settled - The Guardian 10 October 2019. The settlement was reached after arbitration and there was no admission of liability.  At the request of the Duggan family, the settlement terms are confidential.

Other links:

Challenging coroners' decisions - House of Commons Library (

11 August 2021

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