Lewis Skelton: Family demand police apology after force lose 'unlawful killing' legal challenge

The family of a man who was shot dead in Hull are demanding an apology after Humberside Police lost a legal challenge against an inquest verdict of unlawful killing.

Lewis Skelton was seen carrying an axe on Francis Street in Hull city centre on 29 November 2016 prompting armed officers to confront him.

The 31-year-old, who had been having mental health issues, was tasered four times before he was shot twice in the back with a firearm. He died in hospital the same day.

Police guard the scene as forensic examinations take place

Two High Court judges ruled this week that they had no grounds to "interfere with the conclusion" of the inquest jury after the officer who fired the fatal shots launched a legal challenge.

The rulings come in contrast to an earlier investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which found "that the actions taken by officers were proportionate to the risk identified to members of the public".

Tia Skelton, Mr Skelton's sister, told ITV News: "If a jury can unanimously decide it was unlawful and two High Court judges can also decide that then why is it that the police's organisation [IPSO] says it is lawful. It doesn’t make sense.

"There needs to be something more because how can we trust an organisation [Humberside Police] that allows people that do these things to work for them when they are the people who are meant to keep us safe."

Tia Skelton, centre, the sister of Lewis Skelton, outside Hull Coroner’s Court at the original inquest. Credit: PA

A jury reached a verdict of unlawful killing in October 2021 after Hull Coroner's Court heard that Mr Skelton had not threatened anyone before he was fatally shot.

The officer who shot the firearm, named only as B50 at inquest, claimed the coroner's summing up of the case was unclear and claimed there was insufficient evidence for an unlawful killing verdict.

On Monday, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Fordham said the coroner's summary of the case did not give "rise to a risk of an unsafe verdict".

They added: "We have stood back and considered whether, either singly or cumulatively, there is any proper basis for us to interfere with the conclusion of the jury. We are unable to identify any such basis."

A jury reached a verdict of unlawful killing in October 2021

Mr Skelton's family, who are represented by Hudgell Solicitors, are now calling for the IOPC to reopen their investigation into his death, while urging Humberside Police to recognise the inquest verdict.

“They [Humberside Police] have just never held their hands up, never accepted any responsibility," Ms Skelton said. "There is still no apology, still nothing, still no admitting that what happened that day was wrong."

Humberside Police's Deputy Chief Constable Paul Anderson said the force acknowledges the findings of the IOPC's earlier investigation which "found that no police officer had either committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings."

“This was a tragic and difficult incident and the death of any person in such circumstances is an outcome that no one would have wished," he added. "Our thoughts and condolences remain with Lewis’ family and friends.”

Flowers left at the place where Lewis Skelton died Credit: ITV News

In a statement, the IOPC's regional director Thea Walton explained that it had reviewed the findings of its original investigation following the 2021 inquest verdict.

She said: “We wrote to Mr Skelton’s family in November providing the outcome of this review and a detailed explanation of our decision.“We have recently been informed the family is challenging our decisions."

Neil Hudgell, the family's solicitor, said he was advising the family on what action to take next.

He said: "The fact that there were no misconduct proceedings, or a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service for potential criminal conduct, following the initial IOPC investigation is a significant consideration, both for the family and for the wider public interest in accountability in respect of the use of lethal force by police officers."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.