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The family of a man shot dead during a foiled prison break in 2015 have been praised for their patience waiting for a public inquiry to begin into his death.
Father-of-two Jermaine Baker was killed by a Metropolitan Police marksman in Wood Green, north London, on December 11 2015.
On Monday, chairman of the public inquiry into his death Clement Goldstone QC said: “Jermaine Baker’s family have waited anxiously but patiently and always courteously for this day.”
During his opening comments as oral hearings in the inquiry began, the chairman stressed that he will be led by the evidence when he comes to write his report on the case later this year.
He said: “I wish to emphasise now to all core participants that I will not shirk my duty if I am driven on the evidence to make findings of fact which are unpalatable to some and unwelcome to others.
“But equally the fact that an unarmed man was fatally shot in tragic circumstances does not mean that it is the objective of this inquiry to be in the position to find fault with the actions or omissions of an individual or individuals, or with corporate systems and practices.
“That will be my duty if, but only if, the evidence drives me to such conclusions.”
Mr Baker, 28, was among a group of men trying to free two inmates from a prison van near Wood Green Crown Court in north London when he was shot by a marksman known only as W80.
The armed officer said that he thought Mr Baker – the front seat passenger in a stolen Audi waiting for the van – was reaching for a gun.
No firearm was found, but police did recover an imitation Uzi machine gun in the rear of the car.
An inquest was originally opened into Mr Baker’s death, but in February last year Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that a public inquiry would be held instead so that some evidence could be heard in secret in closed sessions.
Oral hearings, being livestreamed online while coronavirus restrictions remain in place, are being held at a venue in Fleet Street in the City of London.
They are expected to run until early August.
As well as the events of the day of the shooting, the inquiry will look at the planning of the armed operation and the aftermath.
The Crown Prosecution Service has not brought criminal charges against the armed officer, saying there was insufficient evidence.
In 2019, police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) directed that the Met should bring disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct against the officer.
That decision is now the subject of legal wrangling in the High Court.
It was initially successfully challenged by W80, then that judgment was overturned following an appeal by the IOPC, but lawyers for the marksman said they intended to apply for leave to appeal again.