Law

Barrister Mark Saunders Was Lawfully Killed

Mark Saunders was a barrister who got drunk, shot into a neighbours garden, shot at her when she came out to see what was going on, shot into a child’s bedroom, and then appeared at a window waving a shotgun, which he then lowered.

As he lowered the gun, he was shot and killed by police marksmen.

The coroners jury has just ruled – correctly in my view – that he was lawfully killed.

I do not blame Mr Saunders widow for her high profile campaign in relation to the death of her husband. She believes that, had she been allowed to talk to her husband, the business would have ended differently.

Perhaps it would have. Or, perhaps, it wouldn’t. We don’t know.

As it is, we get Independent co-founder and Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover arguing as follows:

All this overkill — so characteristic of the modern police — for one drunken, disturbed man whose sole weapon, a shotgun, has a limited range and, unless it is used close to its target, is not an accurate weapon. That is, if he was able, at the end, to use it at all.

So I’m afraid I can’t see much good sense in the macho nature of the police response. Worse still, there seems to have been a lack of humanity.

My third concern is that, as a result of a ruling by the coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, we don’t know the identity of the policemen who shot Mark Saunders, and presumably never will. It is a terrible thing to take another man’s life, even in circumstances that are justified, and it seems wrong for police nearly always to be granted anonymity on the often dubious grounds that identifying them might lead to retaliation.

According to research by the Mail on Sunday, the police have shot dead 33 people since 1995, sometimes, perhaps often, for reasons that appear difficult to justify. Only two marksmen have been named in this period. A policeman can kill an innocent person and will almost certainly never be required to identity himself in court. This is established practice. It is not right.

Whatever the outcome of the inquest into the death of Mark Saunders — and important new evidence may still be presented — please let some lessons be learnt. We depend on the police. There are dangerous killers in the capital and elsewhere.

But poor, deranged Mark Saunders was self-evidently not one of them. And in a civilised country we should not tolerate unidentified and unaccountable police marksmen who, job done, slip back into the shadows.

Had Mr Saunders hit anybody during his first firing spree, or immediately after talking to his wife, the tabloids would have been asking why he was not shot and killed earlier.

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