30th June 2014

9.30am Monday 30 June
Southwark Coroner's Court, 1 Tennis Street, London SE1 1YD
Before Ms Lorna Tagliavini, HM Assistant Coroner for Inner South District of Greater London

The inquest into the death of Mrs Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce will begin on Monday 30 June 2014.  Cherry Groce was shot by Inspector Lovelock of the Metropolitan Police Service on 28 September 1985 during the course of an armed raid on her family home in Brixton, South London.  The police were searching for Mrs Groce’s older son, Mr Michael Groce, who was not at the family home and did not in fact live there.   On 24 April 2011 Mrs Groce died at Kings College Hospital of an infection which resulted in kidney failure.  The undisputed pathological evidence is that there was a causal link between the police shooting in 1985 and her subsequent death in 2011.

Five of Mrs Groce’s children – aged 8, 11, 14, 18 and 21 years at the time – witnessed the raid and/or the aftermath of their mother’s shooting.  As a result of the shooting Mrs Groce suffered injury resulting in paralysis from the waist down.  She was subsequently confined to a wheelchair.  The impact of the shooting on the family has been catastrophic: they were traumatised and the events have impacted on them until today.  

The shooting of Mrs Groce has been widely reported as the catalyst which provoked the 1985 Brixton riots following widespread community distrust and dissatisfaction with the police.

Inspector Lovelock was charged with one offence of inflicting unlawful and grievous bodily harm upon Mrs Groce contrary to section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.  Following a trial at the Old Bailey Inspector Lovelock was cleared of the charge on 15 January 1987.

This inquest is the first opportunity for a full public scrutiny and exploration of the adequacy of the planning and operation of the raid that led to the tragic shooting of Mrs Groce.  Her family have waited for this opportunity for over 29 years, and they have had to endure a long struggle including the threat of legal action to obtain the benefit of public funding for the purposes of the legal representation necessary to ensure that their participation in the inquest is as effective as possible.

Lee Lawrence, Cherry Groce’s son said:

“We have fought long and hard to be heard and get answers. It is thanks to each and every one who signed the petition to grant our family Legal Aid, that we will be properly represented in court. We have had to carry the weight of what happened to mum for almost thirty years but we will not rest until justice has been served. We owe it to her so that she may finally be able to rest in peace knowing that we did all we could to get to the truth. I pray justice prevails.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“The shooting of Cherry Groce was devastating for her and her family. But it also raised serious questions for the public at large about the oppressive policing of the black community and the use of lethal force by our police services generally: questions which remain as pertinent now as they were three decades ago. When citizens are shot and seriously injured by police officers, there must be a robust and fearless inquiry into the planning, operation and aftermath of the use of force to ascertain whether its use was lawful and necessary.”

Clare Richardson of Bhatt Murphy, solicitors for the family, said:

“The passage of time since Mrs Groce was shot in her home 29 years ago cannot be a reason to obscure the need for rigorous public scrutiny into all the surrounding circumstances. Our clients now look to the Metropolitan Police to ensure that they finally own up to their responsibility for those events: this means that they should approach the inquest with the courage to allow the kind of scrutiny that they have so markedly failed to provide over these decades.”

INQUEST is working with the family of Cherry Groce. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Mark Scott, Raju Bhatt and Clare Richardson of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, and Dexter Dias QC and Richard Reynolds of Garden Court Chambers.


Notes to editors:

  1. Lee Lawrence is giving evidence on Monday 30 June.
  2. As a result of her death, Lee Lawrence has founded the Cherry Groce Foundation, which ‘supports the lives of adults who have become disabled through personal tragedy, deterioration of health or illness in order that they can live more independently’.