Media Media releases West Midlands firearms officer investigated for potential homicide offences following death of Sean Fitzgerald 14 March 2022 Today, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced that a West Midlands firearms officer, who shot dead Sean Fitzgerald on 4 January 2019 during a police operation, is being investigated for potential homicide offences. Sean was 31 when he died after receiving a single gunshot wound to the chest as he exited a property, whilst unarmed, in Burnaby Road in Coventry. In April 2021, the IOPC announced that the firearms officer who shot Sean had been served with a gross misconduct notice in respect of that officer’s use of force. No individual police officer has ever been found guilty of murder or manslaughter offences following a fatal police shooting in England and Wales, despite evidence of serious failures. Three murder or manslaughter charges have been brought against police involved in fatal police shootings since INQUEST began recording this in 1990. In all cases the officers were not found guilty or the trial collapsed. Liam Fitzgerald, Sean’s brother, said: “I welcome the decision of the IOPC to conduct a homicide investigation into my brother’s death. From very soon after Sean’s death, it has been my belief that this should have been a criminal investigation. I now hope that the investigation is concluded quickly and that a decision to bring criminal charges will follow. Sean was completely unarmed when he was killed, and I believe the force used was unnecessary and disproportionate.” Helen Stone of Hickman and Rose, the solicitor for Liam Fitzgerald, said: “It is now over three years since Sean’s death, and his family still do not have answers. However, we consider the fact that the IOPC are now investigating homicide offences to be a positive development, and trust that the IOPC will act swiftly to complete their investigation in a robust manner and in close coordination with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure there is no delay in reaching a charging decision.” Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “The fatal police shooting of Sean Fitzgerald raises serious questions and concerns, and requires the utmost scrutiny. As such, we welcome the progress in this investigation. Accountability to the criminal standard for police officers or forces involved in deaths is rare, leading to concerns that police are too often above the law. It is essential that fatal use of force by police is examined with this high level of scrutiny. We hope this criminal investigation is conducted promptly, rigorously and sensitively in order to establish the truth and hold those responsible for any wrongdoing to account.” ENDS NOTES TO EDITORSFor further information please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected] Sean’s family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Helen Stone of Hickman and Rose and Adam Straw QC of Doughty Street Chambers. The family are supported by INQUEST caseworker Anita Sharma. CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS OF POLICE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN DEATHS In June 2021, PC Benjamin Monk, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson. Prior to this, no individual police officer had been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a death in police contact or custody in England and Wales since 1986. Murder or manslaughter charges have been brought against police officers in ten other cases since 1990. In all cases trials have collapsed or officers have been acquitted by the jury. No individual officer has ever been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a fatal police shooting. Three murder or manslaughter charges have been brought against police involved in fatal police shootings since INQUEST began recording this in 1990. In all cases the officers were not found guilty or the trial collapsed. Azelle Rodney was shot and killed by a Metropolitan police officer on 30 April 2005. On 30 July 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest for an officer to be prosecuted for murder. This followed a public inquiry into the death. Despite the deeply critical findings of the inquiry, the officer was found not guilty by a majority verdict from a jury on 3 July 2015. James Ashley was fatally shot by police in 1998. A Sussex police officer was charged with murder and manslaughter in April 1999. Four other Sussex officers involved were charged with misconduct in public office. The trials collapsed and no officer was found guilty. David Ewin was fatally shot by a Metropolitan police officer in Barnes, South West London in February 1995. Constable Patrick Hodgson was later charged with murder and manslaughter. In 1997 he was found not guilty of both charges. Other charges: Both successful and unsuccessful prosecutions have also been brought following deaths in police contact under Health and Safety legislation. Two of these charges have been brought following fatal police shootings, and in one case the force was found guilty. This includes the successful prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act of The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner following the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was fatally shot by police at Stockwell Tube station in south London on 22 July 2005. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was also charged under Health and Safety at Work Act after Anthony Grainger was fatally shot by GMP on 3 March 2012. However, in January 2015 an ‘abuse of process’ argument from the police was accepted and the charges were dropped. A public inquiry, which was published in July 2019, followed. Media release. Other criminal charges against officers, such as perjury and misconduct in public office, have been brought following deaths in custody, but most have led to acquittals or not guilty verdicts. One exception is that in March 2007, a Derbyshire police officer who failed to check on a man in police custody, despite signing forms stating that he had, was found guilty of misconduct in public office.