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Armed police could be given more self-defence rights if they kill a suspect under a review ordered following a revolt among officers in the wake of Chris Kaba’s death.
On Tuesday, Suella Braverman laid out the terms of the review to establish whether there needed to be changes to the law to provide “sufficient protections for those in the line of duty and maintain public confidence in policing”.
The review was ordered by the Home Secretary after up to 300 of the more than 2,500 Metropolitan Police officers authorised to carry arms returned their permits after one of their colleagues was charged with the murder of Kaba. The rapper was shot dead by police in Streatham, south London, on September 5, 2022.
The review will consider longstanding demands from frontline police officers and chiefs for investigators to apply the “subjective” criminal law test for self-defence in police misconduct rather than the “objective” civil test.
The criminal test requires that an armed officer must “honestly believe” their life was in danger when confronting a criminal or terrorist, rather than the lower bar of the civil test which also requires they show their action was reasonable.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Sir Mark Rowley, the Met Commissioner, called for criminal test to be applied, saying: “One simple test will avoid delay, simplify the process and provide better protection for the public.”
The review will also consider whether there should be a higher threshold for triggering an investigation by police watchdogs.
The Home Office said: “The review will consider the systems for investigating police officers, including referrals to the IOPC, especially in incidents where members of the public have been killed or injured, and whether cases involving those acting in the line of duty should be treated differently from other cases.”
In his call for a rethink, Sir Mark said: “Too often investigations are announced when only a minimal interrogation of the facts has taken place, damaging public confidence, only for further enquiries to establish criminality or wrongdoing either wasn’t borne out at the level initially suggested, or at any level at all.”
The review will also consider whether investigations – which can last years – can be accelerated “including whether more effective working between the IOPC and CPS can reduce timescales of criminal investigations.”
Mrs Braverman said: “We depend on our brave police officers to put themselves in harm’s way in order to keep us safe. It is one of the toughest jobs, relying on officers to make life-or-death decisions in a split second and we should never take it for granted.
“It is why I requested this review to ensure the legal frameworks under which the police operate command the confidence of both officers and members of the public.”
Sir Mark welcomed the publication of the review’s terms of reference.
In a statement posted on social media, he said: “The breadth of this review captures the reality officers face when pursuing and catching criminals.
“They welcome accountability that is swift, fair, competent, and recognise the split second operational decisions they have to make based on the training they have received. Regrettably, the current system often fails on all those tests.
“A system that discourages our brave officers from chasing down criminals lets down victims. We must address imbalances in this area of law which is long overdue for reform and build a system which lets the police, police.”
The review, to be carried out within the Home Office with help from the Ministry of Justice and the attorney-general’s Office, is expected to conclude by the end of the year.
It is, however, unlikely to be published before the officer charged over Kaba stands trial next year.