The evidence of Officer AZ8

What the transcript from the inquest tells us.

One week ago I blogged here about the police firearms officer AZ8 and his/her alleged insertion of song titles into oral evidence at the inquest into the killing of Mark Saunders.

If a firearms officer was contriving evidence in response to detailed questioning in relation to a death, that would be a highly serious matter.

In this case, the officer has been suspended. Senior officers believe a mere reprimand was not sufficient. The matter is now being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). We cannot anticipate the outcome. There may be evidence available to senior officers and the IPCC that has not been placed in the public domain.

However, what has been placed in the public domain is the transcript of the questioning. And an examination of this transcript raises interesting points.

First, it appears that the initial mainstream media reports were incorrect. Here, it must be noted that although the allegation that song titles had been inserted was made public, the supposed song titles were not. Accordingly, journalists had to speculate.

For example, the Guardian stated:

But a transcript shows that the officer told the inquest that the shooting was not like in films, where "it's the bad guy who pulls the trigger and the good guy always gets there first". The situation had got "past the point of no return", he said.

"As I play it back in my mind, which is not something I do all the time, but in quiet moments I think about and I feel: 'Is there any other way?' But every time I play it back in my mind it's the same outcome – unfortunately Mr Saunders gets shot because of his actions.

"I switched the light on, he turned towards me and I thought: 'Fuck my old boots, I've got a gun trained on me . . .' "

The title "Fuck my old boots" was, for many, the most compelling example of any insertion. Of the titles proposed by the mainstream media, it seemed to be the one least likely to have been a mere coincidence. So interesting an example, it was even blogged about by the songwriter himself.

As he says, he didn't expect the track he wrote in 1987 ever to be listed next to Chris de Burgh.

But "Fuck my old boots" was not actually in the transcript. As Gordon Rae and others have pointed out, the transcript says:

"So, yes, I switched the light on, he turned towards me, I saw the gun for the first time, give it out, my old boots type sketch, you know, he has a gun trained on me."

So unless "Fuck my old boots, I've got a gun trained on me . . ." was indeed said at the inquest, and the transcript is thereby incorrect, it would appear that the initial mainstream media were wrong with what was perhaps the most telling example of a possible insertion.

Furthermore, I have been contacted by a law-enforcement professional (who wishes to remain anonymous) who has examined the coroner's questions to Firearms Officer AZ8 and has discovered that it also contains a number of song titles, namely:

  • "Step Down" (Sick of It All)
  • "We Can Make It" (Boston)
  • "(A) Good Thing" (Saint Etienne or Fine Young Cannibals)
  • "In the End" (Linkin Park or Rush)
  • "Didn't We" (Jimmy Webb)
  • "Forgive Me" (Evanesence/Leona Lewis/loads more)
  • "Up in the Air" (Husker Du)
  • "Slow Motion" (Third Eye Blind/Nickelback/Kesha)
  • "For the First Time" (The Script)
  • "Finger on the Trigger" (Never Heard of It/Bleu Edmondson)

To say the least, it is unlikely that the coroner was also party to any joint enterprise regarding inserting song titles with the firearms officer.

The IPCC investigation continues. One wonders what the outcome will be.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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The New Statesman Cover: The revenge of the left

A first look at this week's magazine.

22 - 28 September issue
The revenge of the left