Mark Duggan Inquest: The legal options

Dominic Casciani
Home affairs correspondent
@BBCDomCon Twitter

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMr Duggan's family gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the inquest

Mark Duggan's family say the inquest jury's conclusion of lawful killing is not the end of the story - they say they have been denied justice and want to challenge the outcome.

But what exactly are their options?

The reality is there are very few - and it boils down to whether or not there was a significant problem with the inquest itself.

Coroners are supposed to give inquest juries clear directions about how to reach their conclusions - a kind of "route map" of questions they need to answer in relation to the crucial pieces of evidence.

Critics of the Mark Duggan jury say their conclusion was baffling and perverse - but let's look at how they reached it.

Police can't just gun down a suspect just because they think he is an armed gangster.

They are governed by the same law as the rest of us, which says we are each entitled to use reasonable force to defend ourselves or another from injury.

Now, reasonable force depends on the circumstances.

Police evidence

The police shooter, codenamed V53, told the jury he honestly believed that Mr Duggan was holding a gun and was going to pull the trigger.

The jury concluded unanimously that Mr Duggan was armed - a man has already gone to prison for supplying the gun - but by a majority they decided he threw the firearm away as police surrounded him.

image captionMark Duggan's aunt Carole said the family will carry on seeking answers

So how can the jury say that it was a lawful killing?

It all comes down to their judgement of V53's evidence of what he perceived the threat to be in the heat of the moment.

A majority accepted that he genuinely believed that Mr Duggan was a danger to life - even though he may have been mistaken - and therefore his decision to open fire was reasonable and proportionate.

Two of the jurors preferred an open verdict - meaning they were not sure. None of the 10 believed that it was in any way an unlawful killing.

That's why a majority decided Mr Duggan was lawfully killed - and you can read their full reasoning on the inquest website.

There is no automatic right to appeal an inquest conclusion.

But families or other "interested parties" have three months to decide whether to try to judicially review the conclusions.

A judicial review means asking a judge to look at whether a decision by a public body was fair and right. A coroner, like other judges, is defined as a public body - so his decisions can be challenged.

If the family want to judicially review the inquest's conclusion, they will have to convince the High Court that there was a fundamental flaw in the way Judge Keith Cutler managed the process.

The jury themselves cannot be challenged because they are just a group of ordinary people doing their duty.

Family campaign

Very few inquests are successfully challenged - but the case of Harry Stanley did go through the courts - and the outcome there remains controversial to this day.

In 1999, armed police shot and killed Mr Stanley as he walked home carrying a table leg in a bag. Police thought it was a concealed shotgun.

The first inquest concluded with an open verdict - but that was successfully challenged after a campaign by his family.

A second inquest ended with a verdict of unlawful killing - which led to uproar among armed police officers.

The officers challenged that - and it too was quashed.

One of the critical issues in the second challenge was the officers' evidence that they honestly believed Mr Stanley was turning around to shoot at them. The fact that the officers were mistaken, the judge ruled, did not mean that a jury should have been allowed to find they acted unlawfully.

There is a second line of challenge relating to evidence. If some new fact emerges from elsewhere, the attorney general can ask the courts to quash an original inquest and order a fresh one. That's the power that has led to the new Hillsborough inquests.

Whatever happens on that front, the coroner may still have a legal job to do. Coroners can send a special report to public bodies setting out recommendations which they hope will prevent further similar fatalities.

There's speculation that his report is likely to raise questions about the way the police deal with the aftermath of a shooting - not least because this is not the first time critics have said officers should not be allowed to confer as they write up their notes. Scotland Yard looks like it has already accepted there must be some change. The Met's Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, says armed teams will soon be wearing personal video cameras - and he wants officers to be more open with independent investigators of future serious incidents.