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The unlawful killing of Mark Duggan

  • Opinion

The jury verdict deeming Mark Duggan’s death ‘lawful’ is indeed a perverse judgment.


Mark Duggan’s aunt Carole, speaking outside court: ‘No justice, no peace’. Source: The Guardian

The death of Mark Duggan, killed at the hands of police in August 2011 in Tottenham, North London has been deemed lawful by a jury. The verdict, pronounced after a four-month trial and inquest, has come as a surprise to many, most notably the Duggan family who expressed dismay outside the court, describing it as a ‘perverse judgement’. Three years following the death of the 29 year old, which triggered what is considered ‘the worst riots in modern British history’, calls for justice to remain strong.

The source of contention regarding the outcome of the inquest is that despite the jury acknowledging that he was not in possession of a gun when he was killed, the police are still considered to have acted lawfully, in a vote of 8-2.  Although there have been calls from politicians and police officials alike to accept the outcome of a jury of peers, the verdict has divided people. There appears to be a failure within the justice system whereby it is acceptable to shoot dead an unarmed man and face no repercussions. This undeniably sends a message that the police are not accountable and act with impunity.

The verdict was something of a paradox: although it came as a shock, it was entirely predictable. The overwhelming portrayal of Mark Duggan as a ’gangster’ throughout mainstream media reduced his worth and made his death seem lawful from the offset. The depiction of Mark Duggan as a ‘gangster’ by a whole host of mainstream media is rooted in a history of racial stereotypes, which render young black men as a threat. In reality Mark Duggan’s criminal history only consisted of two minor offences—this is in stark contrast to his portrayal as one of ‘Europe’s most violent criminals’. The discourse surrounding the death destroys the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, the very pillar of our legal system, as Mark Duggan was pre-judged on his character, not the actions which lead to his unfortunate death.

Mark Duggan’s death was by no means a rare occurrence, as he joins a long history of black men and women who have died at the hands of the police. Since 1990, over one thousand four hundred people have died following police contact or custody, with only one officer facing professional cautions in the UK. This is a legacy of deaths disproportionately affecting black communities, with the most high profile deaths including Sean Riggs, David Emmanuel and Christopher Adler.  Here this verdict reinforces the status quo and confines Mark Duggan to the long history of police brutality.

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