The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has admitted that information it initially provided to journalists suggesting Mark Duggan opened fire before being shot by police may have been misleading.
Mr Duggan was shot twice by Metropolitan officers as he sat in a taxi cab. The victim’s death sparked protests outside a London police station which later led to rioting in the city.
In a statement released today the complaints body acknowledges that the information it initially provided to the media may have given a false impression that Mr Duggan had opened fire on officers who then killed him only after they returned fire.
The statement read: “[H]aving reviewed the information the IPCC received and gave out during the very early hours of the unfolding incident, before any documentation had been received, it seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to believe that shots were exchanged, as this was consistent with early information we received that an officer had been shot and taken to hospital.
“Any reference to an exchange of shots was not correct and did not feature in any of our formal statements, although an officer was taken to hospital after the incident.”
The admission follows forensic tests on a weapon found at the scene which indicated that no shots had been fired. A bullet lodged in a policeman’s radio, initially thought to have come from the weapon, was discovered to have been standard police issue.
Several newspapers initially reported that Mr Duggan had opened fire on officers before being shot. One article published by the Telegraph in the hours after the incident said: “A policeman’s life was saved by his radio last night after gunman Mark Duggan opened fire on him and the bullet hit the device.”
An IPCC spokesman is quoted in the article: ”We understand the officer was shot first before the male was shot.”
The Daily Mail reported that Mr Duggan had “shot the officer from Scotland Yard’s elite firearms squad CO19 in the side of his chest with a handgun”, and the Sun also claimed that Mr Duggan was “downed by a marksman after firing first and hitting the officer”.
Media coverage has been criticised both north and south of the border with some claiming that the sensational nature of the reporting had contributed to copy-cat riots in other English cities.
In Scotland media coverage has also been centre stage with First Minister Alex Salmond calling for “accuracy” from broadcast and print media alike. The BBC has altered early descriptions of the riots from ‘UK’ to ‘English’ after complaints from members of the public angry that no such rioting had occurred outside of England.
The apparent erroneous early reporting is sure to raise speculation that it contributed to the initial anger surrounding Mr Duggan’s death and thus indirectly to the resultant rioting.