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Inquiry chairman casts doubt on ability of firearms unit to change approach after fatal shooting


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Blinded to its own shortcomings, TFU ignored the Home Office to deploy 'chemical weapon' in pre-planned operation, report concludes.

Anthony Grainger: Inquiry blames Greater Manchester's tactical firearms unit for his death

Anthony Grainger: Inquiry blames Greater Manchester's tactical firearms unit for his death

Date - 11th July 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle


A rule-breaking force’s tactical firearms unit has shown so much “arrogant disdain” it may not be able to "successfully renew itself from within" in the wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

The chairman of the Anthony Grainger Inquiry took a sledgehammer to the “deep-seated ethos of departmental exceptionalism” he believes exists within the Greater Manchester Police department.

In his published report into the death of 36-year-old Mr Grainger, who was shot by a firearms officer known only as Q9, Judge Thomas Teague QC concluded the “prevailing culture of complacency” blinded the unit – and its “lack of effective leadership” – to its own shortcomings.

He said that attitude helped explain the unit's unilateral decision to introduce and deploy, without Home Office approval, a CS dispersal canister – a chemical weapon – which went off in the stolen Audi driven by Mr Grainger in Culcheth, Cheshire, on the evening of March 3, 2012.

Mr Grainger and one of his two passengers, David Totton, had for some weeks been the subject of Operation Shire, which was investigating their suspected involvement in commercial robberies.

No other law enforcement agency in the country had identified any operational need for CS dispersal canisters and the unit had persisted with the enterprise "in the teeth of cogent criticism from the National Police Improvement Agency", the judge said.

He said it would be an "exaggeration" to describe the tactical firearms unit as a "dysfunctional department" and he had no reason to doubt it conducted many similar operations in a satisfactory manner.

But he added: "It did not, however, sustain the consistently high level of professionalism that the public is entitled to expect from a specialised armed unit.

"It was neither as good as it should have been nor as good as some of its commanders thought it was.

“Over the years covered by my investigation, the prevailing culture of complacency blinded the unit to its own shortcomings with the result that its highest aspiration became its own mediocrity and its loftiest ideal the status quo.

"The corporate failures reflect a lack of effective leadership with the TFU.

“It is the senior commanders who set the tone of a specialised firearms department.

“With few exceptions, those from whom I heard evidence during the present inquiry seemed to me to lack the necessary degree of critical insight into their own professional shortcomings or the collective deficiencies of the department they were supposed to lead.

"Without a concerted willingness to admit and confront past mistakes, a professed desire to 'learn lessons' is little more than hot air.

"I have to say I doubt whether the TFU as presently constituted is capable of successfully renewing itself from within.

“It is unlikely to implement the radical changes that are required as long as its leadership continues to lack the collective will or critical objectivity necessary to undertake them."

The judge argued that the unit’s most pernicious effect at the heart of any approach to scrutiny was “to cause a progressive atrophy of the department's capacity to confront and learn from its own mistakes”.

He said: "It was an ethos rooted in complacency and it manifested itself in a profound and sometimes arrogant disdain for the views of others.

“Unfortunately there are indications that it persists to the present day."

The Greater Manchester force was quick to accept the judge’s “wide-ranging criticisms” of the operation’s planning and preparation.

But it said it “never set out” on any operation – as a force, commanders or officers – with the intention of firearms being discharged.

And it promised to consider “each and every one of the chairman’s findings and criticisms with the utmost care, attention and reflection”. 

Competent organisation of a firearms deployment by senior commanders might have spared the life of an unarmed man who was shot dead by police, the inquiry findings revealed.

A Greater Manchester officer killed father-of-two Mr Grainger in the “honest belief” he was reaching for a gun to shoot firearms’ colleagues.

Tactical use of disruption, as opposed to direction intervention, could have avoided fatal consequences, Judge Teague decided in his report – which took nearly 18 months to be published.

Mr Grainger, from Bolton, was behind the wheel of the stolen Audi when the officer, fired his Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun in a pre-planned operation.

During 15 weeks of evidence in 2017, Q9 told Liverpool Crown Court from behind a screen that he believed Mr Grainger had reached down as if to grab a firearm.

But the inquiry heard that no firearms were found on Mr Grainger or in the stationary vehicle in a public car park.

A statement from, the force read: “We fully understand the heart-breaking effect that Anthony Grainger’s death has had on his family and loved ones.

“We also fully understand that the public inquiry will have been very difficult for them. On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, we offer our condolences to Anthony Grainger’s family and to his loved ones.

“In his report, the chairman has made a number of findings which are critical of GMP

“The criticisms are wide-ranging and include criticisms of aspects of the planning and preparation of the firearms operation during which Anthony Grainger lost his life.

“The force, our commanders, and our officers do not set out on any policing operation with the intention of firearms being discharged.

“This case was no different and the safety of the public, the subjects of police operations and our officers is, and remains, our absolute priority. 

“That being said, we undertake to consider each and every one of the chairman’s findings and criticisms with the utmost care, attention and reflection. 

“It is what the public would expect GMP to do in circumstances where criticisms have been made of the planning and preparation of a police operation in which a young man lost his life. It is what GMP will do. 

“Working alongside our regional and national partners, we will consider all of the chairman’s recommendations to assess what more can be done now, and in the future, to further improve the safety of police firearms operations.  

“Many changes have already been made locally, regionally and nationally since the death of Anthony Grainger in 2012, most recently following an independent review conducted by the College of Policing.  We will continue to strive to maximise the safety of all policing operations.

“We will not comment any further until we have had an opportunity to read the chairman’s report in more detail.”

Tony Murphy, solicitor to Mr Grainger's partner, Gail Hadfield-Grainger, described the findings as a “landmark report for armed policing in this country”.

He said the “scale of institutional incompetence” uncovered by the inquiry within the Greater Manchester force revealed evidence of corporate manslaughter in relation to the fatal police shooting and called on Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill to urgently review the evidence with a view to instituting criminal proceedings

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