If the name Kevin Hutchinson-Foster sounds unfamiliar, try Mark Duggan. On August 4 last year, Duggan was shot dead
in North London by a police officer from Operation Trident (paradoxically the same group that has done so much for Thusha Kamaleswaran
). Hutchinson-Foster is the man who is currently on trial
for supplying him with the gun he wasn't holding yet was somehow pointing at the police when he died. Yes, you got that right.
Today, the police officer who shot and killed Mark Duggan testified at Snaresbrook Crown Court. He has a rather peculiar name: ZZ37. Sounds like a robot, a bit like Dr Who's friend K-9. Perhaps he looks peculiar as well. Alas, that we will never know, because ZZ37 testified from behind a screen. Yes, you got that right, too.
Screens are a recent development in the judicial system here. They are usually used, ostensibly, to protect vulnerable witnesses from intimidation. Vulnerable witnesses such as alleged rape victims. Earlier this year, the parents of Shafilea Ahmed were tried for her murder
. Unusually, both defendants were granted bail. The key witness against them was Alesha Ahmed, another daughter and a sister of the victim. Alesha Ahmed testified against her parents from behind a screen. This can only have been extremely prejudicial.
When the former lover of now convicted serial killer Levi Bellfield testified against him earlier this year, she too did so from behind a screen
. As Bellfield was in the dock surrounded by prison officers and the court was filled with police officers, there was no chance of him leaping on Emma Mills and attacking her. He had already been convicted of two murders by this time, but the court didn't miss a chance to tell the jury what a dangerous man he was.
Prejudicial and unnecessary though screens are in such cases, what possible justification can there be for a police officer to testify from behind one not only without the accused seeing his face but without the world knowing who he is? How for example can we know that he is really the man who shot and killed Mark Duggan? And how can we know that when he said he saw Duggan holding a gun and pointing it at him that he really was in fear for his life, especially as it is conceded that the gun concerned did not have the victim's fingerprints on it?
Incredible though it may seem, this is the first time the officer concerned has been questioned about the day he shot and killed an unarmed man. Let's be clear about that, Mark Duggan was unarmed, all the credible evidence indicates that, and the testimony of an anonymous witness is not credible evidence, not in an English courtroom, not in the country that gave the world Magna Carta
Next year there will be an inquest on Mark Duggan, which will again see testimony from anonymous witnesses, that's if the police bother to turn up, and if the coroner has the power to compel them to testify. Barack Obama has been accused of turning America into a police state by his ordering the execution of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki
, a claim that has some justification. Even so, he has a long way to go to catch up with police state Britain, because the extra-judicial execution of an unarmed man can be done here not on a direct order from the Prime Minister or the head of state - the Queen - but by a police officer on his own initiative, and we the people are not permitted to hold him to account, or even to know who he really is.