Duggan, justice and revenge.

The reaction of the Duggan family to the inquest verdict, which concluded that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed, is unsurprising. But, given the direction of the coroner to the jury, that if they believed that officer B53 – who fired the lethal shot – honestly and truthfully believed that Duggan was carrying a gun and presented an immediate threat, even if that was not the case, then they should return that verdict – it seems to be the right one. 

It was, in effect, an accident. It wasn’t an accident of action – B53 didn’t pull the trigger by mistake, his finger didn’t slip – but of information. A most unfortunate accident, but an accident nonetheless.

But justice has been denied. Mark Duggan didn’t get justice. Justice would have seen him arrested, tried and convicted for gun and gang crimes.  Nothing that now happens to officer B53 can affect that, whatever the family manage to do by way of appeal. They cannot retrospectively get justice for Duggan.  

The media is responsible for a lot of the reaction, because it has come to conflate justice with revenge. Politicians are just as bad. They talk about justice for victims but justice has nothing to do with victims of crime. Justice is for the perpetrators.  When there is so much talk of justice for victims, the Duggan family cannot be blamed for thinking that justice for Mark means punishing officer B53 for doing his job. 

The conflation of justice with revenge isn’t just sloppy use of language, it’s dangerous. Revenge has no place in the justice system.  Were it all to have kicked off after the verdict – as it still may, after the vigil, but it is unlikely (we Brits only riot in summertime) – we would only be reaping what we have sowed by this dangerous idea. 

 

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