Not forgotten: WPC Yvonne Fletcher

14.01.18
By Mark Watts

Police officers are mounting an unprecedented legal challenge over the refusal to prosecute the suspect in the murder of their colleague Yvonne Fletcher.

They have filed a judicial review against the home secretary, foreign secretary and GCHQ, the UK’s signals-intelligence agency, over the government’s decision to block key evidence from being used in a prosecution over the shooting dead of the young WPC outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

John Murray, a former colleague of Yvonne’s, and the Police Federation, which represents around 120,000 rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, lodged the claim in the High Court.

He told me: “I have no doubt at all that we will win.”

There was no legitimate justification for blocking the evidence, he said. “How can this evidence be withheld under the guise of national security after 34 years? It is ridiculous.”

“That evidence should be released to the CPS, who, I think, once they get it, will change its mind and charge.”

A high-profile barrister, Ben Emmerson, former counsel to the overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse, is representing Murray and the Police Federation.

Murray says that they are confident of winning the case, and then force a change to the charging decision.

Police sources say that Murray has huge support over the case among former colleagues, including serving officers.

Murray was a PC and standing next to Yvonne Fletcher when she was shot. He accompanied her in the ambulance to the hospital, and, he says, promised her that he would find out who had done it.

Yvonne died later in hospital.

In 2015, after re-opening the case, the Metropolitan Police Service arrested Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, a former minister under Libya’s then leader, Muammar Gaddafi, on suspicion of conspiracy to murder the WPC.

The Met kept him on police bail for around 18 months until releasing him last May. After consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), it decided to take no further action against him because there was “insufficient admissible evidence”.

The Met said in a statement at the time: “We believe our investigation has identified enough material to identify those responsible for WPC Fletcher’s murder if it could be presented to a court. The key material has not been made available for use in court in evidential form for reasons of national security.”

Mabrouk denies any role in the murder, or that there is any evidence against him.

According to the judicial review, lodged last month, the Home Office, Foreign Office and GCHQ decided that key material could not be used in a prosecution.

It is understood to include intercepted communications as well as intelligence from a Libyan source – an MI6 spy.

Murray said that the three respondents sought an extended period to reply, and the court set a deadline of next Wednesday.

They are expected to reject the attempt to overturn their decision by arguing that it is out of time.

Murray says that his side totally rejects that claim.

He added: “I think when they do lodge their reply it will be heard before the end of January. It will be quick because the case is so important and very novel, in legal terms.”

In the case, he and the Police Federation will first seek to force disclosure of the key evidence to them.

But the case is so sensitive that a hearing to decide that first stage is expected to be held under a “closed material procedure”, under the Justice and Security Act (2013), meaning that it would be behind closed doors, with a government-appointed lawyer to represent Murray and the Police Federation, before a government-appointed judge.

I revealed last April how various VIPs had failed even to respond to an invitation to the anniversary commemoration for Yvonne, with only Libya’s ambassador accepting an invite to attend.

Mark Watts (@MarkWatts_1) is the co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre. Another version of this article appeared today in the Mail on Sunday. It also appears on Byline.

Update 19.02.18

The High Court has dismissed the legal challenge after a hearing blocked disclosure of police files against the suspect in Yvonne Fletcher’s murder.

Police sources say that, at a key hearing held on February 8, Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the papers could not be passed to the Police Federation or John Murray. She gave them seven days to lodge an appeal if they wished.

However, according to the same sources, the Police Federation decided that it could no longer support the case, which it was funding, because of the further costs it faced in appealing the ruling. That decision has caused upset among several serving and former police officers.

Since there was no appeal, the judge formally dismissed the case at a further hearing last Friday.

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Police file judicial review over failure to charge suspect in Yvonne Fletcher’s murder

Pic: Met