If you’ve read the papers over the past week, you will have almost certainly encountered the ongoing inquest into the shooting of barrister Mark Saunders by police. Rarely has such an incident generated so many column inches and questions. If you go to the telegraph’s website and search for Derek Bennett – the rastafarian shot after police mistook his cigarette lighter for a gun – you will find 28 articles. By contrast, the late West London lawyers Mark Saunders brings up over 300. Meanwhile a very a substantial airing has been given to the opinions of his then wife and his wife’s barrister regarding the way the police handled the situation.
This contrast is particularly striking considering the circumstances in which he was shot. Unlike Derek Bennett, Saunders was not carrying a gun-shaped lighter. We was waving a real life shot-gun out the window. And he had already shot into neighbouring properties and in the direction of police when he was finally killed by a hail of bullets. Now, his actions should not be a capital offence – nothing should. But their is a limit to how far police officers can be expected to risk their own lives when faced with a shot-gun firing alcoholic. Nonetheless we are treated to headlines such as “Police assured barrister Mark Saunders: We will not shoot you“. And in the Telegraph and everywhere else “Mark Saunders’ wife says she could have defused seige”
Does anybody honestly believe that if police had killed a working-class black man who’d been firing off a shotgun, we would all be hearing the opinions of his wife on what the police had done wrong?
Don’t get me wrong: The state has a monopoly on physical force – and when it uses that force lethally there should undoubtedly be media scrutiny. But such scrutiny is merited by the lives of all of our citizens.