4 January 2023
On 4 January 2019, Sean Fitzgerald, 31, died after being shot in the chest by West Midlands police as he exited a property in Burnaby Road in Coventry.
Now, four years later, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation is still not complete. His family are still without answers.
In April 2021 the IOPC announced that the firearms officer who shot Sean was served with a gross misconduct notice in respect of that officer’s use of force.
In March 2022 the IOPC announced that it was also now investigating the firearms officer who shot Sean for potential homicide offences.
Sean’s inquest is currently suspended as a result of the IOPC’s ongoing investigation.
The family is now calling for the IOPC to provide a date by which their report will be finalised and a decision made as to whether the IOPC will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a decision as to whether criminal charges should be brought against the firearms officer who shot Sean.
Liam Fitzgerald, Sean’s brother, said: “It has now been four years since Sean was killed by a West Midlands police officer, we believe unlawfully. Four years of sorrow and anger for our loss of a brother, uncle, stepson, partner and friend.
We grieve Sean’s loss of missed opportunities, missed family occasions, births of new family members and milestones, and his own loss of the chance to have a family of his own.
Sean wasn’t a career criminal, he was an ex-soldier. A nice guy, funny and with an exciting buzz that would sometimes tire out those around him. We have missed him every day for four years and we’ll miss him every day that follows.
These last four years have been a nightmare that no family ever believes will affect them, but they have been made harder by the fight needed to get the truth and accountability that we all want. A fight against state organisations that have shown no compassion or respect for Sean or us. We feel let down by the system put in place to hold police officers to account for their actions.
Instead of a robust, speedy IOPC investigation into Sean’s death, we’ve witnessed legal games that appear to be for the purpose of protecting certain people and organisations rather than finding the truth and holding those in the wrong accountable. Four years later and we’ve been told very little, delay after delay and constantly feeling let down. This isn’t right, it can’t be, and it should never happen again.
We have had to fight and argue our case to seek to ensure a thorough investigation, an investigation that we were told would take three to six months. We have waited patiently for all this time.
We are not prepared to wait any longer with no end in sight, which is why we now ask that the IOPC provide a date by which they will complete their investigation and decide whether to refer the case to the CPS for a charging decision, as we believe they should.”
Anita Sharma, Head of Casework at INQUEST, said: “Bereaved families and the public deserve urgent and robust scrutiny of the highest standard following lethal use of police force. The IOPC’s four year investigation into Sean’s death is now one of the longest standing INQUEST has seen in recent times. It is unacceptable.
The ongoing delay not only compounds the pain and grief of Sean’s family, but also frustrates the role the IOPC has in the prevention of further deaths. The IOPC must now provide the family with the dignity of a date by which their investigation will conclude, and the long awaited answers around the full circumstances of Sean’s death.
Helen Stone of Hickman & Rose Solicitors, who represents the family, said: “Unfortunately, long delays in investigations following police contact are all too common. However, it is frankly unbelievable that the IOPC has now taken four years, and still counting, to conclude its investigation into Sean’s death.
Four years of the family not having answers, and no indication from the IOPC as to when it will conclude its investigation. They must now at the very least provide an answer to this question, so that the family have some certainty regarding the next steps in their long search for truth and accountability.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information please contact Leila Hagmann on [email protected].
Family photos of Sean for media use are available here and here.
INQUEST has worked with the family of Sean Fitzgerald since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Helen Stone of Hickman & Rose and Adam Straw KC of Doughty Street Chambers. They are supported by Anita Sharma, Head of Casework at INQUEST.