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This is when armed police are allowed to shoot and where they aim on the body

Police do not have a shoot-to-kill policy according to force chiefs but shootings - like that of Yassar Yaqub - are often fatal.

Yesterday a man in a car was shot dead by armed police in an incident eerily similar to the killing of Huddersfield man Yassar Yaqub in January.

The shooting in Portishead, west of Bristol, took place after police forced a car off a motorway and stopped the vehicle on a main road, according to reports.

Eight months before, Crosland Moor dad-of-two Mr Yaqub had been travelling in a white Audi before he was shot dead by a police marksman on a road off the M62 at Ainley Top.

The shootings raise questions as to when and how police can use lethal force.

In its investigation into both shootings, The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will have to find out how many shots were fired, who fired them, why the decision to open fire was made and whether the correct procedures were followed.

Ultimately they must decide whether the man in Portishead and 28-year-old Mr Yaqub were lawfully - or unlawfully - killed.

The shootings and their subsequent inquiries will throw up wider questions as to what protocol armed police must follow and under what circumstances they can legally use lethal force.

Mr Yaqub's dad Mohammed Yaqub believes Yassar was 'killed for no reason' and will no doubt be watching the inquiry closely.

When can armed police open fire?

© Joel Goodman - 07973 332324 . SUBMIT FOR HUDDERSFIELD EXAMINER ONLY - NO SYNDICATION PERMITTED . 03/01/2017. Huddersfield, UK. A bullet riddled white Audi car at the slip road at Junction 24 of the M62 motorway in Huddersfield . West Yorkshire police have announced a man has died following the discharge of a police firearm , during what they describe as a pre-planned operation , yesterday evening (2nd January 2017) . Photo credit : Joel Goodman

Armed police officers faced with any scenario, terror-related or otherwise, have no special legal status and are subject to criminal law, including the law governing self-defence.

They make the decision to shoot alone, are legally responsible for each bullet they discharge and have the responsibility of proving their actions were proportionate.

Their actions are subject to human rights considerations, specifically the right to life in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. This means that the use of lethal force will only be justified where it is shown to be absolutely necessary.

The question of whether the degree of force used is reasonable or not is often a controversial one and is decided on the circumstances the officer believed themselves to be in – not the actual circumstances.

In the case of Yassar's shooting, the officers will be found to have used reasonable force if they thought themselves in immediate danger.

Generally speaking, official policy says firearms officers “shoot to incapacitate”. Targeting the centre of the chest as the quickest way to neutralise a suspect, even though it is likely to kill.

When police can use force

Yassar Yaqub's parents Safia Bano and Mohammed Yaqub(Image: Trinity Mirror)

The College of Policing states, under its ‘Armed Policing’ guidelines: “When police are required to use force to achieve a lawful objective (eg, making a lawful arrest, acting in self-defence or protecting others) all force used must be reasonable in the circumstances.

“If the force used is not reasonable and proportionate, the officer is open to criminal or misconduct proceedings. It may also constitute a violation of the human rights of the person against whom the force was used.

“Each authorised firearms officer is individually responsible and accountable for their decisions and actions, nothing can absolve them from such responsibility and accountability.

“This includes decisions to refrain from using force as well as any decisive action taken, including the use of force, the use of a firearm and the use of a less lethal weapon.

“AFOs are answerable, ultimately, to the law in the courts. They must be in a position to justify their decisions and actions based on their honestly held belief as to the circumstances that existed at the time, and their professional and legal responsibilities.”

Do we have a shoot-to-kill policy in the UK?

The fatal shooting of a man by armed police in Portishead, near Bristol(Image: Jon Kent/Bristol Post)

This year police chiefs announced a more aggressive policy on the use of lethal force. Against a backdrop of increased police militarisation, a further 640 firearms officers were added to the force in England and Wales.

The previous approach of "locate, contain and neutralise" was also changed to "locate and confront" – making tactics more aggressive.

The approach to firing at moving vehicles was also updated in response to terror attacks in Nice, Stockholm and London. Officers now have more powerful weapons, able to penetrate strong materials such as lorry cabs.

The term 'shoot-to-kill' is quite often misunderstood as a premeditated order to shoot on sight.

But its correct definition is a reactive action taken to prevent an immediate threat to life by shooting to stop the subject from carrying out their intended or threatened course of action.

In 2015 the then Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said there was no shoot-to-kill policy.

He told LBC radio: “The law says that the police can use reasonable force, firstly to stop a crime, and secondly, to arrest someone who is putting someone else in danger. If someone’s life is at risk, a police officer can intervene. If they are armed or otherwise dangerous, we can stop them.”

This article first appeared in the Bristol Post .

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