Published: 17:37, 15 October 2020
| Updated: 10:03, 16 October 2020
Police who shot dead a murder suspect may have believed he “was not going to be taken alive”, a pre-inquest hearing has heard.
A pre-inquest review hearing at Guildford Crown Court today was told the inquest, which is expected to last around five weeks, will begin at County Hall in Maidstone on November 2.
This morning’s two-hour session saw lawyers, including those representing Kent Police, the IOPC and the deceased’s family, debate the scope of the evidence and which witnesses to put before a jury next month.
The 36-year-old builder died on the evening of May 1 during a pre-planned police operation, part of an ongoing investigation into the murder of Roy Blackman at his home in March 2016.
Mr Blackman, 73, was found bludgeoned to death at his bungalow in Biddenden, following a violent burglary.
The inquest will examine the circumstances that led to the killing of Mr Smith, of Golford, near Sissinghurst, who had previous convictions for drugs, theft, assault and driving offences.
This morning’s proceedings at Guildford were the latest in a string of pre-inquest hearings held to determine the scope of the inquest and reach agreement on what evidence will be put before the five-week hearing.
Leslie Thomas QC, counsel for the family, argued for limits on what would be presented, saying that the inquest should not represent a trial of Mr Smith and any part in Mr Blackman’s death.
However John Beggs QC, counsel for Kent Police, insisted disclosure of the deceased’s past would be vital to present the context of the decision making which went into the planning of the operation to apprehend Mr Smith which ultimately led to his death.
The hearing heard that prior to his death Mr Smith had on a previous occasion failed to stop for road traffic officers, and Mr Beggs argued this background detail was vital to understand a man who police could have believed “was not going to be taken alive” given the nature of the crimes for which he was wanted.
He said: “One of the arguments Kent Police will be advancing is that Mr Smith had to be apprehended as soon as possible.”
Her Honour Judge Alexia Durran, presiding over the hearing, agreed that relevant details which informed the decision making of the police should be included within the scope of the inquest’s investigation into the circumstances of Mr Smith’s death.
It is still not clear whether Mr Smith was pointing a gun at officers just before he was killed.
A report by the IOPC found that Mr Smith was aiming a shotgun at two officers when he was fatally shot. However, at a later hearing, Mr Thomas cast doubt over this, stating there was little forensic evidence to suggest he was pointing a firearm at the officers.
During a review in September, Kent Police was given seven days to pass on any outstanding information to a fingerprint expert after hearing questions surrounding Mr Smith's death remain unanswered.
In September 2016, 38-year-old Mark Love, of Frittenden Road, Staplehurst, received a life sentence for the murder of Mr Blackman, during a burglary in which a safe containing £250,000 was also taken.
Mr Smith’s DNA was found at the scene, implicating him heavily in events. The prosecution said if captured alive he would also have been put on trial.