There is no formal charity under the name "Mothers Against Guns" listed with the Charities Commission and the charitable limited company which existed under that name (no. 05915867) was dissolved in 2008, having previously been registered for two years to an accountant's address, so it is not clear how the campaign is currently funded. There may have been some funding in 2004 via the Connected Fund operated by the Home Office, but that has ended now.
Considering the lack of visible means of support, the campaign has achieved a high profile. Examples of story generation include complaining about a possibly ill-judged Reebok campaign and criticizing a simulator demonstrated in an Armed Forces recruitment shop in Hackney. When Wanoghu was himself executed in 2006 (by gunman Trevor Dennie on the orders of Delphon Nicholas), Lucy Cope offered her condolences to the mother of Wanoghu as she was automatically approached for a comment.
This week an Freedom of Information request (FOI) revealed that Bedfordshire police had granted shotgun licences to children. The story does not say who raised the FOI. The Daily Mail article contained material inaccuracies about gun ownership and licencing, as various people have pointed out, but this is a good headline and media quickly took the story up.
The BBC regional TV news handled the story more carefully than most and interviewed the police, a young sports man and a supervisor at a gun training centre. As various gun-users have pointed out, a gun is just another tool used in competition shooting, pest control and hunting. They need careful handling as they have special risks attached to them, but they are just another tool. The police did extensive checks and interviews before granting the licences. All the conditions are being complied with. Despite the splash of the story this week, it has been covered before. Fiona McPherson for BBC South East addressed the subject in a balanced manner in December 2009. Just for once, everybody was doing their job properly, even the BBC.
It's impossible to have anything but sympathy for Lucy Cope, but when it emerged that she also had another son stabbed to death, it raised the query: Why is she focusing on the guns when the problem seems to be the propensity of young men to get involved in crime and kill each other?
Time then to look at the Lucy Cope back story, particularly when prompted by a commenter on Ambush Predator, that there might be competing explanations for the number of deaths in the Cope family.
Lucy Cope is quoted as age 55, which means she was born in 1955 at the end of the 'baby boomer' cohort. She has briefly described a childhood in coastal Ayrshire up to the age of 14, which although perhaps difficult by today's standards, was within the standards of the time.
Her description of her father as "a violent man" has to stand, but it should be noted that he's not here to dispute it. By the late 60s the mines in Ayrshire were closing because oil was coming on stream, imported coal was cheaper and electricity from nuclear generation was being brought on. Mr James Sillars, MP (South Ayrshire) and other concerned MPs a summarized the history of it in Hansard on 2 Feb 1977. (At that point, Sillars reveals were are 43,000 temporary jobs created in the area to keep people off the unemployment register.)
In approximately 1969 at age 14, Lucy Cope was therefore moved by her father to Nottingham, presumably so that he could find work in mining, but she does not state that was his job. At age 17 she met and married Winston, moving to London four years later at the age of 21 to live in Peckham in the estates which are fictionalized in the comedy Only Fools and Horses. Although Cope was a little young, by the standards of 1976 a married 21 year old was not unusual. They had six boys. (Cope subsequently went on to have two younger daughters).
The reality was darker than either the popular series - which began in 1981 - or Cope herself reflects.
"There used to be the old school criminality that did ruthless things but they had a mark of respect that they wouldn’t go over."Time puts mellow rosy glasses on us all when looking back at it. By 1985 there were serious challenges to the policing of London, particularly in estates such as Broadwater Farm (Tottenham), where the authority of the police to enforce UK law was being tested at a cultural level. Crime was half the equation; a severe confusion was arising as to whether the police had any right at all to enter those areas and enforce the law of the land, as evidenced by the widely-condemned statement from Bernie Grant (council leader and subsequently an MP)
"The youths around here believe the police were to blame for what happened on Sunday and what they got was a bloody good hiding."Cope's life story seems to have been quiet enough - or at least, as quiet as it gets when having six boys - from her meeting with Winston in 1972 up until roughly the mid-1980s. Then, on a date not specified and for reasons not stated, Cope recounts:
"When I was 17, I married Winston, a wonderful Jamaican man. He was my soul mate. We had six boys. Life seemed great. Then he jumped off the block of flats where we lived. The kids were small; they saw it happen."There is no readily available information on what appears to have been a dreadful suicide, but it might partly explain the tensions which then developed in the Cope family. By 1998 something had gone badly wrong. Sean Cope, her son, was stabbed to death close to Cope's home. However, there is surprisingly little information on this, which may be simply down to the date as internet sources are only gradually being added from that time. If the local paper covered it, it might be in their archives. However, a commentator on Ambush Predator writes:
"his death is described in more detail elsewhere as a "family accident" and that another brother, Michael, stood trial three times for it before eventually being cleared of manslaughter and murder. IIRC from when I lived in the area and followed the incident in the local press, there wasn't any dispute that Michael's hand was on the knife".Sean Cope has been air-brushed almost out of the picture in a way that Damian has not. He is left there, in outline, inviting us to conclude that random tragedy has struck twice, whereas if he died as a result of scrapping within his own family, and if it should transpire that Sean himself had a violent background, these are much more relevant explanations than the guns, knives, garrotes or chair legs with which they kill each other. The weapon is only "how" they do it; to cut down the numbers you have to tackle the whys and wherefores.
There is another chapter in the Cope story.
When Damian was killed, there was little doubt about the identity of the murderer, but there was doubt about whether a successful case could be brought. There was CCTV footage of Damian being shot but what the prosecution needed - a positive identification of the murderer - hung on two witnesses being prepared to name him.
Although the CPS went to the effort of extraditing Andrew Wanoghu from the USA and putting him on trial in 2004 as a one of a sequence in Operation Trident in an effort to stem gang violence, their case was always weak in respect of identification and relied on the witness claiming to have heard the name from the dying lips of Damian Cope. It was hearsay from someone now far beyond the reaches of human justice. Although Lucy Cope claimed credit for pressurizing the CPS in to bringing the case, the police were anxious to crack the gangs and an extradition might have helped that.
Despite this, counsel for the prosecution was obliged to withdraw when the witnesses would not testify. The friend was, in the end, more frightened of reprisals than contempt of court.
A further explanation was given by Richard Horwell, prosecuting on behalf of the Crown (who subsequently became a QC and often acts as Counsel for the Metropolitan police):
Another problem was that it was claimed that Mr Cope named his killer to Witness A seven minutes after the shooting. But medical experts from prosecution and defence believe his injuries were so serious that he would have been rendered incapable of speech almost immediately. "Each doctor independently came to the view that because of the injuries Damian Cope suffered is it unlikely in the extreme that he would have been in a position to have a conversation with Witness A," said Mr Horwell. A doorman at the club claimed that Mr Cope did not utter a word."This opens the possibility that witnesses (there is no doubt they were there) perhaps interpreted-in an event which did not happen and on reflection did not wish to say something untrue in the witness box because that is also a very serious offence. To have a witness take the stand and admit that they might have embroidered their story would have destroyed the prosecution humiliatingly in open court.
"We couldn't invite a jury to convict on Witness A's evidence", said Mr Horwell. "There is not a realistic prospect of conviction and for these reasons we offer no evidence on the indictment."
It's a technical call as to whether that trial should ever have gone forward but at least it showed that there was a will in the CPS to bring someone before the courts. But if Richard Horwell QC tells you that you haven't got a case and he can't bring it in, then you are being told by one of the best in the business.
Cope was distraught, as is natural when faced by an insolent little git who was getting off on having the CCTV of Damian's death replayed for the jury and moreover was a guilty as heck.
"I'm furious with his friends," Mrs Cope said. "The case hung on them. Some people might say that they were too scared to come forward but all they had to do was a sign a piece of paper confirming what Damian had said. "But they couldn't even do that. They should be ashamed - they have no right to call themselves Damian's friends."Even if the friends has sworn on a stack of bibles, the defence would have questioned whether the dying Damian Cope had identified the killer or merely said a name. The prosecution had to fold for lack of convincing evidence.
The twist is this.
In 2007 Lucy Cope herself faced charges of kidnapping and assault against her nephew, Harry Kerr. Cope suspected Kerr of stealing property of sentimental value and rang her sister to complain. Kerr then complained to the police that he'd been pulled out of a pub by his cousins Darren and Adrian (Cope's sons) and held at Cope's house and beaten.
The case collapsed and she was formally cleared when the key witness, the victim Harry Kerr, could not be found to testify. The police also wished to speak to Kerr in respect of other matters and were hoping he would make an appearance. Apparently he no longer wished to talk to them. The trial at the Inner London Crown Court was abandoned for lack of evidence . Cope insists that none of what Kerr alleged ever happened.
Cope continues to campaign. A particularly perceptive interviewer, John Woodcock for the Yorkshire Post, summed it up in 2004 after the collapse of the Wanoghu trial:
"In one way her court ordeal was an extension of the emotional nightmare she has endured since July 28, 2002. In another sense it has benefited Lucy, serving to increase her motivation for the campaign she began almost in a frenzied reaction to her son's death."This is not to invalidate any points about gun control which Cope is making, but it should be taken in to account that her drive is primarily emotional. A husband she loved killed himself, there was bad blood between two sons which may have resulted in the death of one of them, two sons were due to stand trial for kidnapping and assault, although they were formally acquitted when the case collapsed for lack of evidence, a nephew has gone missing rather than answer police questions, property has vanished, and elsewhere Cope has referred to a difficult relationship with one of her daughters. Not that it is unusual to have a serious falling-out with a teenage daughter, but Cope claims that the police failed to take action when her clearly under-age child of twelve was having sexual relations with a 16 year old and did not treat this as abuse merely because the perpetrator was himself young.
Put all of that together and you have a woman who is driven to try to control one aspect, just one aspect, of a life which tipped further in to chaos when a son she loved deeply was shot. As Cope told John Woodcock:
"Part of you does die too. I could have gone right under. If I hadn't got involved in something to try and help stop what's happening on the streets, Damian would have died for nothing".