A police force’s “incompetently” planned operation led to an unarmed man being shot dead, a public inquiry has concluded.

Anthony Grainger, a father-of-two, was shot in the chest while behind the wheel of a stolen Audi in Cheshire in March 2012.

If senior commanders at Greater Manchester Police had organised their firearms department properly, the 36-year-old might still be alive, the inquiry found.

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During 15 weeks of evidence in 2017, a GMP officer referred to in court as Q9 told Liverpool Crown Court he believed Grainger had reached down as if to grab a firearm.

But the inquiry heard no firearms were found on Grainger, who – along with one of his two passengers, David Totton – had for weeks been the subject of a GMP operation investigating armed robberies.

In his report, Judge Thomas Teague QC concludes Q9 shot Grainger in the “honestly held belief” he was reaching for a gun with a view to firing it at his colleagues.

He says: “For that reason, applying the correct legal test, I am unable to say that his decision to fire was unlawful.”

But Judge Teague says: “I have concluded that Greater Manchester Police is to blame for the death of Mr Grainger because the force failed to discharge its obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to authorise, plan and conduct the Masts (Mobile Armed Support To Surveillance) operation on 3 March in such a way as to minimise to the greatest extent possible recourse to the lethal use of force.

“Firearms commanders authorised and planned the Masts operation incompetently and without keeping proper records of their decisions. They inaccurately briefed the firearms officers who were to conduct the operation, distorting and in some respects exaggerating the risk presented by Mr Grainger.”

Judge Teague says the inquiry had “exposed serious deficiencies in the planning and conduct of the firearms operation that led to Mr Grainger’s death”.

Anthony Grainger’s partner Gail Hadfield Grainger says ‘justice has been done’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

Grainger’s partner, Gail Hadfield-Grainger, says: “It has taken seven years but some justice has been done today for Anthony.

“This devastating report shows that Anthony’s death was caused by a litany of catastrophic failures by Greater Manchester Police in 2012. It could and should have been prevented.”

Leslie Thomas QC, representing the Grainger family, says: “This inquiry has concluded that Anthony died as a result of a calamitous combination of errors and blunders by GMP."

He says the report catalogued “dishonesty and corruption” at the highest level of GMP and that senior officers had displayed a “cavalier approach to public safety”.

He says the family would like the CPS to consider bringing proceedings over the alleged unlawful killing.

Anthony Grainger’s mother Marina says she would like the CPS to consider bringing proceedings over the alleged unlawful killing (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Grainger’s mother, Marina Schofield, says: “For over seven years we have fought for justice for Anthony. It has been a long and emotional road to the truth. As a family we have been shocked hearing of the dangerous levels of incompetence on the part of GMP, but the inquiry has revealed levels of staggering ineptitude way beyond what was expected in the intelligence, the operation and the post-incident collusion.

“We are therefore pleased with the chairman’s findings and that of unlawful killing. We now welcome the involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in considering criminal charges be brought against the officers responsible for Anthony’s death.”

A GMP spokeswoman says: “We fully understand the heartbreaking effect that Anthony Grainger’s death has had on his family and loved ones. We also fully understand that the public inquiry will have been very difficult for them. On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, we offer our condolences to Anthony Grainger’s family and to his loved ones.”

She adds: “Working alongside our regional and national partners, we will consider all of the chairman’s recommendations to assess what more can be done now, and in the future, to further improve the safety of police firearms operations.”

Additional reporting by Press Association