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Police bullets used to end the Lindt cafe siege were less likely to “over-penetrate” and hit hostages, an inquest has heard. Photo: Andrew Meares Tactical police stormed the Lindt cafe in the early hours of the morning. Photo: Supplied
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Barrister Katrina Dawson and cafe manger Tori Johnson were killed during the siege. Photo: Supplied

Top negotiator worked other jobs during siege​Man Monis shot at six hostages as they fled​Tori Johnson’s triple zero call

The tactical commander during the Sydney siege has told an inquest that ending the Lindt Cafe stand-off through direct action would have been less risky.

The chief inspector and Tactical Operations Unit member who also serves as an Australian special forces soldier has told the inquest into the siege that the emergency action plan, triggered after Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson was killed, should have been the last resort.

The inquest into the December 2014 siege has previously heard details of a discussion between NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins during which it was decided that deliberate or direct action, in which officers would storm the cafe, was to be the last resort, avoiding forcing an end to the siege.

Details of the telephone conversation between Mr Scipione and Mr Jenkins, at about 10.57pm on the night of the siege, were recorded in a police log.

Mr Jenkins was the most senior commander in charge of the police operation at the time of the telephone conversation.

But in a statement tendered to the inquest on Monday, the tactical commander, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said an emergency action plan should in fact be the “last resort”.

Pressed on Monday by counsel assisting the coroner, Jeremy Gormly, the officer agreed that an emergency action, which comes into force when there is imminent risk of death or serious injury is “inherently more risky” than a deliberate action.

The direct action plan would have been a proactive step to force entry at a time of the police’s own choosing.

“In any action that we take there is an element of risk. However, a deliberate action would be a preferred option and potentially I might judge that when I weigh up my risk as being less risky,” the tactical commander said.

Earlier on Monday, the head of NSW police armoury, Chief Inspector Richard Steinborn, defended the type of bullets police used to end the siege.

Barrister Katrina Dawson died after she was hit by fragments of police bullets.

Chief Inspector Steinborn said the type of ammunition the tactical operations unit used was more likely to fragment than “bonded” bullets.

But he said officers needed to guard against “over-penetration” in which bullets travel through a target’s body and endanger others.

The .223 Winchester rounds used in the unit’s M4 assault rifles are designed to penetrate a human torso between 12 and 18 inches (30 and 45 centimetres), the inquest heard.

This would generally be deep enough to incapacitate the target without leaving their body, Chief Inspector Steinborn said.

While the NSW Police must use approved non-bonded ammunition, the Australian Federal Police have the choice to use two bonded types to penetrate better through barriers.

Chief Inspector Steinborn said these bullets were more likely to remain intact after hitting a hard surface. But he warned that created other dangers in close-quarter combat such as that seen in the siege.

“You would then have a solid projectile travelling, presenting a ricochet risk within the stronghold because there’s nothing to hold it up and expend its energy,” he said.

Testing on bonded rounds since the siege showed they penetrated up to 22.5 inches, more than four inches beyond the acceptable standard, he said.

The inquest continues.

 

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