On 1 April 2009 London saw protests and demonstrations in relation to the G20 summit taking place the following day in London. Following those protests a video was made publically available by the Guardian newspaper which showed a man being struck by a police officer and then violently pushed to the ground. That man was Ian Tomlinson who collapsed and died shortly after. Ian Tomlinson was walking away from the police, had his back to them and his hands in his pockets and posed no real threat or danger to the police. Today, the inquest into his death concluded with a verdict of unlawful killing. The jury decided that Police Constable Simon Harwood had used “excessive and unreasonable” force in striking Ian Tomlinson.
At the time the incident raised serious concerns about the conduct of the police when it came to policing demonstrations and those concerns have only grown as the years have passed. Less than a month ago the High Court held that the police use of kittling at the same protest had been unlawful. Last week there were reports of somewhat dubious “conspiracy” arrests ahead of the Royal Wedding on 29 April 2011. A video of one such arrest can be found here. There were also arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Soho Square, London on 29 April 2011 and a video of those arrests can be found here.
In relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson the Crown Prosecution Service are conducting a robust and thorough review into whether PC Harwood should be prosecuted or not and the Metropolitan Police Service has advised that PC Harwood will be the subject of internal misconduct proceedings. It is of course for the CPS to decide whether PC Harwood should be prosecuted and if so what the charge should be. However, I would have thought a charge of manslaughter would be a very likely option. The question of whether PC Harwood remains a Police Officer or not is in the hands of the Metropolitan Police, but I find it hard to see how they could do anything other than dismiss PC Harwood following the result of the inquest. Of course, any decision by the MPS may well be delayed until after the CPS decide what to do and the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.
Of course, not everyone agrees with the verdict. An anonymous Police Inspector writing under the name of Inspector Gadget has suggested that the verdict may result in a reluctance for the police to get involved and lay hands on anyone.
The Police must be able to use reasonable force in order to prevent significant violence and disorder. However, I find it difficult to believe that anyone looking at the video of the incident involving Ian Tomlinson could be of the view that the force used by PC Harwood was in anyway reasonable and justified. Other video evidence of PC Harwood’s actions on that day suggest that he is either wholly unfit to be a police officer or at the very least unfit to be involved in any public order policing.
At least one comment on Inspector gadget’s post has me a little bit annoyed. It goes as follows:
Same old same old yet AGAIN, people have this officer hung drawn and quartered on the basis of what ?????
A ” BIT OF A VID “……………………AGAIN !”
I’m sorry but don’t the police use CCTV on a regular basis as a significant part of their case against people accused of assault? What is the difference between moving images of a police officer using unreasonable and unjustified force against a member of the public and moving images of a member of the public using unreasonable and unjustified violence against a police officer or another member of the public? I fail to see any difference whatsoever between the two.
Due process should be allowed to continue with the MPS internal misconduct proceedings, the review by the CPS and any subsequent criminal proceedings.