Saturday, 24 July 2010

The CPS’s Ian Tomlinson Decision: A Met. Police Uniform is your ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card.

I have been outraged this week on the decision by the CPS not to bring criminal charges against PC Simon Harwood of the Metropolitan Police.

Whilst I have no doubt that the officer concerned did not mean to cause the death of this innocent bystander, his actions were seriously irresponsible and completely unwarranted. Many of us have seen the video of the incident that took place during the G20 protests in April 2009. My interpretation of this is that Tomlinson displayed no threatening behaviour at all. Perhaps he’s not exactly helpful to the 5 officers behind him and takes his time to move out of the way, but there is no evidence of physical provocation for the unexpected shove to the ground he receives, with such force, that he does not even have time to put his hands out to protect himself.

Dr Freddy Patel’s post-mortem put his death down to a heart attack and has been used as the principal piece of evidence from a medical professional. Interestingly, his professional credibility is currently being scrutinized in a GMC hearing in respect of 4 ‘bungled’ post-mortem examinations carried out between 2002 and 2005 , but clearly the CPS are not questioning the reliability of this. Other professional opinions and the findings of the Independent Police Complaints Commission have been ignored. Nat Cary, a pathologist held in high regard, with an unblemished professional record and described by some as ‘Britain’s Top Pathologist’, found an abdominal haemorrhage to be the cause of death and expressed ‘no doubt’ that the physical impact from Harwood’s actions was the catalyst for his death.

Leaving the medical technicalities of the case aside and concentrating on the video, this man died shortly after he was shoved over by the officer. Problems with his liver made him more susceptible to serious internal injuries and investigations have pointed to him either suffering a massive heart attack or bleeding to death internally as the result of a haemorrhage. I’m no mathematician but the probability of this being a coincidence is not high. We can see from this video that there is a significant impact when he hits the concrete.

I agree that this police officer should remain suspended from duty and face a Police disciplinary hearing, but his actions were criminal. If I was caught on camera pushing someone over in the street, unprovoked and with the force that officer used, chances are I wouldn’t be walking away from that without criminal charges being brought against me. How should this PC be treated any differently? In my eyes, there was a case for manslaughter here. The force used was unreasonable, irresponsible, and cowardly. The physical trauma it triggered led to Tomlinson’s death.

I don’t live in London (I’m feeling progressively more glad about this), but rogue officers like this seriously damage public trust and faith in all the police forces of this country. While I do believe that most people in the police forces are there for the right reasons (public service and a desire to protect), there needs to be a hard line taken in dealing with individuals like Harwood to make sure there is a damn good reason not to step out of line and act professionally and with integrity at all times. Forces from above seem to have protected this officer from criminal charges and this is a gross injustice to the Tomlinson family. The CPS’s decision here has been an astonishing one and seems to go against common sense and the laws in place in this country for (apparently) everyone who lives here. The Police Authorities obviously want to play this down and for the whole affair to just disappear as quickly as possible but by protecting someone so obviously in the wrong, they are damaging public trust in the whole organisation. I don’t want people who act in this way to be patrolling the streets I live in and abusing the authority that goes hand in hand with their role. The Police Authorities need to stop covering up the truth and start facing up to it. They need to come up with a way of dealing with incidents like this that doesn’t present an image of Police employees as being above the law. This will help prevent the worrying perception from members of the public that hypocrisy seems to be increasing within the institution of policing as a whole.

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