openDemocracyUK

Tomlinson's killer not charged

The British public prosecutor has just announced that there will be no charges against the police who killed a bystander at the G20 protests in London.
Helen
22 July 2010

Breaking news has just come in concerning the police officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests last year. Tomlinson died shortly afterwards, but the incident in which he was struck by a police baton while walking home from work, and thereafter pushed to the ground by an officer, was captured on camera and released to the public.

The CPS ruled today that no charges would be brought against the officer in question.

After the G20 there followed a shameful campaign of misinformation and attempted secrecy by the police, who initially claimed that they were prevented from giving Tomlison medical treatment by a "hail of bottles" thrown by protestors - a claim which was later discounted by video evidence showing that protestors were much quicker to give Tomlinson medical aid than police. The baton strike was not initially acknowledged by the police, who claimed that Tomlinson died of a heart attack, until the videos were published online. From the start, every action by the police was in the interes of protecting themselves.
The police's diagnosis of a heart attack was confirmed by an initial post mortem. However, following a public outcry and intense press coverage, it was revealed that the pathologist concerned had been previously discredited, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ordered a second post mortem, which found that Tomlinson had died of internal bleeding. This verdict was confirmed by a third post mortem, ordered by the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards.

In the meantime, protests about Tomlinson's death and the appalling police misconduct at the G20 demonstration were overshadowed by continued police violence. Sgt Smellie, the officer charged with misconduct after beating Nicola Fisher at a protest about Tomlinson's death the next day, was later cleared of all charges despite video evidence documenting the attack.

Despite detailed and consistent evidence describing the police misconduct at the G20, and a commitment by the MPA to ensure the events of the day are not repeated, almost no police officers have been charged with misconduct or assault in the 15 months since, and no charges whatsoever have been withheld. The message is clear: the police are above justice, and if you are the victim of police brutality, you can expect to have your complaints ignored (or "investigated" for long months before being dropped) and to see the perpetrators not only walk free, but continue doing their jobs and use similar violence against others.

No doubt anticipating public outrage at the news that Tomlinson's attacker has not only been cleared of manslaughter, but is not being charged with assault or misconduct, the CPS have released a detailed report explaining how they came to drop the charges.

This document describes how the charge of manslaughter could not be brought due to "conflicting medical evidence" (despite the fact that the initial autopsy was discredited, and the two subsequent ones were in agreement). The charge of assault was considered:

Having analysed the available evidence very carefully, the CPS concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that the actions of PC 'A' in striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and then pushing him over constituted an assault. At the time of those acts, Mr Tomlinson did not pose a threat to PC 'A' or any other police officer. Whilst the officer was entitled to require Mr Tomlinson to move out of Royal Exchange, there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that his actions were disproportionate and unjustified.

However, it too was rejected because of "conflicting medical evidence". A charge of common assault could not be brought because of the "strict six month time limit" enforced. The police's attempts to direct blame away from themselves in the ensuing weeks, and the slowness of the IPCC in pursuing complaints, yet again work in the police's favour due to a legal loophole.

The charge of misconduct was rejected because:

The offence of misconduct in public office cannot simply be used as a substitute for other offences and simply being a police officer who commits a criminal offence, even one of assault, does not, without some other aggravating factor, automatically amount to the offence of misconduct in public office.

This is not the first time a police officer has been acquitted of all charges after the public slaughter of an innocent member of the public. The IPCC announced last October, after a lengthy appeals process, that it stands by its decision not to recommend disciplinary actions against the MPS officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005. Not to mention the many deaths in police custody which are reported each year, but which strangely never result in charges being upheld against the police. The pattern, at least, is consistent. If you are beaten or killed by police, any ensuing investigation will somehow, miraculously, find that they are not to blame - even if you managed to obtain video evidence of the incident and publish it online.

This verdict is shocking to many, but not least to Ian Tomlinson's family, who say they have been kept in the dark by police throughout this investigation. The family will release a full statement later in the day. In the meantime, they urge everyone who is disgusted by this outrageous miscarriage of justice to attend a protest outside New Scotland Yard this lunchtime from 1pm.

Every effort to bring the police to justice so far seems to have failed. But if we stop trying, we are tacitly endorsing their actions and accepting these abuses of their authority. If we have any sense of justice, we must continue to fight this outrageous pattern of police immunity and bring violent officers to account.

Cross-posted with thanks from Police State UK

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