G20 death: Where error is irreparable, repentance is useless

Reading of the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision over the death of Ian Tomlinson at last years G20 protest, I’m reminded of Edward Gibbon’s memorable phrase: “Where error is irreparable, repentance is useless”. I pray that this does not become the leitmotif of this tragedy.

The announcement by CPS that they will not be bringing criminal charges against the officer who struck Mr Tomlinson, is deeply dispiriting. Having earlier accepted that Tomlinson appeared to be the subject of an “unlawful assault”, the Director of Public Prosecutions this morning said a “sharp disagreement” in medical evidence has rendered a prosecution impossible.

This “sharp disagreement” refers to the conflicting pathology reports submitted by the coroner who carried out the initial autopsy- and who was appointed by the City of London- and the two subsequent reports commissioned by the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards. Whilst the first suggested the cause of death was heart failure, the two subsequent reports cited “abdominal haemorrhaging from blunt force trauma” as the primary cause.

As the only the first pathologist, Dr Freddy Patel, had access to the body in its original state, one would normally be minded to prefer his opinion. In this case, however, no such certainty exists: Dr Patel’s judgement has in the past been called into question. On two separate occasions his handlings of suspicious deaths have raised eyebrows and now the disparity between his report and the other two has stymied hopes of a prosecution.

It appears then, we find ourselves in a situation in which a man lies dead, there is a multitude of evidence that suggests he was at the very least assaulted, and yet the perpetrator walks away- presumable straight back to his desk at New Scotland Yard- his name free of the stain which is rightly due him. It appears, in short, to be an “error of impunity”, to use Brian Forst’s phrase; a lapse on the part of the authorities which has allowed the guilty to walk free.

But whose lapse is this? On whom should we turn our ire? It would be easy to lay the blame at the door of the CPS; however, to do so would be a facile and would fail the cause of justice. For while the CPS may have been laggardly in pace, they have at least been transparent (releasing a detailed explanation of the decision not to prosecute). In fact, this appears to be a miscarriage bought about by mal-administration, which may or may not prove to be a deliberate act, on the part of the City of London Authority. As it currently appears that the CPS’s case has been hamstrung by the Authority’s choice of pathologist.

It appears bizarre in the extreme that the City of London Authority chose Dr Patel in the circumstances. Especially given that the more usual procedure would have been to refer the case to the Forensic Pathology Service, a body of nine independent forensic pathologists, tasked with dealing with such occurrences. One cannot help but wonder if this signals a dangerous level of incompetence and insensitivity on the part of the City of London Authority or something more insidious. It is imperative that we know one way or the other all details of the case, if trust in the police and the City of London Authority is to be maintained. As I see it, the fundamental question that needs answering is: who chose the first pathologist and by what means?

Until this question is answered Londoners and the Tomlinson family have every reason to feel aggrieved. Justice has been thwarted, the CPS’s case has collapsed and no one seems to be to blame for the death of an innocent man. With no criminal prosecution in the pipeline, it is essential that we find out as much as we can about the procedural failings subsequent to the event. At least then Mr Tomlinson may be afforded some justice, no matter how slight it may be.

  • tumper

    We have to face up to it. The police force in this country have become an armed wing of government policy. They are no different to the NKVD or STASI in their modus operendi.
    Over 1000 people have died whilst in custody of the police, and not ONE prosecution has followed.
    That fact in itself, tells you the kind of country we are living in.

  • capa75

    Club rules old boy, is what you are lugubriously saying, club rules….

  • Chippychap

    Yet again these thugs in black literally get away with murder.
    PM et al PLEASE don’t whine again wondering why the police are held in such utter contempt.
    As for the Met, HOW can you police US when you clearly are unable to organise yourselves.
    DISGRACEFUL decision by the CPS

  • Chippychap

    So, we have a dodgy policeman, dodgy pathologist, a dodgy CPS, a dodgy decision.
    Versus the ordinary citizen?
    Stacked a tad against us, isn’t it?

  • Billion

    When Mr Tomlinson was found dead, the Police told one lie after another to the family of Mr Tomlinson and the public, it was only when video evidence emerged showing that Mr Tomlinson was the victim of an unprovoked attack that the police stopped telling their lies.

    Also, why is it that the police can use CCTV to prove their case, but they do not allow the public to do the same.

    The individual has an unwritten contract with the state. The individual agrees to abide by the laws of the state, the state protects the individual from harm if it fails to do this then it punishes those found guilty of causing harm.

  • davdos

    Let’s remember that the officer concerned had already had to leave the Met after a road rage incident. He joined Surrey police where he was subjected to another complaint. Before this was finalised he applied to transfer to the Met Police and was accepted. So my thinking goes like this. The prosecution could not happen because CPS may have been fully aware that a conviction for Simon Harwood could lead to a very expensive negligence case against the Met for re-employing somebody who obviously was causing trouble and prone to violence.
    Of course, I also imagine the fact that Ian Tomlinson was a newspaper vendor with a history of homelessness had a role in the decision not to prosecute. He simply wasn’t important enough to warrant justice.

  • patrickmcmullen

    There are so many questions that need answering over this case. It seems to me the most appalling miscarriage of justice and we really need to battle to get at the truth- if not we lose all trust in those who are charged to protect us.

  • Pongo Pigpen

    5 years ago yesterday Jean Charles Menezes was killed by the Metropolitan police. Not a single police officer has been held responsible for his killing or the attempted cover up by the police…yesterday they were let off with yet another killing of an innocent man.
    The only people the British police protect are the rich and powerful-yet they wonder why people have no respect for them anymore? British justice-once vaunted as the best in the world is shown to be a sham and a joke.
    How much longer will they believe that they can just sweep these things under the carpet and we will soon forget?That just shows their total lack of repect they have for our intelligence.

  • borntalkingback

    What’s the name of the legal eagle in the CPS who made the decision not to prosecute in both this case and, apparently, the Jean Charles de Menezes case? Why aren’t we getting this lawyer’s name?

    I don’t quite get this anyway–you think the jury might acquit because of conflicting expert evidence, so you don’t take it to trial? How’s that again?

  • thruthseeker

    Can you imagine what would have happened if it had been the other way round and Ian tomlinson had pushed a police officer over, they would have soon had him banged up, they would have had no problem getting the evidence, police and the courts protecting each other, same as the Hollie Greig. case in scotland anyone mentioning the case is soon arrested or harrased by the police and courts,

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