Frankie Boyle is right on Ian Tomlinson case: “There was absolutely no evidence, apart from that film of him (Harwood) doing it”
Freddy Patel, the pathologist who conducted two post mortem examinations on Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller and father of nine who was killed in 2009 at the G20 protests in London after being pushed to the ground by a police officer, faces being struck off after a tribunal panel of medical professionals noticed a number of key errors in his work and found him to be ‘dishonest’.
The news arrives as last month’s verdict at Southwalk Crown Court sinks in, which ruled that Simon Harwood-the then police officer caught on camera beating Tomlinson-was not guilty of manslaughter.
Harwood, who has a history of allegations of violent behaviour and walked free having faced criminal charges, and who was at the time of the incident stationed in London as part of the Met’s tactical support unit responsible for policing the G20 protests, maintained from the outset that he had used ‘reasonable force’ with Mr Tomlinson.
The CPS (Crown Prosecution service) in the aftermath of Tomlinson’s death initially refused to bring criminal charges against Harwood.
It was only after video evidence emerged in the press, showing Tomlinson being beaten by Harwood (whilst Mr Tomlinson had his back to Harwood, whilst keeping his hands in his pockets) that the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) began an investigation.
In May 2011, it was decided by the CPS that Harwood would face criminal charges for manslaughter.
That trial ultimately resulted in the acquittal of Harwood last month. The significance of Patel’s post mortem examinations and the role they played in the trial therefore was crucial.
Does the fact that Patel’s analysis and judgment, has been discredited by a tribunal panel service made up by his peers, undermine the integrity of the verdict of Harwood’s trial in any way?
It is hard to imagine what more could possibly be needed to set the wheels of justice in motion in the Tomlinson case. The incident was caught on camera. The investigation seemed hampered from start to finish with many drawing parallels to cases in the past where, the behaviour of the police was brought into question, and subsequently, in the investigations that followed, the professionalism of the police was deemed to be less than competent.
Then we have the role of the IPCC, which doesn’t need emphasising in this piece.
All of these factors underpin a public mood, which with each police acquittal, continues to grow more and more cynical. The list of instances which reflect the desperate need for reform within the police service becomes longer each year, as does the list of those who have suffered. Simultaneously, the window of opportunity for the police and government to do something to prevent further unrest continues to narrow.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is ultimately in charge of the Met. He made sure of that when he entered City Hall. He famously quipped that press reports in the wake of the death of Ian Tomlinson were ‘cop bashing’. If ‘cops’ were being ‘bashed’ as frequently as members of the public are seemingly being ‘bashed’ by cops, I doubt he’d still be singing the same song.
A good friend of mine tells me all the time he doesn’t see the point of protesting at the current state of affairs regarding deaths in police custody and for calling for reform within the police. The reason why challenging this, in this way seen by many as necessary, is because it is clear to ordinary people who haven’t been privately educated or managed to go to top universities, that tangible reform and power rarely transfer from the top down. One doesn’t need a PHD to grasp this. The only way those at the top with the power to change things will listen is if there is protesting from the bottom up-it’s the nature of power. Power is never given. That’s the reason why people automatically view this privilege as snobbery-it’s not by default. It’s not that people object to a high quality of education; they resent the fact that it is only available to those who can pay for it.
It is because the rich are over represented in the private educational system, and in turn because the privately educated then go on to become over represented in the most powerful institutions in the country-that people often view police and politicians in the way that they do. In many people’s minds there seems to be one rule for Joe Bloggs in the street and another for politicians and the police- an insidious culture of corruption and non-accountability manifested at the very highest levels of power.
If some think I am making a tenuous link between the Tomlinson case others like it, and civil unrest consider this; many people in London didn’t need to hear the result of riot panel, which was in mine and others’ opinions a farce anyway, to have an idea of what caused the disturbances. Most people can see the reasons why this happened every day. We don’t need so-called lefty poster pin ups to tell us what the links are. We didn’t need a panel, and we didn’t need a politician trying to flog a bestseller of the back of it all.
People can feel the class gap growing, as sure as they know they are being asked to tighten their belts and pay for the insanity of the city-and they can see this inequality reflected in politics.
Equally, with the police, we all knew from the countless other cases that something was desperately wrong. We have a good idea of what is wrong. Among other factors (there are too many to go into here) we know institutional racism still exists. We know where it exists.
If you’re black in this country you’re still almost thirty times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Of those stopped and searched the percentage of searches that result in a conviction is a small percentage. If some people cannot be persuaded that this is actually immoral, then what about the economic argument? What about the money being wasted on stopping and searching so many innocent people? What about the fact that this racism affects the whole of society and not just those being mistreated and victimised? What about the legacy it leaves and has already left? What about focusing on inclusiveness within the upper ranks of the Met? Would a greater diversity in leadership among senior officers bring a better level of understanding on the ground?
The police have operated and continue to operate in a culture that itself seems above the law at all times.
The only ones who need to move on this are those with the power to do anything about it-the politicians and senior police officers. But they’d rather have conversations and talk some more.
We can’t even say that the Tomlinson case is a watershed moment because it is not. The cases like it are innumerable. How many have not seen justice? How many families will never see justice?
From all the commentary I have read, the person who seems to captured the public mood concerning the Harwood case is the comedian Frankie Boyle, who on twitter noted; “To be fair to the policeman who killed Ian Tomlinson there was absolutely no evidence, apart from that film of him doing it.”Tagged in: CPS, Freddy Patel, ian tomlinson, police, Riots, Simon Harwood, stop and search
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