Saturday 21 October 2017

Police officer Harwood cleared of Ian Tomlinson manslaughter

Margaret Davis

A POLICE officer has been cleared of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in 2009.

Pc Simon Harwood, 45, said he used reasonable force when he hit 47-year-old Mr Tomlinson with a baton and shoved him to the ground as he walked away from police lines in the City of London.

Mr Tomlinson was an alcoholic and had slept rough for a number of years.

His widow, stepsons Paul and Richard King and other relatives have attended every day of the trial at Southwark Crown Court, which has sparked high emotion at times.

Had Mr Harwood been convicted, it would have been the first time a police officer had been successfully prosecuted for manslaughter while on duty.

Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Harwood, from Carshalton, Surrey, admitted he was "wrong" to hit and push the father-of-nine, but said he did not realise that at the time.

He told the jury: "Now I've seen all the evidence and I know how poorly Mr Tomlinson was I'm sorry that I got involved, I shouldn't have hit him with a baton and pushed him."

He said he believed Mr Tomlinson, who was drunk at the time, was being deliberately obstructive and that his use of force was reasonable.

"I believed he was doing it on purpose. From what I saw he looked like he wasn't going to move and was looking at the police as though he wanted them to move him away."

Mr Harwood had unsuccessfully tried to arrest a man for writing ACAB - short for 'all cops are bastards' - on a police carrier moments before coming across Mr Tomlinson.

The culprit managed to wriggle free in front of a jeering crowd, leaving Mr Harwood "terrified" and in fear for his safety, jurors heard.

He also shoved another protester and pulled a TV cameraman to the ground.

Members of Mr Tomlinson's family sobbed in the public gallery as the verdict was given, as did Mr Harwood's wife.

The jury of seven women and five men took 18 hours and 45 minutes to clear him.

The police watchdog the IPCC has said that Harwood will face Metropolitan Police internal disciplinary proceedings later in the year over the incident.

Harwood cried quietly in the dock when he was cleared, and walked out to an embrace from his wife Helen, who continued sobbing.

Harwood made no comment as he left the court, surrounded by a scrum of journalists and police officers.

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones said: "My heart goes out to the Tomlinson family, who must feel as if they have been denied justice by this verdict.

"I hope the Met will reflect on this case, the damage that has been done to its reputation and now start to rebuild the trust that has been lost by this case."

Deborah Coles, co-director of justice charity Inquest, said: "This verdict is a damning reflection of the systemic problems inherent in the current investigation system where deaths following police use of force are not treated as potential crimes.

"This failure has profound consequences on the proper functioning of the justice system in relation to such deaths.

"It is vital that the rule of law is upheld and applies equally to all, including police officers, and that they do not believe that they can act with impunity.

"For too long there has been a pattern of cases where inquest juries have found overwhelming evidence of unlawful and excessive use of force or gross neglect and yet no police officer either at an individual or senior management level has been held responsible."

Deputy chairwoman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission Deborah Glass said: "While the jury has today acquitted Pc Simon Harwood of manslaughter, it is clear that significant questions remain in connection with his actions on the day Ian Tomlinson died.

"Whether or not those actions were reasonable will be tested further at a misconduct hearing in September, which I have directed will be held in public.

"There are also questions in this case that the Metropolitan Police Service must answer.

"Pc Harwood was able to retire from the Metropolitan Police while facing disciplinary proceedings for previous alleged misconduct towards a member of the public.

"That he was then re-employed by the force, first in a civilian role and later as a constable, is simply staggering and raises considerable concerns about their vetting procedures."

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