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article imageOp-Ed: The death of Ian Tomlinson — After the not guilty verdict

By Alexander Baron     Jul 20, 2012 in Crime
London - After PC Simon Harwood was cleared of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson, the victim's family vowed to bring a civil action against the Metropolitan Police.
For the background to the death of Ian Tomlinson and the trial of (hopefully now former) PC Simon Harwood, check out yesterday's article and follow any relevant links.
Although the victim's family are understandably disappointed by the verdict, for once the prosecution cannot be faulted. This was no half-hearted attempt, and here, Mark Dennis QC in particular is to be commended.
After the verdict, it was revealed that Harwood was a (hopefully) untypical police officer, but a typical thug, or at the very least a bully boy. Twelve years ago he was involved in a road rage incident while off duty, and retired on medical grounds the following year before he could face a disciplinary hearing. He was then employed as a civilian, moved to Surrey Police, then back to the Met. This was obviously a dubious though successful tactic; hopefully this sort of loophole has now been closed.
This incident was actually a lot more serious than it sounds because it involved the doctoring of his notes retrospectively. Later, while serving with Surrey Police, he was accused of using excessive force during an arrest - by another officer. Anyone who knows anything about the culture of silence American police call The Code, will realise just how excessive this force must have been.
The BBC news commentator last night made what might be construed as a gaff, pointing out that Harwood had to be prosecuted because his double assault on the victim was caught on film. The implication is of course that if the incident hadn't been filmed, there would have been the usual cover up.
Mr Tomlinson's family were too upset to say much after the verdict, but they did say they would bring a civil action against the Metropolitan Police. As for Harwood, he still faces a disciplinary hearing, which will hopefully lead to him being sacked. He has been paid for doing nothing for the past three years, so no one should weap for him if he also loses his pension.
There are two legal points that might be raised, one is bad character evidence. This was the subject of much legal argument, but finally, the judge ruled against it, and under the circumstances this was almost certainly the correct decision. This is most often used of course against habitual criminals, and can very easily lead to a miscarriage of justice, the implication being that the defendant must be guilty because he has done this sort of thing before.
The second point is that he could have been charged additionally with assault. He has now admitted assaulting the victim, after attempting feebly to justify it. It has to be said that if he had been convicted he would not have been looking at a heavy prison sentence because as far as thuggish behaviour goes, this was at the lower end of the scale, and he could not have reasonably expected Ian Tomlinson to literally drop dead on account of a shove. But, the public - British and otherwise - are entitled to expect more from police officers. Hopefully this time that lesson will be learned, and remembered.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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