Thursday, 22 July 2010

No justice for Ian Tomlinson

Ian Tomlinson was a middle-aged man who accidentally got caught up in a demonstration as he was walking home.

Having been refused permission to get through the police cordon, he turned with his hands in his pocket and walked away.

At this point, a police officer smashed him with a truncheon from behind. Tomlinson collapsed. No officer offered first aid - only protestors did so, having carried him further from the police.

Tomlinson died where he fell the second time.

The police initially told the press Tomlinson was a protestor, and that he died from a heart attack, on the basis of a post-mortem carried out by their pet doctor - a man in deep trouble with the medical authorities for other slapdash work. A second post-mortem revealed the cause of death to be internal bleeding.

I don't care what the cause was - it's hard to think that heart failure was unconnected to being bludgeoned by a policeman in a surprise attack. In any case, the result isn't the core issue: it's the unprovoked violence by an officer of the law.

In a written statement the CPS admitted that there was sufficient evidence to show the officer had assaulted Tomlinson, but claimed a host of technical reasons meant he could not be charged.
Tomlinson's son Paul, flanked by his mother Julia, who was struggling to hold back tears, said: "It's been a huge cover-up and they're incompetent.

In a detailed letter setting out its reasons, the CPS said that the actions of the officer – seen striking Tomlinson with a baton then shoving him to the ground on footage obtained by the Guardian – amounted to assault.

It said: "The CPS concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable 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 ... There is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that his actions were disproportionate and unjustified." 

Now the results are in: no criminal charges for the policeman who did this. The investigation took so long that assault charges are out (what a handy loophole), and they decided not to go for intermediate charges (such as grievous bodily harm) for unclear reasons. Turns out you can do whatever you want if you've a uniform. And people wonder why I'm wary of the police.

Update: even the Independent Police Complaints Commission thought this was manslaughter, and told Tomlinson's family so. 

And let's see what the forensic pathologist said:

He told the Guardian prosecutors made a factual error in dismissing a charge of actual bodily harm.
He said his report contained clear evidence that Tomlinson suffered injuries sufficient to support a charge of ABH.
But the CPS dismissed the injuries as "relatively minor" and thus not enough to support a charge of ABH in its written reasons given to the family.
Cary, speaking for the first time about the case, told the Guardian: "I'm quite happy to challenge that. No the injuries were not relatively minor. It is a flawed approach. He sustained quite a large area of bruising. Such injuries are consistent with a baton strike, which could amount to ABH. It's extraordinary. If that's not ABH I would like to know what is."


Ewarwoowar said...

I think you are a clever, smart person Vole. Clever enough to understand that Post hoc ergo propter hoc is bullshit.

Adam said...

I agree. Happens every time a copper is investigated for excessive violence or unlawful killing. If police can shoot an innocent man in the face on a packed tube train and get away with it, did you really expect anything different in this case? Their MO is always the same, try to discredit the injured (or dead) party, "he was an illegal immigrant", "he was a homeless alcoholic", "he had traces of cocaine in his blood", then gang up with fellow officers to fabricate an alternate story "we shouted a clear warning", "he ran away from armed officers", "he attacked an officer", before going through a show trial where at the end you get away with it.

The Plashing Vole said...

Adam: I'm never surprised, which is a shame because we shouldn't expect police brutality to be a matter of course. That's why I seem to go on about policing all the time - it's one of the most important jobs around, and it's so often done badly. If the police behave like this, they lose the consent of the populace. 1984 was a flashpoint - they were so clearly politicised and became the armed wing of the Tory party to the extent that they lost credibility as civilian crime prevention officers.

Ewar - that's a decent philosophical point, but it doesn't wash here. The video shows him battered for NO REASON AT ALL, and then he dies. Even if he hadn't died, the video shows clear assault. That's the crime.