Socialist Worker

Ian Tomlinson died after shove from G20 riot cop

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2312

The verdict in the trial of Simon Harwood was being decided as Socialist Worker went to press.

Harwood is the police officer accused of causing the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London on 1 April 2009. He denies manslaughter.

But he admits striking Ian with his baton and pushing him to the ground. He said in court that he “got it wrong” in his decision to strike Ian but that he used reasonable force.

Harwood is a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group—the riot squad.

He hit Ian at around 7.30pm. Ian walked 75 yards before collapsing on the pavement. He was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.

Ian was walking away from police lines when Harwood hit and shoved him. Harwood told the court that he thought Ian was being deliberately obstructive.

The police officer accepted during the trial, at Southwark Crown Court in London, that he was “wrong” to have hit and pushed him.

Walking

He said if he had realised Ian was walking away from police lines at the time he “would not have gone near him”.

He told the court, “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.”

In an inquest into Ian’s death in 2011, the jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

This is the only inquest verdict that requires jurors to be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt”, the same threshold used in criminal trials. They are not allowed to apportion blame.

It was only after the inquest that the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, overturned his previous decision and moved to press charges against Harwood.

In his summing up of the case, Judge Fulford directed the jury to consider four questions, two of which are unopposed by the defence.

It is undisputed that Harwood intended to strike or push Ian Tomlinson and that such a strike or push could cause harm.

The questions under dispute are: were the strike or push unlawful assaults—and did the resulting fall “contribute significantly” to Ian Tomlinson’s death?


What was true cause of death?

The initial post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson was carried out by Dr Freddy Patel. He ruled that Ian Tomlinson had died of a heart attack caused by clogged arteries.

He found what he described three litres of “plum-coloured” fluid in Ian’s stomach, but poured most of it down the sink.

When asked why he did this in the trial, he told the court, “My impression was that it was more body fluid than blood.”

But the jury also heard how two later post-mortems concluded Ian died from internal bleeding caused by a fall after Harwood struck him.

Dr Nat Cary carried out a second post-mortem. He told the court that he believed Ian died because of internal bleeding caused by “the impact to the ground immediately following a shove”.


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Tue 17 Jul 2012, 16:42 BST
Issue No. 2312
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