Outrage as Tomlinson police escape charges

Ian Tomlinson died on April 1st 2009
Ian Tomlinson died on April 1st 2009

By Ian Dunt

The family of Ian Tomlinson are outraged by the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to not bring any charges against the policeman who pushed him moments before he died.

Mr Tomlinson died on April 1st 2009 after he accidentally walked through the G20 protest on his way home. Footage was later made public of a policeman pushing him to the ground.

There was a strong expectation that the police officer in question would be charged with manslaughter, assault or misconduct in public office.

"After a thorough and careful review of the evidence, the CPS has decided that there is no realistic prospect of a conviction against the police officer in question for any offence arising from the matter investigated and that no charges should be brought against him," director of public prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer said.

By Ian Tomlinson: first video

By Ian Tomlinson: second video

The Tomlinson family has been extremely critical of the amount of time taken to come to a decision and were incensed by the decision not to prosecute given the video evidence available to the DPP.

A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) spokesman said: "The MPS wishes to reiterate its sincere regret about the death of Ian Tomlinson. Our thoughts remain with the family of Ian Tomlinson and those affected by his death."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation report in to the incident is still pending, and the MPS said any decision on misconduct proceedings against the officer would have to wait until it was published.

That report is now expected in the next few days.

"Given the CPS's decision today, we will now conclude our final report and pass the remainder of our evidence to HM Coroner so that preparations can be made for an inquest, where the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson's death will be publicly aired and rightly scrutinised," a spoksperson said.

"We will also provide our report to the family as soon as possible, and I hope it will help to answer the many questions I know they have."

Mr Tomlinson's son, Paul King, said the decision was "outrageous".

He added: "The CPS are clearly admitting the police officer assaulted our dad.

"We feel like it wasn't a full investigation from the beginning. It's been a big cover-up and they're incompetent.

"Why isn't there an assault charge? We feel very let down, very disappointed.

"We expected a charge. It clearly shows our dad being assaulted by a police officer.

Police originally led the family to believe that Mr Tomlinson, a newsagent who happened to walk into a demonstration against the G20 summit in London when he died, had been killed by a heart attack.

The media were told that officers had been hindered in their efforts to resuscitate Mr Tomlinson by protestors throwing projectiles.

But video footage given to the Guardian newspaper days after the protest showed that Mr Tomlinson had been struck by a baton and shoved to the ground, by a masked officer with his identification number concealed, seemingly without provocation. Mr Tomlinson had his hands in his pockets and had been unable to break his fall.

Bystanders helped him get to his feet, but he collapsed later after walking a short distance to Threadneedle Street.

There was no evidence of projectiles being thrown at police visible in the Guardian's video.

"At the time of those acts, Mr Tomlinson did not pose a threat to that officer or to any other police officer," Mr Starmer confirmed.

The coroner appointed a pathologist, Dr Patel, to carry out a post mortem two days after the death. He concluded the death was due to "coronary artery disease".

The IPCC and Mr Tomlinson's family demanded a second post mortem, carried out by pathologist Dr Cary, a few days later.

He came to the contrary conclusion that Mr Tomlinson died of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver.

On April 22nd 2009 a third pathologist, Dr Shorrock, conducted a third post-mortem under instruction by the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards. He agreed with Dr Cary.

The CPS then examined all available medical evidence in a bid to "resolve or at least narrow" the area of disagreement, but an "irreconcilable conflict" remained.

"We explored at some length the possibility of proceeding without relying on the evidence of Dr Patel," Mr Starmer added.

"However, we were ultimately driven to conclude that, as the sole medical expert who conducted the first post mortem, Dr Patel would have to be called at trial as a prosecution witness as to the primary facts.

"Even leaving out of account the stark disagreement between him and the other experts as to the cause of death, the CPS concluded that the evidence of those primary facts undermined the basis upon which the other experts reached their conclusions about the cause of death.

"As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson's death and the alleged assault upon him.

"That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter," Mr Starmer concluded.

The DPP went on to argue that the conflict in medical evidence prevented a prosecution on charges of actual bodily harm.

The CPS said such a charge would require proof of a causal link between the push and the death. But if that causal link could be demonstrated the appropriate charge would have been manslaughter, not actual bodily harm.

A charge of common assault could have been made due to the baton strike, which left bruising, but this has a strict six-month time limit.

Because the causal link between the alleged assault and the injury could not be proved, the CPS concluded that a charge of misconduct in public office would not be valid either.

The public interest in the case was so high it resulted in a plethora of investigations and inquiries, and a full reappraisal of the policing of protestors, including the concealment of identification numbers and the practise of 'kettling', where demonstrators are kept in a given area by police.

The IPCC only took over the investigation into what happened after the video emerged. Before that point it confined its role to supervising the City of London investigation.


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