A police officer cleared yesterday of the manslaughter of a homeless man had been allowed to serve in a specialist riots unit despite a string of previous complaints about his heavy-handed tactics, it can be revealed.
PC Simon Harwood, 45, now faces a public misconduct hearing. The highly trained officer had admitted hitting newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson with a baton and shoving him to the ground, but insisted his conduct was justifiable in the context of the G20 riots. The jury was not told that PC Harwood had been the subject of 10 disciplinary complaints in 12 years as an officer. He avoided facing serious disciplinary charges in 2001 over a road-rage attack only after quitting his job on health grounds – but later rejoined the force without having to face a hearing.
Last night the Independent Police Complaints Commission condemned the "alarming" ease with which PC Harwood had escaped earlier disciplinary action. It can also be revealed that while PC Harwood was serving with Surrey police, a fellow officer complained he "went over the top" and punched a suspect during an arrest, but the case against him was "unsubstantiated". He also carried out two "heavy-handed" arrests before the G20 protests.
The Tomlinson family stormed out of Southwark Crown Court moments after the jury returned its verdict. Afterwards, Mr Tomlinson's stepson, Paul King, said his family would continue its fight for justice. The family had expected a guilty verdict after an inquest last year found Mr Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed, he said.
The court heard that PC Harwood had been publicly humiliated by his failure to arrest a protester during the demonstrations on 1 April 2009 and his "blood was up" when he struck Mr Tomlinson, 47, who was trying to get through police lines to reach his hostel.
PC Harwood had resigned as a constable at the Metropolitan Police in 2001 and avoided disciplinary charges over the road-rage attack. He had been accused of unlawful arrest, abuse of authority and discreditable conduct but the case against him was never heard. He started work as a Scotland Yard civilian worker before returning to uniform for Surrey Police in 2003. He rejoined the Met in 2004 and trained to become part of the Territorial Support Group.
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