The Metropolitan Police made an unreserved apology to the family of Ian Tomlinson yesterday and accepted that he had been unlawfully killed after he was struck and shoved to the ground by an officer during G20 protests in the City of London in 2009.
The force made an out-of-court payment to the family of the newspaper seller in recognition of their suffering over the four years since he collapsed and died within minutes of being hit as he ambled down the street with his hands in his pockets.
PC Simon Harwood was cleared of manslaughter at a trial last year which heard that Mr Tomlinson, 47, was struck with a baton while walking away from police lines as he tried to make his way home through protesters.
Mr Harwood was subsequently sacked from the force after a disciplinary hearing. It emerged that he had avoided a previous hearing over an alleged road rage attack by retiring from the Met, then rejoined after a stint with Surrey Police after police failed to spot his previous record.
“I accept the finding of the inquest that Mr Tomlinson was unlawfully killed,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner in a statement. “I apologise unreservedly for Simon Harwood’s use of excessive and unlawful force, which caused Mr Tomlinson’s death, and for the suffering and distress caused to his family as a result.”
She further apologised for claims in the media that a barrage of missiles had been thrown at officers as they tried to save Mr Tomlinson’s life, allegations that were not backed up by video evidence. She also apologised for inaccurate statements made by an officer to pathologists that Mr Tomlinson had fallen in front of a police van. The first post-mortem examination found that he had died from a heart attack, but later it was determined that in fact the father of four children and five stepchildren had died from internal injuries.
Julia Tomlinson, his widow, said the admissions by the force were “as close as we are going to get to justice” after the acquittal of Mr Harwood.
“The last four years have been a really hard battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the unlawful killing verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter.”
Mr Harwood faced 10 complaints in 12 years while a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police but only one charge was upheld against him before the Tomlinson case led to his sacking.
Ms De Brunner said: “It is clear insufficient recording and checks meant information regarding the officer’s misconduct history was not shared at key points. We got it wrong. The Commissioner acknowledges this case has highlighted significant failings in the vetting procedures of the Metropolitan Police and we have taken steps to put in place new procedures that will improve public confidence”.
Extract: The Met’s apology
I take full responsibility for the actions of Simon Harwood on 1 April 2009. His actions fell far below the standard we expect from our officers. I accept the finding of the inquest that Mr Tomlinson was unlawfully killed. As the jury found, “at the time of the strike and push Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the police line. He was complying with police instructions to leave Royal Exchange Buildings. He posed no threat”. Today, I apologise unreservedly for Simon Harwood’s use of excessive and unlawful force, which caused Mr Tomlinson’s death, and for the suffering and distress caused to his family as a result.”