Family alleges cover-up as police officers escape charges over G20 death

CPS says conflicting post-mortem findings rule out criminal trial

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The Independent Online

The police officer captured on film striking Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests will not face criminal charges over his death because of conflicting opinions about the cause of death among the medical experts who conducted post-mortem examinations.

Dr Freddy Patel conducted the first post-mortem on Mr Tomlinson's body and ruled he had died of a heart attack. That was contradicted by two subsequent autopsies, which both found that the 47-year-old died of internal bleeding caused by a blow to the abdomen.

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service said that this contradictory medical evidence was the reason it could not bring a manslaughter charge against PC Simon Harwood, the Metropolitan Police officer who pushed Mr Tomlinson to the ground shortly before his death.

The CPS also said it could not bring a common assault charge against the officer because such a charge must be brought within six months, and it had taken 11 months to reach a decision. A charge of misconduct in public office was also considered, but rejected.

Mr Tomlinson's family reacted to the decision with fury. The dead man's son Paul King accused the authorities of a cover-up and warned that his family would fight the decision.

He said: "Words can't describe how we feel; we feel very let down, very disappointed. It's outrageous. We feel like it was not a full investigation from the beginning. It's a big cover-up."

Referring to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, Mr King said: "He has just admitted on TV that a copper assaulted our dad. But he hasn't done anything. He's the man in charge... why hasn't he charged him?

"They knew that if they dragged this out long enough, they would avoid charges. They knew just what they were doing. They've pulled us through a hedge backwards – now we have to go on living our lives."

Dr Patel, who is under investigation for professional misconduct unrelated to the Tomlinson case, has been suspended from working as a Home Office pathologist and has not worked in that capacity since July 2009. His misconduct hearing went before the General Medical Council (GMC) this week.

A GMC panel is investigating allegations that he gave "questionable verdicts" in four earlier autopsies. The hearing is due to finish in September and if the allegations are proven he could be struck off.

Yesterday the CPS said it was Dr Patel's findings in the first post-mortem on Mr Tomlinson that had halted proceedings. Dr Patel, who carried out the examination without knowing Mr Tomlinson had been struck by a police officer, found he had died of a heart attack.

The CPS said there was an "irreconcilable conflict" between his finding and that of the two subsequent pathologists. Because Dr Patel conducted the first post-mortem examination, his evidence would have had to come before the court at any trial.

"As a result, the CPS would 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," Mr Starmer said.

Mr Tomlinson died in April 2009 during a day of demonstrations in the City of London. He was not one of the protesters, however, and was walking home when he was pushed to the ground by PC Harwood, a Territorial Support Group officer specially trained to deal with public disorder. Amateur video footage of Mr Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by the police officer provoked widespread anger.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated the death and passed its file to the CPS in August 2009. As a result of yesterday's decision, the IPCC will now make recommendations to the Metropolitan Police suggesting disciplinary action against the officer.

Given that the incident was deemed severe enough to warrant possible criminal action, it is likely that the IPCC will suggest the officer faces a full misconduct hearing, which could ultimately see him dismissed from the force. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that PC Harwood will remain suspended on full pay until the outcome of any disciplinary proceedings.

Profiles: A trail of incomplete investigations

The victim: Ian Tomlinson

Homeless following the break-up of his marriage, Mr Tomlinson was returning to a shelter after a day spent helping his friend Barry Smith distribute copies of the London Evening Standard.

The father-of-nine, a Millwall fan, was not involved in the G20 demonstrations, but found his route home blocked by police and protesters who had gathered in the City. CCTV footage showed him approaching police officers on Royal Exchange. Minutes later he was bitten by a police dog and then struck by a police officer with a baton, before being pushed to the ground. Mr Tomlinson collapsed later in Threadneedle Street and died.

The police officer: PC Simon Harwood

PC Harwood is a member of the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group (TSG), a group specially trained to deal with public disorder.

He has been suspended since April 2009 after coming forward and identifying himself as the man captured pushing Mr Tomlinson on video. Despite being told yesterday morning that he would not face charges, PC Harwood remains suspended from duty on full pay while the Met decide whether he will face misconduct charges.

PC Harwood had previously retired from the Metropolitan Police after suffering an injury. But, after recuperating, he joined Surrey Police before rejoining the Met.

The pathologist: Dr Freddy Patel

Mr Patel carried out the first post-mortem examination on Mr Tomlinson. His verdict was that he had died of a heart attack. Two subsequent examinations by different doctors disagreed and it is this conflict which the CPS says has prevented them from pressing charges.

Mr Patel has previously been reprimanded by the General Medical Council (GMC) and is currently suspended from working as a pathologist while it investigates allegations of misconduct in four separate autopsies.

In 2002, Mr Patel received a reprimand after he told reporters that Roger Sylvester, a 30-year-old black man who died in police custody in 1999, was a crack cocaine user. His family disputed the claim.

Earlier this week a GMC hearing began into Mr Patel's conduct in four autopsies between 2002 and 2004. It is alleged that Mr Patel gave "questionable verdicts" in each case. If the allegations are proven he could be struck off.