Family of Ian Tomlinson accuse Met disciplinary panel of 'whitewash' over Pc Simon Harwood


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The Independent Online

The family of Ian Tomlinson have accused the Metropolitan Police of conducting a “whitewash” after a disciplinary panel ruled there was no need to examine whether one of their officers caused the newspaper vendor's death.

The controversial decision came during the disciplinary hearing of PC Simon Harwood, the 45-year-old officer who struck and pushed Mr Tomlinson moments before he collapsed and died from internal bleeding during the G20 protests in April 2009.

Harwood was officially sacked from the force today after the panel found him guilty of “gross misconduct” but their decision not to investigate whether his blows killed Mr Tomlinson caused anger for his loved ones.

In emotional scenes outside the Empress State Building in west London where the hearing took place, Mr Tomlinson's family accused the Met of conducting a “whitewash and a cover up”. They also confirmed that they would go to the civil courts to seek a “final judgement” against the police officer.

“We came here expecting a disciplinary hearing,” said Mr Tomlison's son Paul King. “There has been no hearing. We expected the Met to rule on whether its officer killed Ian. The Met has basically gone 'no comment'. It's a whitewash. It's like they have just let PC Harwood resign. The conflicting verdicts of the inquest and criminal court still need to be resolved. We haven't given up, we will now be looking to the civil courts for the final judgement on who killed our dad”

Asked whether the disciplinary proceedings had achieved anything, he replied: “I think it's pointless, it hasn't proved anything to us. We still haven't got any answer from this. After three and a half years I think it's diabolical. It's like we're back at day one.”

Today's hearing - the first of its kind to be held in public by the Met - was an attempt by the force to finally close the book on one of its most troubling recent chapters. But instead London's police force finds itself accused of trying to bury an examination of whether one of their officer's killed a man by striking him as he walked, hands in pockets, during a major public order protest.

PC Harwood's role in Mr Tomlinson's death has long been a source of major contention. During the G20 protests, the Territorial Support Group officer was filmed striking and pushing the newspaper vendor to the ground. Mr Tomlinson, who was an alcoholic and had slept rough for a number of years, managed to walk 75 yards before he collapsed and later died from internal bleeding.

An inquest ruled that his death was an unlawful killing but when the case came to court earlier this year PC Harwood was acquitted of manslaughter.

During today's hearing - which was initially scheduled to last four weeks but in the end finished after just one day - Harwood faced three individual charges: that he struck Mr Tomlinson on his left thigh, that he pushed him to the ground and that his actions “inadvertently caused or contributed” to his death.

Lawyers for PC Harwood said their client admitted the first two charges but rejected the third, calling it a “grotesque and provocative” attempt that was “deliberately designed to provoke a retrial of Mr Harwood on charges of which he has already been acquitted.”

The panel hearing the case - which included two senior police officers and a lay member - decided that there was no need to examine the third charge because Harwood had already admitted to two charges of gross misconduct which were themselves a sackable offence.

The decision caused Mr Tomlinson's widow Julia and two of his son's to walk out of proceedings.

In announcing that he had been fired, the panel's head - Commander Julian Bennett - said it was clear that Harwood's use of force had been “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable.”

“His actions have discredited the police service and undermined public confidence in it,” he said, “He has accepted it will be impossible for him to ever again serve as a police officer. We agree, as we consider it inconceivable that he could ever hold a role within the police service again.”

Although he has been fired Harwood will still collect his police pension when he turns 65 because he was not convicted of a criminal offence.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine De Brunner added that Harwood's sacking was “the maximum penalty” that was available to the disciplinary panel.

“Simon Harwood does not reflect the professionalism of the majority of officers working in public order, often in the most difficult circumstances,” she said. “I hope that this one officer's actions in 2009 do not taint the public opinion of officers who have worked tirelessly this year supporting events such as the Jubilee and, of course, the Olympics.”

Harwood's legal team said their client recognised that he had used unreasonable force and had offered his resignation twice but both times they were rejected. While they accepted that their client would inevitably lose his job, they accused the Met Police of “manufacturing a show trial” in filing charges that would decide whether he had caused Tomlinson's death.

In the end the disciplinary hearing felt there was no need to evaluate whether outcome of Harwood's actions and the Tomlinson family will now put their hopes in the civil courts.