Fury over police 'culture of impunity'

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The Independent Online

A decision not to prosecute the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson is the latest example of a "culture of impunity" for police who break the law, it was claimed today.

Campaigners said the City of London coroner, pathologist Dr Freddy Patel, Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and police all played a part in damaging the chances of bringing charges.

Deborah Coles, of Inquest, called for an inquiry into the actions of all the public bodies involved in the case.

She said: "The eyes of the world will be looking on with incredulity as yet again a police officer is not facing any criminal charges after what is one of the most clear cut and graphic examples of police violence that has led to death.

"This decision is a shameful indictment of the way police criminality is investigated and demonstrates a culture of impunity when police officers break the law.

"It follows a pattern of cases that reveal an unwillingness to treat deaths arising from the use of force by police as potential homicides.

"It demonstrates yet again the flawed procedures that follow contentious deaths involving the police and stands as testament to their unaccountability."

Campaigners said vital evidence was lost because the IPCC did not launch a full independent inquiry until a week after Mr Tomlinson's death, after the video of the assault emerged.

The CPS has questioned the work of Dr Patel, who faces being struck off from the medical register over four other cases in which it is alleged he bungled post-mortem examinations.

The Tomlinson family have criticised the CPS for the length of time it took to decide whether to charge the officer or not. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the complexity of the medical evidence was responsible.

Paul Mendelle QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said he could understand concern over the decision.

Speaking on the BBC Radio's World at One, he said a member of the public caught on camera assaulting someone would probably be charged quickly, but the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson's death made the case more complex.

Mr Mendelle added: "There will be concern in the wider world that, as some have put it, police officers seem to be getting away with serious assaults in full view of the public and members of the media and no charges are brought.

"But the decision as far as I can see so far from the statements of the director of public prosecutions is legally unimpeachable."

Members of the United Campaign Against Police Violence gathered outside New Scotland Yard to protest.

A spokesman said: "This is another example of the police and the whole justice system denying justice to those killed by police and protecting instead the perpetrators.

"We will continue to fight for justice for Ian Tomlinson."

The decision follows the acquittal of Sergeant Delroy Smellie, also a member of the Met's territorial support group, in April after he was accused of assaulting a woman.

A district judge found his actions were lawful when he struck Nicola Fisher with his baton during a vigil to mark the death of Mr Tomlinson outside the Bank of England on April 2.