The secret world of the police disciplinary system was opened to scrutiny after it emerged that man cleared of killing Ian Tomlinson resigned as a constable 11 years ago and avoided a hearing over an alleged road rage attack that could have seen him kicked out of the service.
Pc Simon Harwood – who admitted to “red mist mode” in the only disciplinary charge upheld against him - faced 10 complaints in 12 years while a serving officer in both the Metropolitan Police and Surrey forces but never had to answer one of the most serious charges against him.
The case prompted calls for a complete overhaul of the system after serious questions were raised about the ability of officers to evade serious disciplinary charges by simply quitting a force. The case also highlighted the failings of the vetting system for officers switching between forces.
In evidence not heard by the jury at his trial, it can be revealed today that:
* Harwood resigned as a Metropolitan Police constable in September 2001 on medical grounds – more than three years after an off-duty motorcycle accident - despite facing internal charges for a road rage incident. The Met paid damages to the other driver.
* He rejoined the force without missing a day’s work as a civilian worker – and ensured he would not face any potential disciplinary charges against him.
* Harwood was never asked about his police disciplinary record on his application forms when he then joined Surrey force as a police officer in May 2003.
* While at Surrey fellow officer complained that he “went over the top” and punched a suspect during an arrest but the case against him was “unsubstantiated”.
* He was allowed to rejoin the Metropolitan Police after passing a medical examination which included sprint tests and an examination.
* The jury in his manslaughter trial were not told about two other “heavy-handed” arrests after he returned to Scotland Yard before the fatal shove on Ian Tomlinson.
The jury at the criminal trial was told that he joined the force in 1995 but left in 2001 for personal reasons following a traffic accident in 1998. It was not told that he was involved in “road-rage type incident” while he was off duty that ended in a collision.
After the collision, Pc Harwood rushed at the driver, knocking him over and forcing him over the door of his car, said Matthew Ryder, QC, for the Tomlinson family at the inquest. He was also accused of falsifying arrest notes and unlawful arrest, said Mr Ryder.
A Metropolitan police commander looked into the case and concluded that his behaviour had fallen “well below that expected of a police officer” and exposed the Commissioner to the risk of civil litigation, and should face a disciplinary hearing, according to his file.
“He was… looking at the prospect of being dismissed from the force, if these allegations which were considered as having a good chance of success, were proved,” said Mr Ryder.
However, the inquest heard that a couple of days before the disciplinary papers had been lodged, he had already started the process to be medically retired. He quit as constable on Friday, September 14, 2001, before starting work as a civilian on Monday September, 17.
Harwood applied to join the Surrey force in 2003 and began work there on May 12 that year. As part of the application procedure, he had to compile an employment history and disclose criminal convictions or cautions, but not details of his disciplinary record. The form has since been changed to require officers to detail misconduct findings, but not ones that have not been heard.
The Surrey force said it would have made inquiries with previous employers “as standard” but it was not immediately clear what it asked the Met, and what it received in response.
In January, 2004, Harwood was the subject of a complaint over an allegation of assault during a raid at a home during a theft investigation. Pc Harwood grabbed a man around the neck and threw the man onto a table, breaking it, then punched him, according to a statement by a fellow officer.
It sparked a fracas and Harwood was asked to leave the flat. After the man, named only as BE, shouted “I’ll f***ing have you,” Harwood replied: “Go on then, I’ll do you all over again,” the inquest heard.
An officer, named as Pc Newman, said in a statement that he was injured during the fracas while trying to protect Pc Harwood. “I felt the entry into BE’s flat was not justified and that the actions of PC Harwood were unlawful… the assault on BE and the damage to his clothing and his lounge were also not, in my mind, lawful,” he said. Asked if he believed Pc Harwood went over the top, the officer said: “Yes.”
About five weeks after the incident, Pc Harwood applied to rejoin the Metropolitan Police, the inquest was told. The case was investigated by the professional standards department of the Surrey force which concluded in May that the case was unsubstantiated, a Surrey police spokeswoman said.
It was the only complaint against Harwood while he was at Surrey and he rejoined the Metropolitan Police in November 2004.
He was reported by a witness after he was involved in the arrest of a man named as Owusu Afriyie. The witness alleged that Pc Harwood kneed him in the groin to bring him to the ground after he butted a number of officers. He also allegedly kneed the suspect in the kidney after he had been brought to the ground and was in handcuffs.
In 2008, an AA patrolman Junior Samms made a complaint after Pc Harwood was involved in stopping his vehicle. It is alleged that he twisted the handcuffs and shouted at Mr Samms.
Pc Harwood received a written warning later that year for using the police national computer to investigate the background of a driver involved in an accident with his wife.
He received a call from his wife sending him into “red mist mode” the inquest heard. Pc Harwood admitted ignoring an officer’s warnings not to carry out a check. Mr Ryder told the inquest last year: “When Pc Harwood is under pressure or he is angry, he is prone to unlawful violence. He acts excessively.
“He doesn’t want to face responsibility for actions we suggest he knows were wrong and we suggest that is an indication of how he conducts himself as a pattern. What we are left with, then, is a set of one proven allegation which shows dishonesty and anger leading to unlawful behaviour, and one set of very compelling, we would suggest, allegations which are only unresolved on one view because of the ability of Pc Harwood to side-step.”