Tomlinson family to sue Met chief over death

PC Harwood has been suspended on full pay since the incident three years ago

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The Independent Online

Ian Tomlinson's relatives are preparing to sue Bernard Hogan-Howe – claiming the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is ultimately responsible for the newspaper seller's death.

After PC Simon Harwood was cleared of Mr Tomlinson's manslaughter on Thursday, it emerged that he had been allowed to serve in a specialist riots unit despite previous complaints about his heavy-handed tactics.

The jury was not told about PC Harwood's disciplinary record.

Yesterday, the Tomlinsons' solicitor Jules Carey said the family was planning civil action against Commissioner Hogan-Howe. He took command of the force only last year, two years after Mr Tomlinson's death, but the legal action will target his office.

"The family will be pursuing a case under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life, against the Commissioner of police, who is responsible for the conduct of his officers."

Mr Carey said he hoped civil action would reconcile the discrepancy between the unlawful killing verdict returned by the inquest and the clearing of PC Harwood at Southwark Crown Court this week.

Mr Tomlinson, 47, was trying to get through the police lines at the G20 protests in London in 2009 so he could get back to his hostel, when the officer beat him with his baton and shoved him to the ground.

His family described the not guilty verdict as a "joke" and said they were not giving up their search for justice.

It was revealed after the trial that PC Harwood had faced complaints while serving on two forces, one of which was upheld. Having left the Metropolitan Police on medical grounds in 2001 after he was accused of attacking a driver while off-duty, he resumed his career as a civilian worker before joining Surrey Police and then transferred back to the Met where he was given a position within the Territorial Support Group.

The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner said after the trial the force had "got it wrong" in failing to check PC Harwood's misconduct history.

"It is particularly hurtful to the family that the force has not done anything about it," said Mr Carey. "In those circumstances it is very appropriate to hold the Metropolitan Police entirely responsible and to expect it to answer for the employment and conduct of this officer while he was on duty."

PC Harwood admitted hitting the homeless man and shoving him to the ground, but said he used reasonable force and claimed his conduct was justified in the context of the riots that day. Having been suspended on full pay since the incident three years ago, he now faces a misconduct hearing.

After the case, the Independent Police Complaints Commission's deputy chairwoman, Deborah Glass, said: "While the jury has acquitted PC Simon Harwood of manslaughter, it is clear that significant questions remain in connection with his actions on the day Ian Tomlinson died. Whether or not those actions were reasonable will be tested further at a misconduct hearing in September, which I have directed will be held in public."

A Met Police spokesman said: "Maxine de Brunner has conveyed our sympathies to Mr Tomlinson's family on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. We received a claim from the family in March 2010 on behalf of Mr Tomlinson's estate and we are in discussions about this claim with the family."