The jury at the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson have ruled that he was unlawfully killed during the G20 protests in London in 2009.
The jurors said Tomlinson died of internal bleeding in the abdomen after being struck with a baton and pushed to the ground by a police officer. The jury said also that Metropolitan police constable Simon Harwood had used "excessive and unreasonable" force when he struck the newspaper vendor who "posed no threat".
The family's lawyer, Jules Carey, said : "Today's decision is a huge relief to Mr Tomlinson's family. To many, today's verdict will seem like a statement of the blindingly obvious. However, this fails to take account of the significant and many obstacles faced by the family over the last two years to get to this decision."
Tomlinson had been trying to walk home from work through the demonstrations near the Bank of England on the evening he died. An alcoholic, he had been drinking heavily that day. At 7.20pm, he stumbled on to Royal Exchange Buildings, a passage police had been ordered to clear. Tomlinson had his hands in his pockets and was walking away from police when he was struck with a baton and pushed from behind by Harwood. He died shortly after.
The Metopolitan police initially denied Tomlinson had contact with police officers before his death on 1 April 2009. An Independent Police Complaints Commission only launched a criminal inquiry a week later, after the Guardian released video footage showing the incident
An initial post mortem, conducted by pathologist Freddy Patel stated that Tomlinson had died of a heart attack as a result of coronary disease, Patel, who has since been suspended for misconduct, incompetence and dishonesty, was contradicted by three other pathologists who examined the body, all of whom found he died of internal bleeding in the abdomen.
PC Harwood, 43, told jurors that he believed at the time that Tomlinson was obstructing police and he his actions were therefore proportionate. He will face a Metropolitan police gross misconduct hearing at which he stands accused of "inadvertently causing or contributing to" Tomlinson's death. If found guilty he will almost certainly be sacked.
More importantly the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has stated that he would "review" a decision taken last year not year not to prosecute Harwood. It is therefore a distinct possibility that Harwood will be tried for manslaughter.
I hope that this verdict will be of some comfort to Tomlison’s family. Tomlinson was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened upon a police officer who was clearly unfit to wear the uniform (If you think that this is unfounded then read up on Harwood’s past career)
Had it not been for the footage taken by investment banker Christopher La Jaunie and others perhaps Patel’s post mortem findings would have been accepted and there would have been no inquest.
In my mind Harwood should now be sent to trial. While he had no intention of taking Tomlinson’s life there is no doubt now that his actions contributed to the man’s death.
Not to try Harwood for manslaughter would be to continue a grave injustice.