Monday, 4 October 2010

The Ian Tomlinson case - further controversy

In July, it was announced that no criminal charges were to be brought against the Police Officer (P.C. Harwood) who pushed Mr Ian Tomlinson - see here.  There has still to be an inquest into Mr Tomlinson's death and this is not likely to happen before May 2011.  There is also to be a Disciplinary Hearing against the officer - see post of 27th July.  It now appears that the Metropolitan Police are keen to get the Disciplinary hearing over with before the end of the year - report in The Guardian Monday 4th October 2010.  The Guardian comments as follows:

"One factor for the Met's decision to hold the hearing before the inquest is that it could be less damaging for its reputation if Harwood appears at the inquest as a former officer."

The actual source for that viewpoint is not stated but the sentence is very unsatisfactory since it might be read as suggesting that the outcome of the Disciplinary Hearing is already determined.

Given the problems involved with the various post-mortem examinations it would seem preferable that the disciplinary hearing is not held until after the inquest.  There is a clear conflict between the views of
Dr. Patel - who was (controversially) appointed to conduct the first post-mortem - and the other experts as to the cause of death.  It should also be noted that the CPS in making the decision not to prosecute ended their statement by saying - "At the conclusion of the inquest the matter will be reconsidered by the CPS in the light of any evidence which may be presented".  That is surely another factor pointing against holding the disciplinary hearing before the inquest since the holding of the disciplinary hearing might well go against any such reconsideration of the prosecution decision.  Ultimately, whilst the Metropolitan Police might well wish to move on from this matter, the public interest in getting the process right is overwhelming.


  1. The professional standards expected of police officers are not the same as the standards of criminal law nor are they the same as those expected at inquest. At its lowest, an officer can be uncivil without being in breach of the public order acts. They may use a level of force not being proved inappropriate to the criminal standard, but in breach of regulations or standing orders. There is no automatic link. We have seen offciers found not guilty of excessive speeding on the public highway, yet in breach of the professional standards expected of police officers. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has recently reissued Statutory Guidance on these matters. PC Harwood may have acted inappropriately in any manner of ways, or he may not. The inquest is not the forum to discuss his personal circumstances. I favour the seapartion of the processes, each having its own outcomes.

  2. Rex - I think it is significant that both the Tomlinson family and also supporters of the officer appear to agree that the disciplinary hearing should not be held before the inquest.

    I accept what you say about the various processes having their own purposes. Neverthless, I believe that the balance favours delaying any disciplinary proceedings until after the inquest.

    There is, I would argue, a need for a Middleton-compliant inquest into this matter. It has not been positively determined that Mr Tomlinson died as a result of the act of a State official but it is certainly arguable that his internal injury was caused by the way he fell having been pushed from behind albeit that he died a short distance away from the scene of the pushing.