UK police apologise over Ian Tomlinson G20 protest death
Widow of man pushed to ground by officer said settlement was close as going to get to justice
Still showing Ian Tomlinson before he was pushed by a police officer at the G20 protest Photograph: City of London Coroner’s Court/PA Wire
The widow of Ian Tomlinson, who died after being pushed to the ground by a police officer during protests in 2009, said today that an apology and settlement from Scotland Yard is “as close as we are going to get to justice”.
Julia Tomlinson described the past four years as “a really hard uphill battle” as her family has fought to get to the truth of what happened to the 47-year-old.
An inquest jury found that Mr Tomlinson was unlawfully killed, but Pc Harwood was cleared of manslaughter at a trial at Southwark Crown Court last year.
Today the Metropolitan Police paid tribute to the pain that his widow and family have “endured with dignity” since his death.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner said: “I take full responsibility for the actions of Simon Harwood on 1 April 2009. His actions fell far below the standard we expect from our officers. I accept the finding of the inquest that Mr Tomlinson was unlawfully killed.
“As the jury found, ‘at the time of the strike and push Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the police line. He was complying with police instructions to leave Royal Exchange Buildings. He posed no threat.‘ Today, I apologise unreservedly for Simon Harwood’s use of excessive and unlawful force, which caused Mr Tomlinson’s death, and for the suffering and distress caused to his family as a result.”
Mr Tomlinson’s fatal encounter with Mr Harwood was caught on film by a New York hedge fund manager, who passed the footage to the Guardian newspaper. It showed Mr Tomlinson walking away from a group of police officers, and falling to the ground after he was hit and shoved by Mr Harwood.
Mrs Tomlinson said: “Today’s apology and admission by the Metropolitan Police that their officer unlawfully killed Ian marks the end of our campaign and legal case.
“On April 1 2009 when we first heard news of Ian’s death we simply wanted to know what had happened. We were completely in the dark until a week after his death when we saw the video capturing the violent assault on him by Pc Harwood.
“It was, and still is a shocking video. We knew that Ian had been unlawfully killed by the officer as soon as we saw the video, but we had to first go through the long legal process of taking apart untruthful accounts given by Pc Harwood and other police officers. We should not have had to do this.
“The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and set backs. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that Pc Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan Police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.
“It will always be painful for us that Ian died so violently, but at least he is at rest now, and the force has publicly acknowledged the truth. We hope that lessons have been learned and that other families will be spared the tragedy and ordeal that we have had to face. We loved Ian and will always keep his memory alive by talking about him and sharing our memories with each other as we finally start looking to the future again.”
In the immediate aftermath of Mr Tomlinson’s death, officers claimed that they had come under a hail of bottles as they tried to help him. The first post mortem examination found that he had died from a heart attack, but later it was determined that in fact the father of four children and five stepchildren had died from internal injuries. A detective inspector had incorrectly briefed a pathologist that he had fallen in front of a police van.
Today Ms de Brunner said: “The Commissioner also apologises to the family for ill-considered comments made in the media in the immediate aftermath of Mr Tomlinson’s death which served to distract attention away from the investigation into the death. Further, it is a matter of deep regret that Mr Tomlinson’s family learned of the nature of his contact with Simon Harwood through the press, rather than from our officers. I fully appreciate and regret the distress this must have caused the family.
“The Commissioner further apologises for the information given by a Metropolitan police officer to Dr Shorrock and Dr Swift that misled them initially as to the cause of death. Whilst we are satisfied that the officer’s actions were inadvertent, and not designed to mislead the pathologists, this should not have happened and I apologise to the family for the additional distress it caused them.”
After Mr Harwood’s acquittal, Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission raised “grave concerns” about the way that he had been able to move between the Met and Surrey Police despite a controversial disciplinary record.
He was due to face internal disciplinary proceedings in 2001 while working for Scotland Yard, after being accused of unlawful arrest, abuse of authority and discreditable conduct but these were discontinued when he retired on medical grounds.
Mr Harwood was accused of shouting at another driver and knocking him over his car door, then announcing he was a police officer and arresting the motorist on a common assault charge.
After retiring as a police officer from the Met, Mr Harwood rejoined the force as a civilian worker, then became a police officer for Surrey. He was later allowed to rejoin the Met in 2004 as part of its Territorial Support Group (TSG), specialising in public order.
Ms de Brunner added: “Issues concerning the failure to discipline Simon Harwood and his re-admission into the Metropolitan Police in 2004 have been a source of concern and upset for the family.
“It is clear that insufficient recording and checks meant that detailed information regarding the officer’s misconduct history was not shared at key points. We got it wrong. The Commissioner acknowledges that this case has highlighted significant failings in the vetting procedures of the Metropolitan Police Service and we have taken steps to put in place new procedures that will improve public confidence.”
Mr Harwood was sacked from the Metropolitan Police after a disciplinary panel, sitting in public for the first time, found him guilty of misconduct.