Officer escapes charges over G20 death

By Mark Hughes

Conflicting opinions on cause of death at G20 protest mean no charges can be laid

The police officer captured on film striking a man during last year's G20 protests in London will not face criminal charges over his death because of conflicting opinions about the cause of death among the medical experts who conducted post-mortem examinations.

Dr Freddy Patel conducted the first post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson's body and ruled he had died of a heart attack. That was contradicted by two subsequent autopsies, which both found that the 47-year-old died of internal bleeding caused by a blow to the abdomen.

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service said that this contradictory medical evidence was the reason it could not bring a manslaughter charge against PC Simon Harwood, the Metropolitan Police officer who pushed Tomlinson to the ground shortly before his death.

The CPS also said it could not bring a common assault charge against the officer because such a charge must be brought within six months, and it had taken 11 months to reach a decision. A charge of misconduct in public office was also considered, but rejected.

Tomlinson's family reacted to the decision with fury. The dead man's son Paul King accused the authorities of a cover-up and said his family would fight the decision.

He said: "Words can't describe how we feel; we feel very let down, very disappointed.

It's outrageous. We feel like it was not a full investigation from the beginning. It's a big cover-up."

Referring to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, QC, King said: "He has just admitted on TV that a copper assaulted our dad. But he hasn't done anything. He's the man in charge ... why hasn't he charged him?

"They knew that if they dragged this out long enough, they would avoid charges. They knew just what they were doing. They've pulled us through a hedge backwards - now we have to go on living our lives."

Patel, who is under investigation for professional misconduct unrelated to the Tomlinson case, has been suspended from working as a Home Office pathologist and has not worked in that capacity since July 2009. His misconduct hearing went before the General Medical Council this week.

A GMC panel is investigating allegations that he gave "questionable verdicts" in four earlier autopsies. The hearing is due to finish in September and if the allegations, some of which he has admitted, are proven he could be struck off.

Yesterday the CPS said it was Patel's findings in the first post-mortem on Tomlinson that had halted proceedings. Patel, who carried out the examination without knowing Tomlinson had been struck by a police officer, found he had died of a heart attack.

The CPS said there was an "irreconcilable conflict" between his finding and that of the two subsequent pathologists. Because Patel conducted the first post-mortem, his evidence would have had to come before the court at any trial.

"As a result, the CPS would not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson's death and the alleged assault upon him," Starmer said.

Tomlinson died in April last year during a day of demonstration in the City of London. He was not one of the protesters, however, and was walking home when he was pushed to the ground by PC Harwood, a territorial support group officer specially trained to deal with public disorder. Amateur video footage of Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by the police officer provoked widespread anger.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated the death and passed its file to the CPS in August last year. The IPCC will now make recommendations to the Metropolitan Police suggesting disciplinary action against the officer.

Given that the incident was deemed severe enough to warrant possible criminal action, it is likely that the IPCC will suggest the officer faces a full misconduct hearing, which could ultimately see him dismissed from the force.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Harwood would remain suspended with full pay until the outcome of any disciplinary proceedings.

- Independent

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