Friday, July 23, 2010

A law unto themselves

The decision not to bring charges in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson following his beating by the police at the G20 demonstration on April 1, 2009 is truly shocking. But it should not be surprising.

There will be many who agree with the family's suspicion that there was a co-ordinated effort to conceal events surrounding Tomlinson's death. Others are asking whether there’s been a state conspiracy to protect the Met’s notorious Territorial Support Group (TSG).

According to The Guardian, the Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded there was sufficient evidence to charge the officer involved with manslaughter, and told Tomlinson's family so.

PC Simon Harwood, who is shown on video footage assaulting Tomlinson, is a member of the TSG. He was investigated twice over his alleged aggressive behaviour before joining the TSG, which is the Met’s mobile riot squad. Just after the G20, it was revealed that a third of the unit’s officers had been investigated for misconduct in the previous 12 months.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announcement of the main reason given for the long-delayed decision not to prosecute was the “irreconcilable conflict between Dr Patel on the one hand and the other experts on the other as to the cause of death”.

Patel is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC). As a Home Office registered forensic pathologist he performed autopsies in a number of contentious cases including some involving deaths in police custody, before he was suspended.

Dr Freddy Patel was the first of three pathologists who carried out post mortems, and he concluded that Tomlinson died of a heart attack. But he failed to keep even a sample of the key evidence – 3 litres of fluid found in Tomlinson’s abdomen.

Can it be a coincidence that the CPS decision was made public on the very day that the second pathologist, Dr Nat Cary, was giving evidence to the GMC, before any conclusion could be drawn about Patel’s competence? Or are their other forces at work in the background?

Cary said his report contained clear evidence that Tomlinson suffered injuries sufficient to support an actual bodily harm charge. The CPS dismissed the injuries as "relatively minor" and thus not enough to support a charge.

Speaking for the first time about the case, Cary said yesterday: "I'm quite happy to challenge that. The injuries were not relatively minor. He sustained quite a large area of bruising. Such injuries are consistent with a baton strike, which could amount to ABH. It's extraordinary. If that's not ABH I would like to know what is."

That the announcement coincided with the anniversary of the police killing – rather execution – of Jean Paul de Menezes in 2005 could be considered cruelly provocative. Apparently the CPS lawyer who made the decision was the same one who decided no officer should face charges over Menezes.

Deborah Coles of the Inquest charity said: "The eyes of the world will be looking on with incredulity as yet again a police officer is not facing any criminal charges after what is one of the most clear-cut and graphic examples of police violence that has led to death. This decision is a shameful indictment of the way police criminality is investigated."

Following Tomlinson’s death at the G20 summit it emerged that the police were under orders to deal harshly with the protestors, and there was a flurry of concern and promises to soften their tactics. Don’t count on it. The state is gearing up to deal with the mounting opposition to the gung-ho slash and burn tactics being pursued by the Cameron-Clegg regime.

The Coalition can’t tolerate anything that might stand in its way as it attempts to rebuild the profit system through the destruction of jobs, pensions, services and living standards. “Tough decisions” will require brutal action, and neither they nor the police will be held accountable. Both are a law unto themselves.

Gerry Gold

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