Transparency and the rule of law
May 3, 2011 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Could you give, please, your conclusions on questions 1 to 5 in turn?
The jury has reached a verdict in the Ian Tomlinson inquest. (previously)
To reach an unlawful killing conclusion, the jury were required to have been satisfied to a higher burden of proof than the other possible verdicts, which could have been reached "on the balance of probabilities".

But to reach the unlawful killing verdict, the jury had to be convinced "beyond reasonable doubt", the same threshold used in criminal trials.
posted by orthogonality (29 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Good news, but there had better be a prosecution now.
posted by knapah at 11:08 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

tl;dr: "The jury has concluded Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed by a police officer at the G20 protests."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:11 AM on May 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Fantastic news. I think there'll be a massive outcry if there's no prosecution.
posted by essexjan at 11:13 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

So if I understand this right, he still needs to be prosecuted? So he gets 2 trials instead of one, you know, if the first one doesn't go your way, as it seems, you can always try the second?

I'm sure that extends to every british citizen.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 11:13 AM on May 3, 2011

There will never be a prosecution, lying murderer Simon Harwood will keep his job, and the TSG will continue to be an awful organization that uses every excuse to beat up and terrorize citizens.

Still, good result.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Will this open the way for a criminal prosecution or is that unlikely as it was previously dismissed by the CPS?

Also, if a criminal prosecution is not possible, can Ian Tomlinson's family launch some kind of civil action against Harwood and/or the London police?
posted by Jehan at 11:14 AM on May 3, 2011

So he gets 2 trials instead of one, you know, if the first one doesn't go your way, as it seems, you can always try the second

He's a cop, not some commoner.

I mean, really, he was expecting zero trials.
posted by orthogonality at 11:15 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this; only vaguely aware of it on this side of the pond, but very interested.

So can anyone knowledgeable weigh in on what bearing this would have on a hypothetical future criminal prosecution? Would the jury's findings here have any sort of preclusive effect, since they were on a beyond a reasonable doubt standard? Or at least would they be persuasive? And what's the political likelihood of criminal charges?

[CautionToTheWind – civil and criminal trials are separate as a general matter. Think OJ Simpson. Doesn't have anything to do with him being a cop.]
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:17 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be honest, though a trial would be gratifying, the real issue is that the Territorial Support Group should not be allowed to exist as a dumping ground for crap officers and bullies to be brought out when some protesters need showing who's boss, and the real campaign should be for the disbanding of the TSG.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

Or is this a civil trial? what is this?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2011

Or is this a civil trial? what is this?

I think an inquest can be understood as a trial of the body. That is, it's to legally ascertain facts about a death.
posted by Jehan at 11:20 AM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

CautionToTheWind, dixiecupdrinking, they'd already decided not to launch a criminal prosecution:

"The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who decided in July last year not to prosecute Harwood for manslaughter, will now be under intense pressure to reverse that decision.

An official Crown Prosecution Service review of the decision not to prosecute Harwood is now under way."
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:29 AM on May 3, 2011

Or is this a civil trial? what is this?

The UK Government's guide to coroners and inquests [PDF] is very helpful. In particular this bit:

2.2 It is a coroner’s duty at an inquest to establish who the
deceased was and how, when and where the deceased came by his
or her death. After an inquest the coroner will send the necessary
details to the registrar of births and deaths for the death to be
registered when it occurred in England and Wales. An inquest
is not permitted to determine or appear to determine criminal
liability by a named person or civil liability. It is about what
happened, not who was responsible for what happened, for which
the civil and criminal courts have jurisdiction.

2.3 In some cases a death may be referred to the police for
investigation on behalf of a coroner.

posted by greycap at 11:31 AM on May 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

So if I understand this right, he still needs to be prosecuted? So he gets 2 trials instead of one, you know, if the first one doesn't go your way, as it seems, you can always try the second?

This wasn't a prosecution - it was a public inquiry into the cause of death. The Crown Prosecution Service (who act for the state in criminal trials) have previously decided the evidence was insufficient to support a criminal prosecution for say, manslaughter, by the police office who hit Ian Tomlinson with a baton, and then pushed him.

The outcome of the inquiry should have no bearing (on the jury, anyway) upon any future prosecution of Simon Harwood, the copper who was caught on video hitting and pushing Tomlinson over while he was walking away from the police line.

However, given the jury in the inquiry have reached the same standard of proof - beyond reasonable doubt - to reach a verdict of unlawful killing as a criminal jury would have to, it

a) puts pressure upon the CPS to decide to prosecute after all (they've already announced a review)
b) indicates that should the same evidence be placed before a criminal jury, they may well reach a similar conclusion, i.e. Harwood killed Tomlinson.
c) the misconduct hearing into Harwood by the Met to decide if he gets to keep his job, that was postponed until after the inquest, will at least result in him losing his job.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:33 AM on May 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Thanks, greycap and ArkhanJG. exactly what I was wondering.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:35 AM on May 3, 2011

The equivalent of a public inquiry in the US would be a "coroner's jury" I believe. So it has no legal consequence - directly - for Harwood.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:38 AM on May 3, 2011

I'm not sure the CPS is super enthusiastic to prosecute, especially as it will mean opening up the Freddy Patel can of worms- now they may be forced to, however.

Harwood will lose his job, and I think this paves the way for the Tomlinson's to take action against both him, and possibly also the Met (considering what we learned during the inquest about Harwood's previous disciplinary issues).

Still, fuck the SPG TSG.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:46 AM on May 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

"especially as it will mean opening up the Freddy Patel can of worms"

Freddy Patel is a lying liar.

Harwood is also a lying liar; he was caught out lying over and over again at the inquest. Still, hurrah!! At least it took less time than for Mr B. Peach RIP.
posted by marienbad at 12:03 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Follow up article in the Guardian with more detail around the G20 protest, and what happened to Tomlinson.

Harwood, for example, initially told investigators Tomlinson had been defiantly obstructing a police line and "almost inviting a physical confrontation". He also denied that Tomlinson had his back to him and claimed he was resisting orders when he struck him.

After three days of questioning, Harwood accepted footage showed Tomlinson posed no threat and was walking away from police when he struck him from behind without warning.

But he maintained the response was justified and proportionate, saying the strike and push were a "gesture" to "encourage" a man who posed a potential breach of the peace to move away.

Harwood said he was "amazed" when the "very poor push" resulted in Tomlinson being propelled forward. "I was shocked that he had fallen," he said. "I didn't intend that he should fall."

The jury heard very different accounts of the push from other witnesses. Two said it had been a "violent shove", while another recalled seeing Tomlinson "flying through the air" as if struck by a car.

Kerry Smith, a police officer who spoke to Tomlinson just before he was pushed to the ground, and seconds afterwards, provided key testimony.

"I was shocked by the forcefulness of the push at the time," she told the inquest. "He came flying out, right in front of me. From what I saw and heard and the dealings I had with him, there was no need to use force against him."

posted by ArkhanJG at 12:12 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

So if I understand this right, he still needs to be prosecuted? So he gets 2 trials instead of one, you know, if the first one doesn't go your way, as it seems, you can always try the second?

I'm sure that extends to every british citizen.

Its an inquest. This is normal. Hold off on outrage.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:20 PM on May 3, 2011

Its an inquest. This is normal. Hold off on outrage.

Well, typically an inquest is not as complicated. So outrage is entirely appropriate when the cause of death was identified as a police officer.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 1:03 PM on May 3, 2011

Great news for his family and the state of the British justice system.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 1:19 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The CPS said it couldn't bring charges against PC Harwood because of the disagreement among the medical experts over the cause of death, which meant that there was 'no realistic prospect of a conviction'. Now that the inquest verdict has effectively discredited Freddy Patel's evidence as to the cause of death, I can't see that there is any further obstacle to a prosecution.

The coroner evidently thought the same, as he repeatedly warned PC Harwood that he was not obliged to incriminate himself:

Thornton told Harwood: "I'm sure that you know, and no doubt will have been advised, that you are not obliged to answer any question tending to incriminate you. It may well be that I shall repeat that warning to you later."

The only possible reason for this warning is that the coroner was anticipating a verdict of unlawful killing leading, in due course, to a trial for unlawful act manslaughter.

Back in April 2009 I wrote: 'I hope the officer responsible is prosecuted for manslaughter, and anyone involved in the subsequent cover-up has their career in the force terminated with extreme prejudice'. (I was responding to comments by other people here who predicted that no prosecution would ever be brought.) I stand by those words; naive of me, perhaps, but I still believe that justice will, eventually, belatedly, be done.
posted by verstegan at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Guardian is optimistic: Ian Tomlinson verdict could lead to manslaughter charge for officer
posted by Artw at 1:53 PM on May 3, 2011

I'm annoyed that the timidity of the CPS meant that Harwood saw the inside of the court first as a witness rather than as a plaintiff. When I say annoyed, I mean exasperated, outraged, incredulous.

This verdict is clearly the right one, but it's hard to feel very happy about. I do feel thankful towards the twelve people who came to the decision that I think is right...but I also feel that my personal thankfulness is irrelevant - what I think about this doesn't matter as long as we the people have ensured that the police or other authorities are not above scrutiny and sanction. And this verdict has come at the wrong time as part of the wrong process and so it isn't clearly demonstrated back to us that the machinery that we have in place to check abuses of power is fit for purpose. Perhaps that will happen now, if there is a trial, but frankly we the people of the UK acting through our state apparatus botched it the first time round and it's an embarrassment that it came down to 12 random people to tell the legal machinery what should have been obvious to start with.

...and then meanwhile, while I'm pondering about rights and the state and how it represents the people, and what this means for the English and our approach to authority, frankly I'd rather not have had the opportunity to think about it. Ian Tomlinson - from what I read - drank too much, saved up his money to buy his step-daughter a BMX, supported Millwall, bought all the step-kids treats at the Wimpy in Chrisp St Market on payday and slept rough other times. A messy, human, loving life. He wanted to get home and now internet tosspots like me know all about him, what happened to him that day and how it relates to the rule of law, but I'm not sure anything good enough can ever be made from it.
posted by calico at 3:05 PM on May 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Doublehappy: If there were no prospect of charges against Harwood then it wouldn't matter what he said; this inquest wasn't a trial of Harwood, per se, but of Tomlinson's death. The coroner warned Harwood against incriminating himself during the inquest because Harwood might be charged with something later, depending on the inquest's findings. In that trial Harwood's comments would probably be admissible, and could have very severe consequences.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:21 PM on May 3, 2011

Its an inquest. This is normal. Hold off on outrage.
posted by Ironmouth (*) at 9:20 PM on May 3 [+] [!]

You can call it roses and lillies if you want. They are also normal.

And this is still two trials.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:49 AM on May 4, 2011

It is, to date, zero trials, and likely to remain that way.
posted by Artw at 6:28 AM on May 4, 2011

Harwood disputes the verdict. Would have thought he'd be better advised keeping his mouth shut. We also learn about a history of violence that for legal reasons the jury wouldn't have known:
PC Harwood has a violent history. He used to work for the Metropolitan but ten years ago was forced to resign (on medical grounds, of course) after a violent road rage incident. Naturally, this was ignored when he then applied to work for Surrey Police, where he also got into hot water for aggressive behaviour. Amazingly, he then simply transferred back to the Metropolitan Police who had “eased” him out three years previously.

It was a miracle he was even identified. He covered his ID numbers on duty and had to be reported by fellow officers for him to come forward.
posted by Abiezer at 4:56 PM on May 4, 2011

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