Tuesday, August 06, 2013

ian tomlinson's family gagged with money

The Metropolitan police have reached a settlement with the family of Ian Tomlinson, who died after being attacked by a police officer whilst walking home through the G20 demonstration in April 2009.

Much rarer than a cash payout, the family have also received an apology. The Met apologise not only for the 'excessive and unlawful force' used by PC Simon Harwood, but also

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.

They additionally apologise for trying to mislead pathologists as to the cause of death.

Even once the police knew what had gone on, they were not interested in justice. Their first response to the footage going online was to demand it be taken down, not with a call or email but actually going round to the Guardian office with someone from the watchpoodle Independent Police Complaints Commission.

They quickly put another IPCC glove-puppet on Channel 4 News to say there was no CCTV in the area of the assault. It was pointed out that at least two police CCTV cameras were directly pointing at it. The IPCC later corrected their position, saying that the cameras weren't working.

You can say this about all the cameras in Stockwell station the day they killed Jean Charles de Menezes (even though the company running the cameras and tube staff contradict it) and get a few people to believe you. But to claim it for cameras at the centre of the largest public order situation in the UK that year, that police had months to prepare for and over a hundred officers monitoring the screens on the day, is ludicrous.

Yet it is not the most far-fetched thing. In an act as desperate as it is insulting, after the footage was published an officer went round to the Tomlinsons' house to suggest that the assailant might have been a protester in a stolen police uniform. The police statement makes no apology for that.

Somewhat disturbingly, the police statement says the Tomlinsons can't talk about the settlement.

it has been agreed that it is in the best interests of the family that no further statement will be made, either by them or the Commissioner, regarding the terms of the settlement.

This apology and payout did not come easily. Were it not for one person's phone footage, Ian Tomlinson would have died of a heart attack as brave bobbies tried to save him under a hail of bricks and bottles. Were it not for the grit of the Tomlinson family aided by the tenacity of their lawyer Jules Carey and Guardian journalist Paul Lewis, it would not have happened.

And yet is is paltry. Four years is a short time for the police to make this payout compared to other cases, but it will have been an aeon for the family to wade through the police obstacles. No matter how much money it is it will not have been easy to earn, let alone anything like compensation for the loss of their loved one.


Once the police make a big cash offer, you have to take it. If you refuse and fight on - with all the trauma of continually focussing on the worst thing that has ever happened to you, because you want to get to court, because you're not interested in the money, because you want to see the people who've wronged you put under oath and questioned, because you want evidence to be shown - then even if you win you can lose. If the court awards you less money than the police offered you, you are liable to pay their costs. This can run into millions. Who could take that chance?

It is a triple injustice. First, there is what the police did. Secondly, there are the smears, lies and legal obstacles they use to try to prevent justice. Then, if you're still standing, they can use their superior power once again to stuff your mouth with money and prevent anyone getting the truth (then sit back and watch as social media comes alive with people calling you gold diggers). This same predicament is likely to face the people suing police for sending undercover officers into their personal lives.

In a statement on behalf of her family, Julia Tomlinson says the settlement - money with a gagging order - 'is as close as we are going to get to justice'. It is still far over the horizon from actual justice.


PC Simon Harwood will never spend a day in jail for what he did. Once again the police have killed with impunity. Imagine how different the response would be if PC Harwood had been fatally assaulted by a newspaper vendor instead.

More to the point, Harwood's colleagues and commanders will continue to behave the same way in future. Harwood's violence was excessive and unlawful. It was also typical. As I said at the time

Look at the video of Ian Tomlinson. Look at the casualness of the officer who attacks him. Look how the colleagues are completely unsurprised...

This was not an officer losing his head in the fury of a riot. It’s calm, slow and premeditated.

This was not one bad officer taking the law into his own hands. This sort of assault was endemic that day. I saw it hundreds of times with my own eyes, and I was at the more peaceful climate camp protest, and left before it got kettled then attacked with dogs and batons in the evening.

This sort of assault is what the police do when they’re deployed on this provocative political mission. The difference here is that it was caught on camera and the victim died.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fire brigade do it too.