Friday, July 20, 2012

No justice for Ian Tomlinson

In 2009, UK police officer Simon Harwood beat newspaper-seller Ian Tomlinson from behind during a protest. Tomlinson, whose hands were in his pockets and who posed no threat to police, died shortly afterwards, his insides pulped by the blow. Eventually, after the police cover-up was unravelled, Harwood was charged with manslaughter. Today, he was acquitted by a jury. Immediately after the acquittal, the Guardian published the information that the jury was not allowed to know: that Harwood was a serial offender who had been repeatedly accused of using excessive force against the public, and who had dodged justice by changing police forces.

It was entirely proper that this information was withheld from the jury: Harwood was on trial for his specific actions in the case of Tomlinson, not his past. For whatever reason - and here its worth noting that in the UK, the police never get convicted by juries of crimes against the public - the jury felt those actions did not reach a criminal standard of guilt. At the same time, given what we know now, Harwood's actions are part of a wider pattern of brutality. The man is a thug and should not be wearing a police uniform.

Tomlinson's family will now be pursuing a civil case against Harwood. And hopefully they'll succeed where the British jury system has failed, and finally hold this uniformed thug to justice.