G20 protest policeman ‘killed newspaper seller while his blood was up’
A POLICE officer killed newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson in “a gratuitous act of aggression” while his “blood was up”, a court heard today.
Pc Simon Harwood is accused of hitting Mr Tomlinson with a baton and pushing him to the ground as he prepared to walk away from a line of officers in the City of London, in April 2009.
Within minutes the 47-year-old – who had been trying to walk home but found his usual route blocked due to the G20 protests that day – collapsed and later died.
Harwood, from Carshalton in Surrey, maintains that he used reasonable force and denies manslaughter.
The court heard yesterday that he was tasked with driving a police carrier and monitoring radios that day and had tried to arrest a protester who he had seen trying to write something on the side of a police van.
The demonstrator managed to wriggle free while other protesters cheered, which would have left the officer “embarrassed if not humiliated”, jurors were told.
He then decided to join with other officers who were on foot in Threadneedle Street.
Mr Tomlinson was facing away from Harwood and would have been “taken completely by surprise” when he was hit, jurors were told, and had little opportunity to protect himself from a heavy fall.
Opening the prosecution case at Southwark Crown Court, Mark Dennis QC said: “The assault upon Ian Tomlinson had been an unnecessary and unreasonable use of force by the defendant. Ian Tomlinson was not posing any threat to the defendant or any other police officer.
“He was displaying no aggression towards anyone nor even making any provocative comments.”
Harwood’s reaction was “wholly disproportionate” in the circumstances, the court heard.
Mr Dennis continued: “There had been no need to use any force upon Tomlinson, let alone a forceful baton strike followed by a powerful push to the back that sent Ian Tomlinson flying to the ground.
“The display of force has all the hallmarks of a gratuitous act of aggression by a lone officer whose blood was up having lost the self control to be expected of a police officer in such circumstances, and who was going to stand no truck from anyone who appeared to be a protester and to be getting in his way.”
Initially pathologist Dr Freddy Patel found that Mr Tomlinson had died from a heart attack, but questions were raised when an American tourist came forward with a film recording of him being hit.
Further medical reports suggested that in fact he died from an injury to his liver which caused internal bleeding and then cardiac arrest.
Mr Tomlinson had been homeless for several years during his life and was a heavy drinker, suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
He had been drinking from early morning on the day he died, and by shortly after 7pm when he first encountered the police, he seemed “somewhat oblivious” to his surroundings, the court heard.
An officer who spoke to him at a roadblock near Bank said that Mr Tomlinson was not angry about not being able to take his normal route home to Smithfield, but stared at him in “incomprehension”.
Mr Dennis said: “Footage serves to illustrate that the defendant had now abandoned the role of driver or radio monitor, but was assuming the posture of someone who was ready to take on the protesters, standing with his baton held in his left hand, resting on his shoulder ready for immediate use.”
The trial continues today.
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