Trial of Ian Tomlinson Accused Begins
|A police officer is appearing in court today charged with the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson during last years G20 protests in London.
Mr Tomlinson, a bystander caught up in the protests, died after PC Simon Harwood struck him with a baton and shoved him to the ground in "a gratuitous act of aggression", the court has heard.
During the opening day at Southwark crown court, the jury heard how 47-year-old Tomlinson was trying to pass through police cordons to the hotel where he lived in east London, as he walked away from police lines with his hands in his pockets PC Harwood assaulted him without warning.
Tomlinson had played no part in any demonstration and posed not the slightest threat to officers, Mark Dennis QC told the jury. Harwood, who was wearing a riot helmet with a balaclava pushed up to his nose, targeted Tomlinson because he was upset after an activist who wrote graffiti on his police van wriggled free of his grip, bringing taunts from onlookers.
"This was a rush of blood to the head," Dennis said. "It was more akin to thuggish behaviour than proper, reasonable policing."
A long-term alcoholic who had previously been homeless, Tomlinson had been drinking heavily but appeared merely disoriented and was not impeding police when Harwood took it on himself to help other riot officers clear a pedestrian passageway by Royal Exchange Buildings.
Dennis said, "It did not appear that Tomlinson was posing any threat to anyone – indeed, he was facing away from the police at the moment that he was struck on the upper thigh with the baton and then violently pushed to the floor."
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"To strike out as he did, simply because Tomlinson may not have been moving as quickly as the defendant might have wanted, was a wholly disproportionate response by the defendant to the circumstances that then existed.
"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 him flying. 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 him to be a protester and to be getting in his way."
Tomlinson walked slightly further, clutching his right side, before collapsing. He was pronounced dead in hospital 45 minutes later.
An initial postmortem concluded that Tomlinson died from a heart attack.
Several days after the incident, an American man in London on a business trip during the protest passed video footage to the Guardian showing an officer seemingly assaulting Tomlinson.
That officer was later identified as Harwood, now 45, a policeman since 1995 and a member of the Metropolitan police's Territorial Support Group (TSG).
Two further postmortems found internal bleeding connected to a liver injury, consistent with Harwood’s actions, caused the heart attack.
Given the short time between Harwood's actions and Tomlinson's death, "there was only one event that could realistically have occasioned that damage", Dennis said.
Tomlinson would have been "taken completely by surprise", with no chance to protest himself from a heavy fall, Dennis said. He added: "In such circumstances, an unlawful assault that causes the death of another amounts to the offence of manslaughter."
Harwood, from Carshalton, Surrey, sat impassive in the dock as the evidence was heard, dressed in a dark blue suit and striped tie. He denies manslaughter. The trial is scheduled to last up to five weeks.
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