When’s an Assault not an Assault – When It’s The Police Wot’s Done It, Of Course

July 22, 2010

Ian Tomlinson on the floor as police refuse to help him up

As you will all be aware by now, the murder of newspaper-seller Ian Tomlinson at last year’s G20 protests will not now result in the prosecution of any police officers. This is despite clear video evidence which shows Tomlinson being brutally assaulted by police and the admission by the CPS in its refusal to prosecute that “Shortly before his death, Mr Tomlinson was struck with a baton and pushed very strongly in the back by a police officer.”

The CPS statement states events clearly enough: “One witness described Mr Tomlinson as looking ‘disoriented’ as he was in Royal Exchange. As the police line approached him, he had his hands in his pockets and walked slowly in front of the officers. A police dog handler put his hand out to move Mr Tomlinson away and a police dog bit him on the side of his leg. Mr Tomlinson did not appear to react to this dog bite, but continued slowly moving at an angle across the police line.”

“PC ‘A’, who was behind the dog handler, moved forward and using his baton struck Mr Tomlinson on the left thigh. Almost immediately he pushed Mr Tomlinson very strongly in the back. This push caused Mr Tomlinson to fall heavily to the floor and, because he had his hands in his pockets, he was unable to break his fall.”

After an initial post-mortem by a Dr. “Freddy” Patel found that Tomlinson had died from “natural causes”, a second analysis was carried out by the “Independent” Police Complaints Commission. This time, the pathologist found that “whilst Mr Tomlinson had a partial blockage of the artery, his death was the result of abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen [and that] when Mr Tomlinson fell, his elbow had impacted in the area of his liver causing an internal bleed which had led to his death a few minutes later.”

A third post-mortem then ordered by the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards backed up the second opinion.

Still, the CPS considered that this represented a “fundamental disagreement between the experts about the cause of Mr Tomlinson’s death” – and they brought Dr Patel in for questioning. Patel had written in his notes about finding “intraabdominal fluid blood about 3l with small blood clot” – which naturally suggested to later analysts that internal bleeding had caused Tomlinson’s death (3 litres representing around 60 percent of his blood).

But when asked, Patel told the CPS prosecuting team that what he had really found was “mainly ascites…which had been stained with blood” – liver fluids in other words, not blood, which conveniently for the police, suggested that internal bleeding might not have been the prime cause of death. Quite why Patel “had not retained the fluid nor had he sampled it in order to ascertain the proportion of blood” is a mystery. Patel himself offered the explanation that “he had handled blood all his professional life and he knew that this was not blood but blood-stained ascites” yet if he had been writing accurate coroners reports his whole professional life, then he surely would have used a phrase less ambiguous than “intraabdominal fluid blood.”

This shift in Patel’s story gave the CPS the wriggle room it needed to kill the case, as it “brought into even sharper focus the difference of opinion between him and the other experts as to the cause of death.”

So far so sordid. It’s worth remembering that “Freddy” Patel is far from a squeeky-clean expert with an unblemished record of professional competence. Patel is currently being investigated by the General Medical Council and has been removed from a Home Office register of acceptable pathologists. In 2002, Patel had bungled a case in which Sally White was found dead in the room of her boyfriend Anthony Hardy, who the Guardian describes as a “psychiatrically disturbed alcoholic.” Despite bite marks on White’s leg, Patel found that her death was from a heart attack. Hardy went on to kill two more women – free because of Patel’s incompetence.  The hapless doctor also caused outrage after labelling a man who died in police custody a crack cocaine user, citing knowledge of confidential hospital records to the press.

In Sally White’s case, Patel also argued that bruising of her liver was consistent not with a brutal beating, but with “vigorous” attempts at resuscitation, while he repeatedly rejected Police calls (correct as it turned out) to consider asphyxia as a cause of death.  Echoing the Tomlinson case, the GMC has heard that Patel has also “failed to adequately record or preserve his findings.” Well I never.

Regardless of how credible the expertise of Patel proves to be, however, the CPS admits that “Having analysed the available evidence very carefully, the CPS concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that the actions of PC ‘A’ in striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and then pushing him over constituted an assault.”

Then why not prosecute the officer for manslaughter? The only reason given is the aforementioned professional disagreement. As the CPS puts it, if the thoroughly questionable Dr Patel stood up in court and maintained that Tomlinson died of natural causes, and that there was no internal bleeding then, as the first professional to see the evidence, his word would neutralise the arguments of others.

But if Patel was to take the stand after being struck off by the GMC, with a string of dead people littering his past, surely the jury would have been amenable to second opinions?

Apparently not. Prosecution for assault, meanwhile, was scuppered by the agonizingly slow progress of the CPS in assessing the case. With a statutory 6 months time limit for bringing charges, the possibility disappeared while Patel was changing his tune.

This is naturally disgusting. There is no respect for the family of the dead man, no sign of justice being done, no chance of holding the police to account for their actions, and no real hope that such violence can be avoided in the future. There is only evidence of collusion between the police and the CPS, with the state acting efficiently to protect its own, which is no surprise, I readily admit, but it is profoundly depressing nonetheless.

So far few politicians have spoken out about the affair. Green MP Caroline Lucas has twittered  a couple of times in support of the protest currently ongoing outside Scotland Yard, and in disgust at the decision, but no word yet from the Lib Dems. Their vaunted commitment to civil liberties seems to have melted away with the far more potent charms of PMQs available to puff their repugnant egos.


One Response to “When’s an Assault not an Assault – When It’s The Police Wot’s Done It, Of Course”

  1. Peter Reynolds Says:


    This is a monstrous decision. How can anyone, ever again have any faith in our system of justice? There can be no question but that Keir Starmer must go. He has failed miserably to see beyond the minutiae and detail to the bigger and more important picture. He has failed all of us, each and every individual citizen of this country. Whatever it takes, be it a special Act of Parliament, he must be removed from office and PC Simon Harwood, thug, brute and murderer of Ian Tomlinson must be brought to justice.


    From today everything changes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: