The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.
After everything they have been through in the last four years, I am glad that Ian Tomlinson’s family now finally have an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service, although the fact that it has taken four years for the police to fully acknowledge the events of April 1st 2009 and after says a great deal about how this case has been handled and the attitudes of some of the individuals and institutions involved.
Like many others who were at that ill-fated G20 demo in April 2009 (and who witnessed the behaviour of the TSG first hand), I have been following the progress of this case with much interest and I have been impressed with the quiet determination of Ian’s family in their search for the truth. In an ideal world, many of us would very much have liked to have seen Simon Harwood found guilty in last year’s manslaughter trial, but, as Ian’s widow Julia put it, this apology “is as close as we are going to get to justice”.
They may not have got the kind of justice many of us were hoping for, however, but I wish the Tomlinson family all the best for the future, whatever that brings, and I hope this apology (and the out of court settlement that accompanied it) can go at least some way towards helping them all move on from such a terrible and traumatic experience. I am sure that Ian would be proud of their tenacity, strength and bravery in standing up to the institutionalised violence, incompetence and cover-ups that surrounded his death with such dignity.
This is such a fast-moving and ridiculously complicated story that in all probability this post will be completely out of date the second it goes up – bear with me!
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last two weeks, you can’t fail to have noticed the distinctly disturbing rumblings emanating from the depths of the Wapping HQ of Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire. Or at least that’s where the rumblings started. Despite an investigation into whether the News Of The World had hacked the phones of various celebrities and politicians that goes back almost a decade, it seems that News International assumed they could keep the worst of it well and truly hidden.
Hidden until now, that is.
Since Nick Davies and his team at The Guardian revealed at the beginning of July that the News Of The World had engaged in some truly repellent behaviour in the shape of hacking the mobile phones of the families of high-profile murder victims, these long-standing rumblings have turned into a massive and seemingly unstoppable shitstorm which has managed to drag not only News International but also the government and the Metropolitan Police into its increasingly unpleasant wake.
Yesterday’s news brought with it a real and welcome surprise. After the inquest jury earlier this month unanimously decided that newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed by TSG PC Simon Harwood at the G20 protests in April 2009, the Director of Public Prosecutions has executed a very public u-turn and announced that Harwood will now face a criminal prosecution for manslaughter.
Ian’s family are naturally relieved by this turn of events, as are those who have helped the campaign to get justice for them in his memory. His son, Paul King, released a statement on behalf of the family:
We welcome today’s decision to bring a charge of manslaughter against the officer. We believe this is the right decision. What we have always wanted is to achieve justice for Ian and to show that police officers are not above the law.
And they have appeared to be above the law for far too long. As far as I am aware, this is the first time (certainly in living memory) that a police officer will be called to account in the criminal courts for something like this – and I believe that it is also unusual for the DPP to change his mind so publicly on such a high profile case.