Officer who struck out at Ian Tomlinson had ‘lost control’
Police officer Simon Harwood hit newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson with a baton and shoved him to the ground in a “gratuitous act of aggression” because his “blood was up”, a court heard today.
By Victoria Ward
3:56PM BST 18 Jun 2012
Mr Harwood, 45, allegedly sent Mr Tomlinson, 47, flying with a ‘forceful baton strike’ and a ‘powerful push’ as he stood with his back to police and his hands in his pockets.
The father-of-nine fell to the ground during the 2009 demo before staggering 70 metres away where he eventually collapsed and died minutes later near the Royal Exchange Buildings in the City of London.
An initial post-mortem concluded his death had been the result of a heart attack.
But after footage of the assault shot by American banker Chris La Jaunie and CCTV of the subsequent collapse emerged, two further examinations concluded he had died as a result of internal bleeding.
Mr Harwood denies the manslaughter of Mr Tomlins at Southwark Crown Court.
Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, told jurors how Mr Tomlinson was assaulted by Mr Harwood on April 1, 2009 after he became unwittingly caught up in the G20 demonstration as he walked home from Monument to Smithfield.
“Accordingly, the prosecution allege in this case that Ian Tomlinson’s death was not brought about by natural causes, for which no one was to blame, but that it had been the defendant’s assault upon Tomlinson that had occasioned him harm and thereby caused his collapse and death.
“Furthermore, it is alleged that the assault upon Tomlinson had been an unnecessary and unreasonable use of force by the defendant.”
Mr Dennis told jurors that the defendant struck out at Mr Tomlinson despite him “not posing any threat to the defendant or any other officer”.
The QC said the newspaper vendor was not being aggressive or provocative and had begun to walk away as Mr Harwood approached from behind.
“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,” said Mr Dennis
“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’ 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 him to be a protester and to be getting in his way.
“In such circumstances, an unlawful assault that causes the death of another amounts to the offence of manslaughter.”
The court heard that Mr Tomlinson had collapsed at around 7.30pm on the pavement in Cornhill.
Prior to that he had been on his way to his accommodation in Smithfield but found his route home blocked by protesters and police.
Mr Tomlinson had seemed “singularly uninterested” in the demonstration primarily because of the “considerable amount” of alcohol he had drunk.
Mr Dennis said: “For those who saw Tomlinson collapse on the pavement and for those who made great efforts to revive him at the scene, there was no obvious reason for his sudden collapse.
“On the face of it, he had simply been walking along and then found his condition rapidly deteriorating, leading to complete collapse; the cause was a mystery.
“He never recovered from his cardiac arrest and he was finally pronounced dead in hospital some 45 minutes after the collapse.”
Jurors were told the initial post mortem had been carried out by pathologist Dr Freddy Patel who concluded the death was a result of natural causes.
Mr Dennis said his conclusion failed to explain the ‘substantial quantity’ of intra-abdominal blood fluid free in the abdominal cavity, a blood clot in the same area, and haemorrhaging from the liver.
He said it was the emergence of Mr La Jaunie’s video recording that prompted two further examinations.
The barrister said: “He reviewed his video recording from that evening in London and realised that he had recorded Tomlinson being violently struck with a police baton and pushed to the ground by a police officer.
“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.
“This violence had taken place just minutes before Tomlinson’s collapse some 70 metres or so further down the road.”
He went on to say that further CCTV footage and video shot from a police helicopter was collected which gave a “fairly comprehensive” picture of Tomlinson’s movements in the 30 minutes before his collapse.
He said it demonstrated a “clear temporal link” between “the violent use of force to which he had been subjected by a police officer and his deterioration and then collapse”.
‘It also served to identify the defendant, Simon Harwood, whose sole duty that day had been as a police van driver, as Tomlinson’s assailant shortly before that collapse,” he added.
He said the two further post mortems revealed Mr Tomlinson’s cardiac arrest had been caused by injury to the liver which had resulted in significant internal bleeding.
“The unchecked internal bleeding resulted in blood circulation around the body, and more specifically to the heart, leading to collapse and in turn to cardiac arrest,” he said.
“In reality there was nothing that anyone could have done at the scene to save Tomlinson’s life – the critical damage had been done before he set off on that last 70 metre walk.
“Given the short timescale that would be entailed from damage, causing the internal bleeding, to collapse there was only one event that could realistically have occasioned that damage and that was this defendant’s violent use of force as captured on the video recording.”
The barrister said that at the point Mr Tomlinson was struck he was standing, facing away from Harwood with his hands in his pockets.
“He would have been taken completely by surprise by the two acts of violence and would have had little, if any, opportunity to protect himself against the effects of a heavy, uncontrolled fall,” he said.
“Landing heavily, as you will see, with his right arm under his body as he fell face forwards would have resulted in just the sort of impact that would have caused the damage to the liver that was found and the crucial internal bleeding.”
Mr Harwood, of Carshalton, Surrey, denies manslaughter.
The trial continues.