Thursday, 22 July 2010

Today, I am ashamed to be British (#IanTomlinson)

No, the title isn't a cynical and sensationalist ploy to get more hits on this blog - I had rather hoped never to have to write such negative sentiments, but on this day I really do feel ashamed to live in a country where the rule of law and the pursuit of justice feel, on occasion, to be foreign concepts.

The facts first. Fact: on April 1st, 2009: at a demonstration in London showing the public's displeasure at the policies pursued by the G20, Ian Tomlinson was struck by a police officer and subsequently died. Although a post-mortem examination conducted immediately after the incident attributed the 47 year-old's death to a heart attack, two subsequent analyses - one conducted on behalf of the police officer in question - concluded that Tomlinson had in fact died of
abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen
Fact: On July 22nd 2010 - which, with bitterly coincident timing, is the 5th anniversary of Jean Charles de Menzes' death at the hands of the Met Police - the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that 'Officer A' as he is now known will not face any charges in relation to Tomlinson's death - citing
that there is no realistic prospect of a conviction against PC 'A' for any offence arising from the matter investigated.

Now, the opinion.

Whether or not PC 'A' actually caused Tomlinson's death is debatable - but that's the point, it ought to be debated, with all available evidence made a matter of public consumption, before a court of law - not pre-judged by a Director of Public Prosecutions that appears to pre-empt how a jury would view the apparently conflicting evidence from different post-mortem analyses in saying that
the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson's death and the alleged assault upon him.
I understand the CPS has a function in preventing frivolous and speculative prosecutions being actioned - but in a matter of such grave public interest, surely the evidence gathered should at the very least be put to the test in a public court in front of a jury?

I am very much aware of how the reader could criticise my choice of headline for this post - that the death, albeit in tragic and suspicious circumstances, of one person does not constitute grounds for feeling ashamed of being British - that despite it all, we don't live in some crackpot backwards hell-hole where atrocities on unimaginable scales are a daily occurrence; that we do live - issue of freedom of expression aside - in a free country, a country to be proud of.

To which my answer is simple. The fact that we live in a nation that thinks of itself as a bastion of freedom, an exemplar of democratic society, a place where we are free to pursue our hopes and dreams free from oppression or persecution - the fact that we export, often at the barrel of a gun, the ideal of an open democratic society united by the rule of law, all this only makes it that much more galling that justice can be denied to victims of what appears to be the brutal actions of an unaccountable police force.

For if the police cannot be held to account for what appears to be a death they are responsible for - in the face of clear documentary evidence of their involvement - where do the limits of their powers lie? Remember, I am not arguing that Officer 'A's actions necessarily caused Tomlinson's death - just that the decision on his guilt or otherwise should be taken by an open court - without that, we'll forever see this as yet another case where those charged with upholding the rule of law appear to be above its remit.


Dr Aust said...

Quite. They could presumably have sent it for trial, and the lawyer for the Crown could have argued that Dr Freddy Patel (the first / Home Office pathologist) made an understandable mistake - exacerbated by the fact that he didn't know what he was looking for, since no-one had told him the police had hit the guy.

Rachit said...

The CPS have to decide that a case passes two tests in deciding to prosecute: an evidential one and a public interest one. From the DPP's comment and from having a conscious mind, it is clear that the second test was passed.
It seems the DPP has decided that the first test - that there is a reasonable prospect of establishing the person's guilt - would not be passed.
Really? Seems far fetched. No alternative charges?
And kudos for a rousing argument as to why we should be bothered about this sort of stuff.

Anonymous said...

All one can say is Hear Hear! And Sir Iain Blair gets a peerage. In Britain nothing succeeds like failure

David said...

The DPP should resign. I agree with you that the conflicting evidence should have been put to a jury. The fact that the police employed an incompetent doctor (now under censure from the British Medical Council) should not be used to let the police get off scot free. Nor does it explain the DPP's inexplicable failure to bring a lesser charge .

Anonymous said...

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.

Michael Kingsford Gray said...

"The fact that we live in a nation that thinks of itself as a bastion of freedom, an exemplar of democratic society"
I have to be a party-pooper here:
1) GB is a monarchy, not a democracy.
2) A 'nation' cannot think.
3) A 'bastion of freedom' does not illegally invade another country, nor does it steal taxes to prop up it's state religion, nor other faith-based bullshit.

That is but a starter to prick the delusions of nirvana.
These coppers and the elite that 'decide' whether or not they have a case to answer are rooted in the endemic strangle-hold that the plutocratic elite over governance.
In the words of Arthur Daley: "Democracy? Don't make me larf!"