No charges against policeman over London G20 protest death

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A riot squad officer who struck a man and pushed him to the ground during last year's London G20 protests will not face charges over his death, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the "sharp disagreement" between three post-mortem verdicts meant they could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ian Tomlinson's death was caused by the policeman's actions.

Tomlinson's family said they were furious at the verdict and have vowed not to give up their fight to see someone held responsible for his death.

The 47-year-old was filmed being hit with a baton and being pushed over by an officer -- identified only as PC 'A' -- as he walked through demonstrations in the City of London financial district on April 1.

Thousands of anti-capitalist protesters had gathered there ahead of the Group of 20 summit in London, attended by leaders including US President Barack Obama, but it turned violent and riot police were sent in.

Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who had alcohol problems, collapsed and died minutes after being hit by the policeman.

A first post-mortem, conducted by Doctor Freddy Patel, found he died of coronary artery disease -- natural causes -- but the family and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog requested another.

That, and a third post-mortem, concluded that while he had a partial artery blockage, Tomlinson died of an abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

"As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Tomlinson's death was caused by PC 'A' pushing him to the ground," it said.

"That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter.

"It also follows that there is also no realistic prospect of a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm or misconduct in public office."

Patel is facing disciplinary proceedings at the General Medical Council, which registers and regulates doctors in Britain, accused of giving questionable verdicts on four causes of deaths.

Last year, he was also suspended from the interior ministry's register of forensic pathologists.

The CPS said Tomlinson posed no threat to the police and there was enough evidence to prove the policeman's actions were "disproportionate and unjustified" and constituted an assault.

However, the clash in medical evidence ruled out an actual bodily harm assault charge, and a common assault charge is subject to a six-month time limit -- which passed during the investigation.

Tomlinson's family were outraged at the CPS decision and vowed to seek a review.

"There is either a lack of will or there is incompetence," their lawyer Jules Carey said on the "unbelievable" lack of charges.

"Their dad died of either a heart attack or internal bleeding, whichever evidence you prefer, but no one has been prosecuted and that is a disgrace."

Tomlinson had not participated in the demonstration and was apparently on his way home through the protest zone.

"It's just outrageous. We feel like it wasn't a full investigation from the beginning," Tomlinson's son Paul King said.

"It's been a big cover-up. Why isn't there an assault charge, nothing?"

Despite the CPS announcement, the officer could still be disciplined by London's Metropolitan Police, which is awaiting an IPCC report into the death.

An inquest will now examine the circumstances of Tomlinson's death and the case could be reconsidered by prosecutors after it is concluded.

© 2010 AFP

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