UK police officer cleared over G20 death

AP News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2012 11:33 AM

LONDON (AP) — A British police officer was cleared of manslaughter Thursday over the death of a newspaper vendor during the Group of 20 demonstrations in 2009.

Officer Simon Harwood had said he used reasonable force when he hit 47-year-old Ian Tomlinson with a baton and shoved him to the ground as the vendor tried to find his way out of a cordon put up to contain protests in central London.

Tomlinson collapsed and died moments afterward. Footage of the incident helped turn his case into a rallying point for those who alleged that police brutalized demonstrators.

Harwood cried in the dock at London's Southwark Crown Court after the verdict was read.

Tomlinson's family was also in tears, saying in an emotional statement outside the courthouse that the verdict "really hurts" and that they will pursue civil action.

"It's not the end," stepson Paul King said. "We are not giving up for justice for Ian."

Britain's police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said Harwood will face internal disciplinary proceedings from the Metropolitan Police later this year.

After the verdict, the IPCC expressed concern about vetting procedures with the London police force after details of Harwood's disciplinary record were published.

Harwood had faced a number of complaints about his behavior over the years, including one which prompted a chief to say his conduct had "fallen well below that expected of a police officer."

Those details had been ruled inadmissible as part of the trial.

The IPCC's deputy chairwoman, Deborah Glass, said the fact that Harwood was able to retire from the Metropolitan Police while facing disciplinary proceedings for previous alleged misconduct towards a member of the public and was then re-employed by the force was "simply staggering and raises considerable concerns."

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Maxine de Brunner acknowledged that the "insufficient recording and checks" meant that detailed information about Harwood's history of misconduct had not been shared at key points.

"We got that wrong," she said, adding that since then, the force's vetting processes have undergone huge changes.