Ian Tomlinson case: PC Simon Harwood guilty of gross misconduct


The police officer acquitted of killing during the G20 protests in London faces certain dismissal after a disciplinary panel found he had committed gross misconduct.

PC Simon Harwood as the bystander walked away from police lines, and that he would never work as a police officer again, his lawyer told the hearing.

But Tomlinson's family dismissed the proceedings as a "whitewash". Tomlinson's stepson Paul King said: "I think it's pointless, it hasn't proved anything to us. We still haven't got any answer from this. After three-and-a-half years, I think it's diabolical. It's like we're back at day one. We will carry on, it isn't going to be the last of it." He said there was "no justice" in the fact that Harwood faces the sack.

Commander Julian Bennett, chairing the three-strong disciplinary panel, the first from the to sit in public, ruled that Harwood's actions on 1 April 2009 amounted to gross misconduct.

However, to the dismay of the Tomlinson family, the panel agreed with representations from Harwood's lawyers that the hearing did not need to investigate the issue of whether the policeman's actions led to Tomlinson's death. Tomlinson's widow, Julia, and some of the couple's children walked out of the hearing soon after this.

Harwood, a riot officer with the Met's elite Territorial Support Group unit, had admitted baton-striking and pushing Tomlinson, 47, and gross misconduct, Bennett told the hearing.

He said: "We find that both the baton strike and the push were unnecessary, we find both were disproportionate and unreasonable." Harwood, he added, had breached three of the four standards of professional behaviour listed on the charge: use of force, authority, respect and courtesy, and discreditable conduct. This "does amount to gross misconduct", Bennett said.

The panel, also comprising another senior Met officer, Chief Superintendent Wayne Chance, and a lay member, Andrew Lowe, retired to consider their actions. This will certainly include sacking Harwood from the force. He will not, however, lose his police pension as he has not been convicted of a criminal offence.

Patrick Gibbs QC, representing Harwood, 45, said the officer had twice offered to resign from the force, firstly after an inquest into Tomlinson's death recorded a verdict of unlawful killing and then, in July, when a criminal trial found Harwood not guilty of his manslaughter.

"He thought that that was the right thing to do," Gibbs said. "He wanted to minimise further embarrassment to the Metropolitan police service." Both offers were refused, the lawyer added.

Tomlinson died shortly after Harwood struck him on the leg with a baton and pushed him to the ground as he tried to make his way home past police lines following a day of protests connected to the meetings. An initial postmortem examination said Tomlinson, who was a long-term alcoholic, died of natural causes.

But by someone observing the incident, showed Harwood's actions, and two further postmortem examinations said the cause of death was internal bleeding caused by his falling to the pavement after the push.

The contradictory verdicts of the inquest and trial dismayed the Tomlinson family, who hoped the disciplinary hearing might give its own decision on whether Harwood was responsible for the death.

But at the start of proceedings Gibbs made it clear Harwood would only admit the gross misconduct charge if a reference to his actions "inadvertently causing or contributing to the death of Mr Tomlinson" was removed.

"PC Harwood does accept the discredit his actions have brought on the Metropolitan police does amount to gross misconduct and he has twice offered his resignation," said Gibbs, who also represented Harwood at his manslaughter trial.

"As far as the use of force, he completely accepts that the force he used was completely unnecessary."

However, Gibbs said, the reference to causing Tomlinson's death was "gratuitous and provocative, designed to provoke a retrial of Mr Harwood on ".

The manslaughter trial jury was not told details of Harwood's past record, notably that he quit the Met on health grounds in 2001 shortly before an earlier planned into claims he illegally tried to arrest a driver after a road rage incident while off duty, altering his notes to retrospectively justify the actions.

Harwood was nonetheless able to join another force, Surrey, before returning to serve with the Met in 2005. He also allegedly punched, throttled, kneed or threatened other suspects while in uniform in other incidents. Most of the complaints were unproven.

Reacting to the judgement, King said: "It's a whitewash. It's like they've let him resign already."

Flanked by his brother and Julia, King said it was as if the force had answered "no comment" to the question over whether Harwood's actions led to Tomlinson's death from internal injuries.

An inquest found the father-of-nine was unlawfully killed, but Harwood was acquitted of his manslaughter.

The family's solicitor, Jules Carey, said the family had been "cheated of an opportunity" to address the difference between the inquest verdict of unlawful killing and Harwood's acquittal for manslaughter.

Carey added: "The family want a judgment in the civil court. They want it to be determined finally whether or not PC Harwood is guilty as an employee of the police of killing Ian Tomlinson."

It is only the second time the Independent Complaints Commission has instructed police to hold a disciplinary hearing in public following a law passed in 2008.

The only other public hearing concerning officers accused of failing in their duty when they did not respond to repeated calls from Colette Lynch, a young woman in Rugby, Warwickshire, about threats from her ex-partner. He stabbed her to death days later.