Monday, 17 September 2012



PC Simon Harwood has been sacked from the Metropolitan Police for gross misconduct and actions which discredited the Police service, it was announced in London today. The verdict was handed down by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, in only the second instance Police disciplinary proceedings have been conducted in public since this was first permitted by statute in 2008. The panel stopped short of delivering judgement on whether PC Harwood’s actions resulted in the death of Ian Tomlinson, much to the fury and consternation of Tomlinson’s surviving family.

Harwood himself offered to resign on a number of occasions before today’s hearing but such proffers were refused. He is now unable to serve as a Police officer in any of the forces around the country.

Despite Harwood’s sacking, in the absence of any prospect of criminal sentence, the family of Ian Tomlinson may rightly feel that justice is yet to be served. He was recently acquitted of Tomlinson’s murder, but at the same hearing the judge ruled that his killing was unlawful. The hearing was marred by suspect medical evidence adduced in Harwood’s defence, which raised doubts as to the credibility of Harwood’s expert witness and ostensibly flew in the face of video evidence showing Harwood’s actions in the run-up to Tomlinson’s death, as well as the post-mortem which determined Tomlinson had died of internal bleeding. The verdict was hollow and farcical. It was met by a fierce torrent of incredulity and indignation.

Harwood is yet to be adequately punished for the unlawful killing of Ian Tomlinson and today’s hearing has done little to redress the injustice. Harwood joins a long list of officers who have committed acts of ‘misconduct’ such that, were the same actions to be committed by members of the public, they would have resulted in criminal prosecutions. Back in 2011, the BBC conducted an investigation into the treatment by the Police of their own officers’ misconduct and it was found that between 2008 and 2010 at least 489 officers that had committed acts of misconduct had been ‘quietly’ allowed to retire.

When these figures were published nearly a year ago there was a vociferous call for greater Police accountability and transparency. Since then there has been damning evidence of Police racism (recorded on an audio device during the riots last year); gruesome details of Police collusion in press corruption disclosed in the Leveson inquiry, and the controversial trial of the then PC Harwood for killing Ian Tomlinson. Add to this the disinterment of the cynical forgery of Hillsborough and it’s alarming that there haven't been any high-profile criminal prosecutions of Police officers. Despite conducting Harwood’s hearing in public, by simply dismissing him and omitting judgement on his role in Tomlinson’s death, the IPCC’s conduct displayed a depressing maintenance of form for the country’s Police force, with its evidently faltering capacity for self-sanction. The refusal to take accountability conveys an arrogant air of legal impregnability, one which is normally more befitting of Police forces in (let’s say) far less-democratic environments.  In the absence of any meaningful criminal prosecutions of Police officers, the message from the Met is simple: if you are a Police officer, you can be racist, take bribes, falsify evidence, commit fraud and even kill people, without ever facing the sort of criminal sentence you would expect as a normal person.

It is seldom doubted that on occasion the Police are necessarily afforded certain legal protections that the public are not. This does not however, create a licence for barbarism and thuggery as a corollary benefit. This licentiousness has allowed a man to get away with murder. Unless things change, he won’t be the last. 

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