Yesterday the coroners inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson concluded with a ruling of unlawful killing. In the past I have expressed my frustration at the way the officer has been portrayed in the media, and defended him as I understand how stressful public order situations can be, and how certain lawful police tactics can be misconstrued as a disproportionate use of force.. However, Police Officers are not above the law, and the ruling of unlawful killing must lead to PC Simon Hardwood being brought before a jury.
PC Simon Harwood
Where there is a crime,
there must be justice
As a police officer i have had to think carefully about the nature of true justice. A crime is a crime, no matter who has committed it. Where we, as police officers, are faced with a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place we are required to act appropriately. In an assault that involved the subsequent death of the victim we would arrest the person who committed the assault so an investigation can be started, and that person be brought before a court. This is what must now happen with PC Simon Harwood, and there is no justifiable argument against that.
The big issues for Police Officers are a mixture of loyalty to our colleagues and a deeper understanding of how easy it can be to make a misjudgement in a situation like the one facing PC Simon Harwood. What we must remember is that we are not above the law. For us to be an effective law enforcement body we must open ourselves up for scrutiny where ever we do something wrong. And we must expect our colleagues actions to be investigated when they have led to harm of a member of the public. With the coroners verdict comes an powerful public interest argument. The public would expect that the CPS evidential threshold be lowered in order that the case can be brought to trial and justice be done.
Ian Tomlinson...unlawfully killed
In cases such as this, it should be the duty of the CPS to bring charges, and allow the court to assess the sufficiency of evidence...it must not be within the power of the CPS to hinder the fair administration of justice. Despite the above, it is vitally important to remember that the coroners verdict does not convict PC Hardwood of any offence and he is still innocent until proven guilty. The incident must be investigated, a fair trial must take place, and we must accept the verdict, guilty or not. Although i hope that PC Harwood is innocent, if he has committed a crime he must be put before a jury.
Police Officers should stand together against crime, but when that crime is being committed by a colleague our loyalty to the law must prevail.
Law students will now be thinking about what he might be convicted of. He didn't intend to kill. But the prosecution may argue that he intended to inflict serious injury (GBH), and if successful PC Harwood may be convicted of murder, although this would be subject to arguments of causation. I find this unlikely. So I want to try a little experiment, and it may just help criminal law students with their revision!
Law students, treat this as an exam problem question and work us through the mens rea and actus reus of any offenses you think may have been committed here. Identify the Facts, Identify the Law, Apply the law to the facts, and conclude. I look forward to some responses, and i have no doubt we will have some debate over some of the issues!