What price one man’s death at the hands of police? What price one man’s privacy at the hands of the media? Simon Harwood, Ian Tomlinson and “harassment”.
Since yesterday’s blog post, the picture supplied by PC Simon Harwood’s solicitors to the media has been published in the mainstream media – well, The Sun and the Telegraph. Both reports even – unlike the BBC’s recent articles – refer to Harwood beating Mr Tomlinson with a club as well as pushing him to the ground.
But no mention of the letter to which the photograph was attached (reproduced above).
As Kevin at Random Blowe blog puts it:
Now personally, I’m not interested in what Harwood has to say about anything unless it is in the dock and in front of a jury. Equally, anything that prevents his lawyers from trying to argue in future that a fair trial is impossible, because of intense interest from newspapers more interested in headlines than justice, has to be good. After all, there still remains a realsitic possibility that the DPP’s decision may be subject to legal challenge and that Harwood may yet have to account for his actions in court.
But given how shocking this case is, it is still important to be able to put a face to the name. Anonymity granted to police officers normally extends far beyond what ordinary members of the public can ever expect – not unlike the kind of different treatment routinely granted to policce whenever they are accused of causing someone’s death.
What Simon Harwood did had terrible consequences, and clearly his culpability needs to be judged, as would the actions of any member of the public in similar circumstances.
Indeed, we know – our common sense screams it at us – that had the roles been reversed, and it had been Ian Tomlinson who beat Simon Harwood from behind with a club after his friend set a vicious dog on him, and then shoved him hard to the ground, and then walked off, all whilst wearing a ski-mask, then Harwood’s family would not be rending their garments in public over the failure to prosecute.
So the attempt by Harwood’s solicitors to stamp on any coverage of their client. There is a genuine public interest in this, and no amount of whining or ‘Not For Publication’ letters is going to stop that.
But equally the buck does not stop with PC Simon Harwood. In many respects he was doing exactly what he should have been. He was an experienced Territorial Support Group officer. He had been selected for the TSG because of his aggression and willingness to use physical force. During Glencoe, the G20 policing operation, TSG units were clearly deployed by senior officers to control space and people, not to prevent crime or maintain order; Simon Harwood was there not as a warranted peace officer, but as an anonymous paramilitary footsoldier.
Nor were these ‘inexperienced junior officers panicking under pressure on the frontline’ as was the line fed to the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons – these were experienced full-time public order specialists (TSG), backed up by volunteer reservists (Level 2s), directed by officers who spend their time surveilling and monitoring political protests (Forward Intelligence Teams), and under the on-the-ground supervision of a formal public order policing hierarchy (such as the Bronze Commander).
Simon Harwood should pay for his actions.
But so too should Commander Bob Broadhurst (Metropolitan Police), who was in overall control of the G20 policing.
So too should Chief Superintendent Alex Robertson (City of London Police), operational commander on the ground, witness to and possibly the one who ordered the assault on Ian Tomlinson.
So too should Chief Inspector Peter Mills (Sussex Police), another senior police officer with a long background in policing protests who was present at or in the near vicinity of the Tomlinson assault.
So too should PC Alan Palfrey (Metropolitan Police), Forward Intelligence Team officer who was a direct witness to the assault on Ian Tomlinson, who would have known Mr Tomlinson was not even a protester, but who did nothing to help him, and who did not make a statement about the incident until after he was named by non-police officers. So too should PC Palfrey’s FIT colleague PC Steve Discombe.
So too should the many other police officers who were witness to, who covered up, or who were complicit with, the assault on Ian Tomlinson.
And no number of solicitors’ letters from any one of them shall stem the public interest in, or the public anger at, the killing of Ian Tomlinson.