The acquittal, on Thursday, of P.C. Simon Harwood, of a charge of manslaughter, has raised several questions. The video footage of his assault of Ian Tomlinson is seen by many as conclusive proof, yet Harwood wasn’t charged with the lesser offence, which meant that when the manslaughter charge was dismissed by the jury, Harwood got off scot-free, at least as far as the criminal court was concerned – civil proceedings may yet ensue.
Another issue is that Harwood has an appalling record of indiscipline, including one incident in 2001 that would have seen him sacked, and possibly prosecuted, had he not resigned as a police officer before a hearing could be convened.
He didn’t stay unemployed for long, resigning on a Friday and starting his new job on the following Monday as a civilian employee of the same police force.
He later joined another force, and eventually transferred back to the Met, where he continued to accrue complaints of “heavy-handedness”, culminating in the death of Ian Tomlinson in April 2009.
I understand completely that previous unproven accusations should not be put before a jury, but the problem here is that those accusations are unproven partly through incompetence, and partly through deliberate obfuscation. Harwood avoided punishment by resigning, then was able to claim innocence because nobody had proved him guilty.
Police officers do a very difficult job, and should be defended from frivolous or malicious accusations, but they shouldn’t be allowed to duck responsibility for misbehaviour, particularly at the cost of somebody’s life.
I have known many coppers over the years, and the overwhelming majority have been decent people who want to serve the public good.
People like Simon Harwood who play the system do them no good at all. Every time a police officer gets away with something on a technicality, the bobby’s job gets a lot harder.
In the UK we have policing by consent, which relies on public trust. That consent may be withdrawn if the police are seen to be unaccountable.
- UK News: ‘Questions remain’ over cleared Pc (walesonline.co.uk)
- Pc who pushed Ian Tomlinson acquitted of manslaughter (theweek.co.uk)
- PC Simon Harwood repeatedly accused of excessive force against public (guardian.co.uk)