Jurors at the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson will consider whether the actions of a police officer amounted to unlawful killing, assistant deputy coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, said yesterday.
In his summing up, Thornton said the inquest jury must decide whether Pc Simon Harwood acted illegally and directly caused the death of Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London on 1st April 2009.
The judge explained that unlawful killing occurs when a person ‘deliberately and unlawfully’ commits an offence that causes death.
Tomlinson, 47, collapsed and died after he was hit by a baton and pushed to the ground by the officer.
Thornton said the jury had to decide if the baton strike and push were ‘unlawful’ and ‘dangerous’ and whether they inadvertently caused Tomlinson’s death.
The coroner added that the push on Tomlinson did not have to be the ‘sole or principal’ cause of death for the jury to return an unlawful killing verdict.
Judge Thornton also told the jury that three other possible verdicts were misadventure, natural causes and open.
He said that the question of whether Harwood acted reasonably is an objective test.
He reminded the jury that Harwood had said it was ‘a very poor push’, but others said it was more significant. Having seen the video and CCTV footage, the jury can determine that, Thornton added.
He directed that if the jury members are sure, at the higher standard of proof, that the answer to the question about whether the force used in the push was not reasonable, they must find that the police officer acted unreasonably.
Thornton said: ‘A baton strike or push by any person is an assault unless justified by the law.’
He said that the police were entitled to clear the passage on the day of the G20 protests and that the dispersal sweep of Royal Exchange Buildings was lawful. But police officers should have avoided the use of force if at all avoidable, he stressed.
He noted that witnesses, including other police officers, said Tomlinson was not a threat.
He reminded them jury that Harwood himself had said Tomlinson ‘was not a threat’ to him ‘or any other police officer’.
But Harwood said that, in his perception, Tomlinson was walking towards the police line.
Thornton directed that the jury will have to decide whether Harwood was ‘honestly mistaken given that events happened quickly’ or ‘has lied about it for his own ends’.
Given that CCTV footage showed Tomlinson was walking away from the police line, Thornton said the jury had to decide whether it was ‘an honest mistaken perception of events, or an untruthful account of events put forward as a deliberate lie to try to excuse his actions’.
Thornton said pathologist Dr Freddy Patel’s ‘credibility’ as a witness must also be considered.
The jury had heard that two pathologists disagreed with Dr Patel’s finding that death was due to natural causes, and believed that Tomlinson died from internal bleeding.
Thornton reviewed the evidence of PC Kerry Smith.
Smith had said Tomlinson approached the line and said he wanted to get through, but she said: ‘No’, but he was not swearing or aggressive and ‘he was of no threat of any kind to me’.
He turned round and faced the opposite direction and ‘he was pushed by a police officer to the left of me’.
Smith said she was ‘shocked by the forcefulness of the push at the time’.