Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Ian Tomlinson verdict should put the CPS on the hook

Very encouraged to see that the inquest into Ian Tomlinson's death has returned a verdict of unlawful killing. The Guardian reports that the CPS is now reconsidering its decision not to prosecute the office who shoved him.

But surely the next question has to be why on earth they made that decision in the first place. The ostensible reason why charges could not be brought was that there was "sharp disagreement between the medical experts" about the causes of death, and that this was so irreconcilable that there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.

It was obvious at the time that this was outrageous: the 'disagreement' was the result of a discredited pathologist giving a dubious analysis which was contradicted by two other pathologists in two independent post-mortems. Now that a jury has considered that pathologist's evidence and dismissed it as unsound, the decision looks indefensible.

As I understand it, in order to decide not to prosecute, the CPS has to be pretty damn sure that there is simply no way a jury could come to a guilty verdict. In this case, a jury not only could: it effectively has. That is surely enough to demonstrate that the CPS acted improperly in pre-empting deliberation of those issues by the criminal courts.

I hope the CPS comes under serious pressure over the coming days and weeks to explain itself - and that questions are asked about the real motives for its original decision.

(Incidentally, it makes me very angry that this verdict has not been enough to prompt an urgent question in parliament - neither was Tomlinson's death at the time, although we tried our best to get one - yet some smashed windows on the anti-cuts protests apparently were. In my experience - with a few honourable exceptions - this is completely typical of parliamentary and government attitudes to police treatment of protesters, and it's unacceptable. In our political system, the state's use of violence is supposedly legitimated by parliamentary democracy. If parliament shrugs its shoulders when the police kill an innocent man, that notion massively loses credibility.)

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