Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

The Camera never lies apparently

Imagine you hit a guy with a baton, and then pushed him over and he died a few minutes later.  Say you got really lucky and the police ‘made an error’ and said the post mortem showed the deceased died of natural causes.  So far so good (for you).  But hey-ho, a video appears of your action (you know, hitting an unarmed guy walking away from you, when you are with your mates in full riot gear, when he is clearly no possible threat). 


Then another lets say competent (rather than actually honest) post mortem shows that abdominal bleeding caused by the blow was the cause of death. 


Well you might claim that you had not realised the now dead man was walking away from you, because just having his back to you and walking away from you offered no real clue as to the direction of travel.


And you might be dead lucky and have a road-rage incident suppressed (one in which you quit your job on health grounds ahead of any disciplinary, but then  amazingly you rejoined the self same job).


Oh and the inquest declared your victim unlawfully killed.


Well under such circumstances, would you expect?


(a)   conviction and jail time, or

(b)   to walk away free


The Ian Tomlinson timeline for anyone who is interested.


  • 1 April 2009: Ian Tomlinson is caught up in a G20 protest. He collapses in the street and dies
  • 4 April: Police say post-mortem examination show he died of “natural causes”
  • 7 April: Video footage emerges of Mr Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by police officer
  • April 2009: Further post-mortem tests find cause of death was abdominal bleeding, caused by blow
  • 22 July: Prosecutors say there will be no charges as there is no agreement on death cause
  • 3 May 2011: Inquest verdict of unlawful killing
  • 20 June 2011: PC Simon Harwood charged with manslaughter after review of inquest evidence
  • 18 June 2012: PC Harwood goes on trial at Southwark Crown Court
  • 19 July 2012: PC Harwood found not guilty

And the video showing the reasonable use of force


  1. JuliaM says:

    It’s a travesty, an utter travesty. We now have an inquest verdict of unlawful killing, and a trial verdict of ‘Nope, he didn’t do it!’ and we have the evidence of our own eyes. What should we believe?

    And then we have the Birmingham riot killings verdict too. And I now don’t know what to believe ..

  2. NickM says:

    my thoughts exactly! The Brum thing really got me today. What got me was the “unprecedented disorder” defencel Like there is a riot on so do what the fuck you like!

  3. John Galt says:

    FFS! This is a policeman! an officer of the state!

    They have protected their own since time immemorial and the only reason it went all the way to caught was expressly BECAUSE it was caught on camera and then shown on TV.

    The agents of the state had already connived together during the post mortem to make it look like a natural death, equally I recall that members of the police (not sure if it was the squad concerned) had removed their identifying badges. I also recall that for several days after the footage came out the police were ‘unable to identify the officer in question’.

    So they’ve tried to dodge this left-right, left-right until finally the politico’s demanded a scape goat and they then pulled out all the stops to ensure an aquittal.

    Move along everybody, nothing to see here…

  4. John Galt says:

    Ooopps! – Apologies for the Court / Caught.

    Freudian slip obviously.

  5. RAB says:

    What the fuck were the Jury thinking of? Or were they nobbled?

    As for the Birmingham case, that is utterly beyond belief!!! Hardly a case of having a tricky time parking was it? That was murder.

  6. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Yep, kill some proles boys, you won’t be convicted of anything. Even if the post mortem confirms the cause of death was you hitting them just a few minutes before they die. Oh yes and its on video for everyone to plainly see.

    An utter piss-take.

  7. Mr Ed says:

    The verdict of unlawful killing by an English Coroner’s Jury used to form an indictment at the Assizes. The Crown Court jury has spoken.

    Now I could only say what is said by Paul Schofield as Sir Thomas More here:

  8. JuliaM says:

    “The verdict of unlawful killing by an English Coroner’s Jury used to form an indictment at the Assizes. The Crown Court jury has spoken.”

    Hmmmm. Best of three?

  9. The Jannie says:

    But God help you if you whack a burglar when he’s turned his back . . .

  10. Mr Ed says:

    @Julia we have already lost double jeopardy in England and Wales. I would not wish for the protections that remain to be further weakened.

    I would like it to be possible to impeach any government official before a jury (no Judge) and ask that they impeach the said official, on grounds of misconduct, and that the jury could disqualify said official from office any any future office of profit or penion from the State, including local government. That would be a deterrent and valuable recourse.

  11. Tarka the Rotter says:

    ‘Move along towards a police state now, nothing to see here…’

    The jury’s verdict is a disgrace – the police are no longer the citizenry in uniform subject to the same laws as the rest of us (if indeed they ever were). I feel a sense of outrage, as I did when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot repreatedly and nothing – nothing was done about it.

    On the other hand they have abolished double jeopardy so bring on the retrial…

  12. Lynne says:

    British law doesn’t deal in justice, only outcomes.

  13. formertory says:

    Inspector Gadget has managed to miss the point somewhat:

    “G20 verdict: Trial by jury – 1 Trial by media – 0″

    Hope I got that link…..

  14. The jury system is sometimes going to produce a perverse verdict; it’s goes with the territory. However, we’ve got such a slew of them at the moment that I fear the jury system – already undermined by the loss of double jeopardy rules – is going to be lost.

    The state wouldn’t have much trouble pushing it right over at the moment; it would only have to point out that it costs £80k a day and yet the public are losing faith in its results.

    The judges need to get it firmly through their heads that they must stop all this mucking around with anonymity and trying to exclude evidence. It’s been an argument for years that actually, we do need to know about a person’s previous history or lack thereof in order to have an idea of whether they might be more likely to have committed the crime they are accused of. I know they mean well, but they are not helping the jury system; their very actions are having the opposite effect.

  15. MickC says:

    Well, surely the jury system is the worst there is-except for all the others (with apologies etc.)

    Yes, the verdict was bad-but there was at least a trial-which at one point there wasn’t going to be.

    Juries can produce perverse verdicts-but I’d still prefer a jury to a single (or however many) judges-whose income depends on the state and their political masters.

  16. NickM says:

    That would be apologies to Aristotle who said it about democracy.

    I don’t think it is the trial system as such but the investigation and I would cite the CPS as prime contractors here. And sometimes the cops. Google “Stephen Downing” or various Paddies banged-up for not bombing Birmingham etc. or Trupti Patel. And the thing is it is only a “perverse verdict” when it happens to other people. It could happen to me or you. Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy! Utterly made-up by a shonky “doctor” that I wouldn’t trust to write a script for me for paracetamol. You know in the Patel case there was a deliberate abuse of probability theory. I know probability theory. If I’d been on that jury I would have called it. And on that basis she was stuck in chokey. It is not acceptable. It never is.

  17. Tarka the Rotter says:

    Have any of you read the comments going up on Inspector Gadget? It’s a window into police thinking…

    You can cut the contempt for the public with a knife (obviously only if you have bought one legally and are not under age etc etc)

  18. ToastandMarmite says:

    Sorry, what’s being argued here?

    If you are pointing out the flaws in both the Met’s internal procedures and the Prosecurion Case then fine.

    If you’re all saying that the jury reached the ‘wrong’ verdict, then we might as well throw out hundreds of years of legal safeguards. I’m firmly of the belief tha it is better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to jail….

  19. RAB says:

    I was an executive in the Crown Court for 12 years. I have summoned Juries, and a couple of years ago, sat one one. In general they do a good and conscientious job, it often depends on how they’re directed.

    The whole system needs a clear out. The Judges rules and rules of evidence need a thorough overhaul. If the jury had seen this…

    The bastard would have gone down. And how the fuckity fuck the cunt gets to resign when facing disciplinary charges and then have the nerve to re-join and the fuckwits let him, is beyond belief.

    The CPS has been a political tool of the Govt from inception. Hence you get the full weight of the law for “special” crimes like the John Terry case (which shouldn’t be a crime at all, however vile the insults) and this bastard almost didn’t get prosecuted at all!

  20. Mr Ed says:

    The rules of evidence are absurd. The truth should be admissible in court, and it could be a matter for comment. Trying cases on the evidence (permitted) is arbitrary, as it is always going to be arbitrary what is and is not permitted, e.g. similar fact evidence isn’t always allowed.

    If you don’t want previous convictions considered, the easier route is to not commit the offences in the first place. As it is, if you raise a witness’s conviction, you own criminal record (if you have one) becomes an issue. All game playing.

    Where it might be grey is when ‘allegations’ are regarded as ‘truth’, e.g. a police officer had 25 complaints and 2 were upheld, there might be a string of complaints raised, but again, if a jury can decide guilt, it can decide the appropriate weight to put on a case.

    Also, juries determining sentence might be better, or if they had the right of electing to vary a Judge’s sentence. Reducing the power of the paid State official is likely to be better in the long run.

  21. Sam Duncan says:

    A couple of points.

    1) I’m not going to criticize a jury. I’ve been on juries, and it ain’t easy to give a verdict you know is going to seem strange to observers. If there has been foul play, it’ll come out in the end.

    2) Really only a pet peeve of mine: there’s no such thing as British law. Well, I say “only”; as my dad – a Scottish lawyer, and, incidentally, not remotely a Nat – would say to this kind of thing, “Och, it’s England…”. Funny story about that, now I come to think of it: he often tells of a partner in his firm who had to go to London to deal with some top English colleagues on some business or other who returned astonished that he knew more about the English law concerning whatever it was than the London lawyers. “They had to look everything up! I ended up telling them about English law. None of them actually seems to know anything!” My impression is that RAB’s right: the English legal system is a mess, and does need a good clear out.

    Not that ours is perfect. I’ve been sitting on a story that would make a good post for a while, partly out of concerns for anonymity, but mainly through sheer laziness. I’ll have to get round to it.

  22. Penseivat says:

    Yet more comments from the ‘Trial by Youytube’ mob. I’m sure that the majority of them, in an earlier life, were French revolutionaries demanding the death penalty of any of the aristocracy, no matter what they did for the poor, or members of the Khmer Rouge sending anyone who wears spectacles to a gory death as they are ‘obviously’, proletariat. In all societies, in some era or another, there are the great uninformed, caught up in the hysteria of the moment who believe they know better than others who have been given access to all the facts. Simon Harwood appears to be not a nice man. Some of the newspapers have called him a thug in uniform because he has had several allegations made against him – none of which were proven. Any Police officer will tell you that allegations about their conduct or actions are par for the course by people who have been arrested for whatever offence. This can then be used by the defence in any trial to try and put an alternate light on the case. Police officers are, in the main, subject to a much more draconian disciplinary system than the ordinary member of public in that they are assumed, by their internal disciplinary officers, to be guilty unless they can prove their innocence. Mr Ed wants all the truth to be admissable in court. I couldn’t agree more. So the next time a drug dealer is on trial, he can be asked if he has ever had any other convictions, or even arrests, for drug related incidents. This will, however, have no impact on the impartiality of a jury, will it? If you believe this, then you will believe that Tony Blair is an angel in disguise doing the work of the Lord. Harwoord was subject to a trial. The verdict was not guilty. Get over it!

  23. MickC says:

    Mr Ed

    previous conduct can be admitted under the “similar fact evidence” rules. The reason it is not usually admitted is that the defendant is charged with a specific crime-not with being a bad person. Wouldn’t the state just love to be able to do that to those of us it finds tiresome? Many of us would be in the firing line, I imagine.
    Never forget that the state has much greater resources than the individual. The double jeopardy rule has gone-so the state can just keep on and on at people it dislikes until it gets the result it wants-an absolute disgrace and a further loss of our freedoms.

  24. Mr Ed says:

    @ MickC i see your point entirely, but if a jury is to be trusted, and the derivation of ‘jury’ is those who are sworn, then can they not sort the wheat from the chaff? If they cannot, I wonder what use they are, albeit always better than State-appointed assessors.

  25. RAB says:

    You wouldn’t be a Police officer, former or current would you Penseivat?

    If so you will know that evidence in an English criminal trial is like a photoshopped picture, not the truth the whole truth and nothing but he truth, but something being massaged by both the prosecution and defence. Often relevant facts are hidden from a jury. This is how an adversarial system works. Innocent until proven guilty. It is infinately preferable to the inquisitatorial system where you are deemed guilty until (if) you can prove your innocence, that prevails on the Continent. But the Continental (EU) version will roll in relentless, just like every damn thing else the EU has gathered to itself. The Code Napoleon lives!

    The English Jury system is supposed to be about a trial by your peers, that is common people like you and I. Historically many of those peers would know you personally. So if you were an evil wrongoing little scrote, they would know your antecedents already and judge accordingly. Historically trial by jury was a defence against being stitched up by your feudal lord, who had absolute power over you, or so they thought.

    Now a trial is reduced to a snapshot of what is and is not admissable evidence, with no background at all. Conjourer’s trickery, if the Barristers are up to it, which they usually arn’t.

    So yes, citing your example, if a person is up for burglary or drug dealing etc etc, and they have previously been convicted of the same thing (tried and found guilty- your rules ;-) ) then I think it perfectly ok to admit these facts into evidence in any subsequent trial, don’t you?

  26. Mr Ed says:

    ‘and Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set You free’.

  27. NickM says:

    I am very sus about previous convictions being admissible.

    My mum sat on a jury once. Some scrote had ram-raided a sporting goods store. He was followed home by a milkman in what must have bee the most thrilling low-speed chase of all time. Well, milkman calls the cops (the judge commended him) and they rid the house to find nothing. Then someone (well a dog actually) barks at the ceiling and they go into the attic to find said miscreant trying to hide behind a huge collection of track-suits still in wholesale wrappings. Got four years in Durham nick for that half-arsed stunt. Obviously the jury convicted because this was not a case to trouble Holmes. I mean he dealt with the “Napoleon of Crime”, Moriarty and not some twat on a sink estate stealing Kappa. Now I said four years which seems quite high in the circs. But that was because the judge knew after conviction he had a aircraft hangar of previous. That is when it ought to come in and it did with a vengeance.

    But whilst I think it’s OK to bring the previous at that stage (and the judge read it with relish) not before because it will simply mean the cops and CPS will simply round-up the usual suspects and folks will go down for simply being “bad lads” and not for the crime they are specifically accused of. It certainly doesn’t help a criminal reform. It also means because of the “round up the usual suspects” mentality the real crim might not just walk free but never have his or her collar felt.

  28. bloke in spain says:

    “It is infinately preferable to the inquisitatorial system where you are deemed guilty until (if) you can prove your innocence, that prevails on the Continent. ”

    Said by someone who hasn’t the vaguest how the continental system works. No you’re not ‘guilty until you can prove your innocence’. (That’s more like the direction the British system is headed. The Police & the CPS decide they’re after your ass & you have to hope the courts will protect you from them. Conversely, if you’re the victim & they can’t be bothered or prefer to protect vested interests, forget it)
    In the continental system, the court directs the investigation of the evidence surrounding an accusation & decides if there’s a case to answer. Everyone, the accused, the victim, the witnesses, the police, are treated exactly the same. The court want’s to establish the truth* & all are obliged to assist it.
    I’ve just come to the end of a case that’s run for over 2 years. I was the victim of a theft. Once I’d made the ‘denunciation’ the police were obliged to proceed with it. They found a suspect. The court decided there was sufficient evidence for a trial. The accused was convicted & now has compensated me for my loss. That’s in addition to the penalties the court imposed for breaking the law. The point of the system is to uphold the law & remedy loss.
    Contrast with the Brit system. I can through bitter experience. Be the victim of a crime
    & report it to the police. That’s the end of one’s ‘rights’. From then on you’re reliant on the capricious nature of the ‘system’. If the police can be bothered to investigate. If the CPS think they’ve an easy enough case. Odds on, the last involvement of the victim is signing their statement. Even if it goes as far as court, the only interest is in the accused. As far as the victim is concerned, unless they’re called as a witness, it’s nothing to do with them. Case in point. Some years ago I was the victim of an unprovoked assault. ‘Road rage’ s’pose it would be called. Injuries sufficient to require hospital treatment. Several witnesses. Police apprehended the culprit at the scene & the asshole assaulted them as well. Six months later, after some expensive dentistry, I contact the police find out what’s the outcome. CPS decided not to proceed. End of. Which automatically blows any chance of my pursuing a damages claim for injury.
    No thanks. I prefer the continental model.

    *Yeah, I know. And all systems have their failings. But it’s a lot harder to cover stuff up when it’s dealt with in open courts. Which is why we’re housing a lot of politicians in jail down here, these days. Contrast with all those ‘insufficient evidence’ decisions the CPS trotted out during the expenses investigations.

  29. jameshigham says:

    On e of the new thugs they’re employing – can’t sack or jail him.

  30. RAB says:

    Said by someone who hasn’t the vaguest how the continental system works.

    Tsk tsk BIS, mustn’t assume things with no evidence you know. I have a Law degree. They taught me more than English law, we did Roman and International and Continental too. So I do bloody know how it works!

    But if you are happy to put up with a system run by professionals and with no imput from the laymen who are your peers as to matters of fact and guilt, that’s up to you mate.

    In such a system the accused’s antecedents are already known to the Judge or Magistrate, so that takes out the argument over previous record being known to a jury or not doesn’t it? Just like in an English court where everyone but the jury has seen a defendants record, or lack of one.

    We have massive shortcomings in this countries legal system. the CPS is politicised and does pre-judge cases, the sentences handed down by judges and Magistrates are often absurd, giving yet another suspended sentence to a defendant with a Rap sheet as long as your arm, but a jury can actually ignore the law and bring in a not guilty verdict if they feel that whatever the defendant is being charged with should not be a crime in the first place, or if the defendant is being targeted and scapegoated by the State. That is never going to happen under the Continental system run by professionals now is it?

  31. Edward Lud says:

    I’ve conducted somewhere in the region of 150 trials in the Crown Court in England, prosecuting and defending. Whilst I agree that the Tomlinson verdict is very hard to understand and, indeed, on the evidence available to me, I would have convicted, I cannot emphasise how important it is that you hear all the evidence before reaching a verdict. Only the judge and jury and the lawyers hear all the evidence (OK, there might be press and family present throughout, but the press often get it wrong in their reports, which are of necessity incomplete also, and the families are rarely impartial). Of course juries can get it wrong, although we agree for the most part to assume that a conviction is proper and an acquittal likewise, but until you’ve sat through the whole thing, the whole trial, you’re just not in the same boat as that jury. It’s worth bearing all this in mind when excoriating the jury in this case. You simply cannot know how you’d have reacted in their boots.

    As to bad character, it certainly used to be the case that it was only rarely admissible under what we called “similar fact rules”, but that is of limited relevance since the CJA 2003, which introduced statutory procedures for praying in-aid prior bad behaviour. Under these procedures, prior bad behaviour (sometimes even where only alleged) is now routinely introduced, but there are rules of thumb which guide the judge in deciding whether the jury should know about such things: how long ago was the bad behaviour; how similar was it; how frequent; was there a pattern; have there been significant periods of time when the individual concerned was of good behaviour; and, if it is the defendant’s previous which is applied to be put before the jury, is the case against him prima facie a strong one (if not, it’s inadmissible)? For practical purposes, prior form goes in, then, when it’s relevant and recent and there’s more than a bit of it. As I understand it, this copper, had one episode of violence, similar in some ways and dissimilar in others, from about a decade ago (allegedly?). I wouldn’t expect that to go in, sounds borderline to me.

    Finally, as to police contempt for the public (I intend to look at this Inspector Gadget site in due course), I agree. One of my profession was gunned down by police in Chelsea several years ago and the copper who fired the fatal shot appeared (no idea what was the outcome of the internal investigation) in his evidence to the inquest to be including song lyrics in his account. That’s a soldier’s mentality in the face of the enemy, not suitable for a civilian police force.

    I suppose I’m saying that I share a lot of the antagonism expressed herein to PC Harwood and the police force (although, of course, I’ve known professionally fine and decent officers in abundance, as well as dregs and one or two who were actively and proven to be criminal), its attitudes and to the statistically remarkable fact that no officer seems ever to have been convicted of killing anyone, and yet…. scepticism in the absence of having been at the trial throughout is best expressed as a query rather than as assertions.

  32. bloke in spain says:

    RAB do of course bow to your superior knowledge. And of course Spain has only come recently to the jury system but it’s been part of French criminal law for a long time.
    The point I was disputing was the “presumed guilty” aspect, which is simply not how it works.

    As for which system I prefer to live under? I spent a couple decades living in one of the highest crime areas of London. The novel experience of having law enforcement agencies actually interested in maintaining law & order may colour my judgement.

  33. RAB says:

    A tale of two cities for you BIS…

    Couple of years ago we had the car broken into outside our house (we live in Bristol) nothing much was taken because there was nothing much to take except the Sat Nav. Foolish of us to have left it in the glove compartment, but be that as it may… We rang the police and a couple of Scenes of Crimes ladies turned up 4 days later! Did they dust for prints and DNA? Nope just commiserated and issued a crime number for the insurance. That was the last we heard from them.

    Well at the end of that week we were due to visit my mum in Cardiff for the weekend. The car was still driveable even though te passenger door had been prised open, so we went over for the weekend.

    We parked the car in the drive and around 2am heard a massive bang, ran to the window couldn’t see anything and thought no more about it. Next morning we came to get in the car and found a huge crack in the windscreen , then I spotted an old golf club in the flower bed next to the car. What had happened was either some scrote had come down the drive and deliberately vandalised it, or had lobbed it the 20 feet from the pavement at the car for a pissed up laugh.

    We rang the police and they were round straight away to check the damage and took the golf club away for testing. Already impressive.

    And from them on they kept updating us. They had found a DNA match to a feral youth who lived round the corner. His story of how his DNA came to be on the club was as pathetic as could be, and the sargeant who kept updating us was all for prosecuting. The evidence was passed to the CPS, and yes you guessed it, they dropped the case. The sargeant was very apologetic, and seemed genuinely so, but there was nothing more that he could do.

    See, if the police actually do their jobs properly then you can get the service you deserve and pay taxes for. I was very impressed with the S Wales lot compared to the couldn’t care less slovenly Bristol mob. Pity about the CPS but they are useless bastards all over the country.

  34. Edward Lud says:

    RAB, I yield to none in my contempt for the CPS, but how was it to make the jury sure that the gold club (and therefore the scrote) had done the damage?

    Without evidence on that point, as I understand your unfortunate tale, all they had was a feral scrote and his prints on a golf club.

    Now, you could say that they should have charged anyway, just had a punt to see what the mags made of it, but wouldn’t that in fact be an abuse of prosecutorial power and a waste of time?

    They could, I concede, have forensicated the club for glass shards matching your window…

  35. RAB says:

    Well my Learned Friend, it was the scrote’s DNA they found on the club, and his explanation of how it came to be there was pathetic, but I really wasn’t expecting anything at all from that incident after the way Avon and Somerset’s finest had reacted to the first incident. After all, the first incident involved theft as well as criminal damage. It cost us a lot more to put right than a cracked windscreen did. So I was heartened at the dilligence of the Cardiff police over A&S, which was my main point in telling the story.

    But on another seemingly unrelated point, but not, if you see what I mean, as we are talking procedure here, what do you think of the second story Mr Lud sir…

    What on earth are the Bar Standards Board up to?

  36. Edward Lud says:

    RAB, my contempt for the CPS is as nothing next to my hatred of the BSB.

    Booker wrongly says they represent us. They don’t. That role is purportedly fulfilled by the Bar Council. The BSB is just the standard protection racket. I want Bob Crow to run the Bar Council.

    Talking of whom, I saw him sitting on the platform at Leytonstone tube on Friday evening. At the time I mulled over the thought of giving him my best Paddington hard stare. I was bemused, he was just sitting there with this smug, fat look on his piggy face. Leytonstone is at a fork in the line, so maybe he was waiting for a train to the correct tine of the fork. But only later did I realise that he was also enjoying surveying his realm.

    But I digress. I have no idea what the BSB is up to. I work on the basis that it will try to nail us anyway it can. In Rich’s case, it seems to be doing just that. Quelle Surprise (full disclosure, I know of him through a family member). A court of Star Chamber, secret denunciations. Still, who cares, we’re only lawyers.

    I certainly, btw, didn’t intend to seem unsympathetic about the golf club incident. I just couldn’t see how, on the evidence you described, RAB, it could go anywhere. Even though it would in all likelihood have remained in the mags (not, as I partially suggested above, to a jury), and the mags will convict a scrote as soon as look at him, I think even such a bone-headed triumvirate as the standard justices bench would have struggled to drag across the line. And as for a jury, not a chance.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: