Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Smith Must Act Over Police Death Thugs

The home secretary is facing calls for a Scarman style inquiry into the death of bystander Ian Tomlinson after a masked police thug was caught on camera in a sickening unprovoked act of police brutality.  

Police brutality is laid bare in shocking video footage obtained by the Guardian which reveals the newspaper seller, who was not a protester, being viciously attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a masked baton-wielding police officer in riot gear during last week's G20 protests. 

The video raises disturbing questions for the home secretary over police riot tactics and once again calls into question the version of events which differs from the one the police gave to the media at the time. 

What is equally disturbing is that the officer is heavily masked with no shoulder number and only the words "MP" for Metropolitan Police on his helmet. The  tactic of wearing a balaclava to hide the identity of specialist riot control officers from prying eyes, is  increasingly being used and was evident  during the BJ4BW protests. 

The video, obtained by the Guardian, along with eye-witness accounts,  contradict the official version of events given by police and has led to calls from LibDems for a criminal investigation and inquiry into Tomlinson's death.  

In a completely different version of events to that given by police, the video clearly shows the man sauntering home, hands in pockets, in a submissive pose, not making eye contact, before he's viciously attacked.

Police then stand round making no attempt to help and only a protester comes to Tomlinson's aid. Moments after the assault was captured on video, Tomlinson suffered a heart attack and died.

In an official statement on the night of Tomlinson's death, Metropolitan Police made no reference to any contact with officers and simply described attempts by police medics and an ambulance crew to save his life after he collapsed.

In a staggeringly toothless and useless gesture, the police complaints watchdog, the IPCC is only 'monitoring'  an investigation by City of London police.

At the time, IPCC commissioner, Deborah Glass, said: "Initially, we had accounts from independent witnesses ... who told us that there had been no contact between the police and Mr Tomlinson when he collapsed."

"However, other witnesses who saw him ... have since told us that Mr Tomlinson did have contact with police officers.

As in the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting, police seem to have briefed the media before establishing the full facts and made claims which simply do not stand up to eye-witness accounts and video scrutiny.

A precedent for a judicial inquiry is well-founded. In 1975 a Labour home secretary set up a judicial inquiry under Lord Scarman into the riots in Red Lion Square that led to the death of student Kevin Gately, the  first demonstrator to be killed on the UK mainland for half a century.

A coroner's inquest concluded Kevin's death was the result of a blow to the head from a blunt instrument. The Orange Party like many journalists was convinced his death was due to an attack by mounted baton-wielding riot police. 

The circumstances surrounding Tomlinson's death must be investigated, criminal changes brought and a full jury-led inquest held, if only to restore some confidence in the police who have taken a severe battering by their disgraceful actions.

The shocking video is a terrible indictment of police brutality and unwarranted riot control tactics. On this matter the home secretary cannot bury her head in the sand. As was the case over the death of Kevin Gately, it is the duty of a responsible home secretary to order a full judicial inquiry. 

UPDATE 5pm: According to Guardian the IPCC has finally decided to reverse its earlier decision and will now "independently investigate" the brutal attack as a criminal investigation. Meanwhile it is still "trying to identify" the mystery masked 'officer'. The home secretary has been noticeable by her absence of any meaningful comment.

Picture Stills and Video: Guardian


Silent Hunter said...

"...Smith must act over police death thugs..."

Of course she should - but she won't.

Anyway she's probably too busy cleaning up the mess her husband left behind after his "night of porn".

Both metaphorically and perhaps even literally -urgh!

nav said...

I doubt any action will brought forward, the Met Police have a good knack for covering their tracks and dispersing any liability