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No charges over death of Ian Tomlinson

22/07/2010

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced today that no charges will be brought in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the 'G20 protests' in London on 1 April 2009.

He said: "This case concerns the tragic death of Mr Ian Tomlinson on 1 April 2009.  Shortly before his death Mr Tomlinson was struck with a baton and pushed very strongly in the back by a police officer, causing him to fall to the ground.

"The matter was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and then passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine whether any charges should be brought.

"After a thorough and careful review of the evidence, the CPS has decided that there is no realistic prospect of a conviction against the police officer in question for any offence arising from the matter investigated and that no charges should be brought against him.

"On 1 April 2009 an event known as 'G20' was held in central London. It attracted a number of demonstrators. Although many were peaceful, some were not and criminal damage and violence ensued. In various locations the police took action to deal with the disorder and, shortly after 7pm, a decision was made to form a cordon moving people away from the Bank of England and down Royal Exchange.

"Mr Tomlinson had no connection with the demonstration on 1 April 2009.  Shortly after 7pm, he was in Royal Exchange. As the police cordon approached him, he had his hands in his pockets and was walking slowly in front of the officers.  A police dog handler put his hand out to move Mr Tomlinson away and a police dog bit him on the side of his leg.  At that stage, one of the police officers in the cordon moved forward and, using his baton, struck Mr Tomlinson on the left thigh.  Almost immediately he pushed Mr Tomlinson very strongly in the back.  This push caused Mr Tomlinson to fall heavily to the floor and, because he had his hands in his pockets, he was unable to break his fall.

"Although Mr Tomlinson was able to get back to his feet with the assistance of bystanders and walk a short distance to Cornhill, he then collapsed to the floor.  Attempts to resuscitate him were, regrettably, unsuccessful and Mr Tomlinson died.

"Having reviewed all the available evidence, we concluded that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that the actions of the police officer in striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and then pushing him to the floor constituted an assault.  At the time of those acts, Mr Tomlinson did not pose a threat to that officer or to any other police officer.

"Having drawn that conclusion, the most serious charge considered by the CPS was unlawful act manslaughter.  That would require the prosecution to prove a causal link between the alleged assault on Mr Tomlinson and his death.

"On that issue, there is a sharp disagreement between the medical experts.  The Coroner appointed a pathologist, Dr Patel, to carry out a post mortem. He did so on 3 April 2009. No other medical expert was present.  Dr Patel recorded his findings and concluded that Mr Tomlinson's death was "consistent with natural causes" and he gave the cause of death as "coronary artery disease".

"Mr Tomlinson's family and the IPCC sought a second post mortem and this was undertaken by another pathologist, Dr Cary, on 9 April 2009.  He concluded that Mr Tomlinson's death was the result of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver.

"On 22 April 2009 the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards instructed another pathologist, Dr Shorrock, to perform a third post mortem.  Dr Shorrock agreed with Dr Cary's conclusion.

"In the face of this fundamental disagreement between the experts about the cause of Mr Tomlinson's death, the CPS embarked on a detailed and careful examination of all the medical evidence and held a series of meetings with the experts in an attempt to resolve, or at least narrow, the areas of disagreement. This inevitably took some considerable time.

"Even after this extensive exercise there remains an irreconcilable conflict, between Dr Patel on the one hand, and the other experts on the other, as to the cause of death.

"A conflict between medical experts inevitably makes a prosecution very difficult, but the CPS proceeded on the basis that such a conflict need not automatically mean that a prosecution must fail. For that reason, we explored at some length the possibility of proceeding without relying on the evidence of Dr Patel. However, we were ultimately driven to conclude that, as the sole medical expert who conducted the first post mortem, Dr Patel would have to be called at trial as a prosecution witness as to the primary facts. Even leaving out of account the stark disagreement between him and the other experts as to the cause of death, the CPS concluded that the evidence of those primary facts undermined the basis upon which the other experts reached their conclusions about the cause of death. As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson's death and the alleged assault upon him.

"That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter.

"Two types of assault charge were considered: assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

"Assault occasioning actual bodily harm would require the prosecution to prove that the alleged assault on Mr Tomlinson caused him actual bodily harm. So far as the push on Mr Tomlinson is concerned, the conflict in the medical evidence prevents this. If the push caused Mr Tomlinson's death, the appropriate charge would be manslaughter, not assault occasioning actual bodily harm. If, as we have concluded, the prosecution cannot prove a causal link between the push and Mr Tomlinson's death because of the conflict in the medical evidence, it follows that actual bodily harm cannot be proved either.

"The separate strike with the baton was also considered. It had left patterned bruising. But where injuries are relatively minor, as these were, the appropriate charge is common assault in accordance with the CPS Charging Standard, which is applied nationally.

"Common assault does not require proof of injury, but it is subject to a strict six month time limit. That placed the CPS in a very difficult position because enquiries were continuing at the six month point and it would not have been possible to have brought any charge at that stage.

"The CPS also considered the offence of misconduct in public office which in essence is one of abuse of the power or responsibilities of the office held.  The threshold of the offence is a high one and the offence of misconduct in public office cannot simply be used as a substitute for other offences. Simply being a police officer who commits a criminal offence, even one of assault, does not, without some other aggravating factor, automatically amount to the offence of misconduct in public office. Mr Tomlinson's death would be an aggravating feature, but, for the reasons already stated, the prosecution cannot prove a causal link between the alleged assault and the death to the criminal standard. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal has indicated that it is not appropriate to charge misconduct as an alternative to manslaughter where the causal link cannot be proved.

"The decision in this case was taken by Stephen O'Doherty, a Deputy Director of the CPS Special Crime Division and a highly experienced reviewing lawyer. Advice was taken from Tim Owen QC, who is recognised as one of the leading lawyers in the country specialising in police law and criminal law. I have reviewed all of the important material myself.  I also attended a number of the meetings with the medical experts. Against that background, I am satisfied that the CPS carefully considered all the evidence in this case.

"I am aware that comment has been made about the time taken to reach a decision.  I understand the anxiety that this has caused to the family of Mr Tomlinson and I have discussed it with them.  But I am satisfied that the CPS acted as quickly as was consistent with the thorough and careful review of the evidence that was necessary.  The review entailed not only the painstaking exercise of mapping the movements of all concerned over many hours but also the extensive exercise of seeking to resolve the complex and difficult areas of disagreement between the medical experts.

"I recognise the considerable public interest in the CPS decision in this case and, in the interests of transparency and accountability, I have decided that a detailed explanation of the reasons for the decision not to bring a prosecution should be published. That explanation is available on the CPS website.

"The Coroner will now be informed of this decision so that he may move to an inquest. At the conclusion of the inquest the matter will be reconsidered by the CPS."

Ends

  1. There is a supporting document that explains the decision on prosecution in the death of Ian Tomlinson
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  4. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: the Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  5. The DPP has published his long-term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard" at www.cps.gov.uk/pps
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol