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CPS's decision not to charge over death of Tomlinson a "disgrace"

26 July 2010

Top prosecution lawyers have come under fire for their decision not to press charges over the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Solicitors have been assessing the possibility of a judicial review after the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal team said contradictory medical reports left “no realistic prospect” of securing a manslaughter conviction against the police.

Tuckers partner Jules Carey, acting for the Tomlinson family, said: “The CPS decision is a disgrace. They have accepted the officer’s conduct is unlawful, but have determined not to prosecute him for anything.

“We shall examine this decision and challenge it if possible. There must be an inquiry into whether the failure to charge is a lack of competence or of will.”

A variety of different charges were considered including actual bodily harm and common assault, as well as misconduct in public office, but Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, said the CPS lawyers 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”.

In a lengthy statement, Starmer said: “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.”

Stephen O’Doherty, a deputy director of the CPS Special Crime Division and “a highly experienced reviewing lawyer”, according to Starmer, was tasked with building a case.

Advice was also taken from Tim Owen QC, who Starmer called “one of the leading lawyers in the country specialising in police law and criminal law”.

Mr Tomlinson’s son Paul King said: “After 16 months of waiting, to hear nothing is being done is a complete joke. Today they gave us no hope. This experience has broken our family apart.”

In a 1,500-word explanation of the CPS’ conclusions, Starmer insisted Mr Tomlinson’s death on 1 April 2009 had been dealt with as “quickly” as possible.

Video evidence was obtained showing police hitting the 47-year-old newspaper seller with a baton at the G20 protests shortly before he collapsed and died on his way home from work.

Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group INQUEST, described the decision as a “shameful indictment” of the legal system’s ability to cope with police criminality.

“The eyes of the world will be looking on with incredulity as yet again a police officer is not facing any criminal charges after what is one of the most clear-cut and graphic examples of police violence that has led to death,” she said.

Describing Mr Tomlinson’s ordeal as being “pushed very strongly in the back”, Starmer accepted there was evidence of police assault but even the mildest charge, of common assault, would not be successful because the six-month time limit for lodging a case had elapsed.

The CPS has published a full explanation of the decision on its website.

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