Tuesday 7 April 2009

The death of Ian Tomlinson: Guardian release video

The Guardian tomorrow publishes an investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson, the 47-year old newspaper seller who died on April 1st when heading home past the G20 protests.

The newspaper has tonight released remarkable video footage showing a police officer assaulting Tomlinson from behind and knocking him to the floor, just before he died. The video can be seen here, along with frame by frame analysis.

The video forms part of a dossier of evidence which is being submitted to the police complaints watchdog, which is investigating the death.

Duncan Campbell writes about the dossier here. As he suggests, this will raise many questions about Tomlinson's death, and the policing in London on April 1st more generally. It also seems probable that this will become a watershed moment in capturing the consequences of recent shifts in the changing media landscape for public accountability.

Only a week ago, Times Comment Editor Daniel Finkelstein wondered if the presence of four LibDem parliamentarians as legal observers at the climate camp protest the same day was Nick Clegg's idea of an April Fool's joke, condemning it as "an extraordinary insult to the police, [which] it misjudges the public mood about the protests". That was strongly challenged by LibDemVoice.

Finkelstein's comments did reflect the endurance of an instinctive trust in the police which may well be shaken by this case.


Silent Hunter said...

This happened under A LABOUR GOVERNMENT !

By a police force controlled under a LABOUR HOME SECRETARY who pilfers from the public purse to finance her husbands (Who's also her £30K pa political secretary) porn habit.

So what's the difference between Labour and the FUCKING NAZI's then?


Still support them do you?

Labour will be lucky if they simply lose the next election - if I had any say in it - they would all be hanging from the lamp posts in Parliament square.

B A S T A R D S !

Silent Hunter said...

So Sunder how proud do YOU feel of YOUR Labour Party and their armed wing - The Met!

Hopefully your repressive, Corrupt Authoritarian Party will not only lose the General Election, but will also cease to exist as a political party and become just a nasty stain on the fabric of our history.

Labour supporters make me sick - and to think I even voted for Labour in 1997.

God forgive me.

Sunder Katwala said...


Some of the differences are that a newspaper is publishing an account and a dossier; that this is going to an independent complaints commission which the police do not control; that both supporters as well as opponents of the government will ask questions about this - in parliament, on blogs, and in many other places - no doubt pushing for an inquest with a jury, and be pushing for broader changes in policing to ensure its consistency with the human rights legislation we now have (such as those being advocated by Stuart White here on Next Left).

The footage is certainly worrying. The case needs to be investigated seriously and properly. Of course, the police officers involved will and should also have the important right to put their account and be heard as part of that, and so I won't be pretending I have all of the facts in my possession about Tomlinson's health, exactly what else happened, etc.

More broadly, I think yours is one of many complaints about a "police state" in which the police have operational independence from the government which is supposedly running said this police state.

By all means campaign and vote for whichever candidate and party you prefer at the next election. By all means let us be vigilant about democratic freedoms and civil liberties: we will make that argument within the Labour party and others will do so in other parties too. But perhaps we could all try to do so in a way which does not diminish the experience of those millions of people systematically murdered by totalitarian governments in the middle of the 20th century.

Silent Hunter said...

Thanks for the reply Sunder, but I'm afraid that no amount of 'smoke and mirrors' can disguise the fact that YOU are a supporter of a party that is ushering in a Police State - FACT!

I also don't buy into the whole 'let the police tell their side of the argument' crap - the film footage speaks volumes and it is probably why LABOUR - that's right! YOUR LOT - are about to make it an offence to film police officers going about their lawful business of beating up members of the public. Shame for them that they didn't bring it in sooner and we would all be none the wiser about this death and probably just believe the Mets LIES about it. Remember how they LIED about the death of the Brazilian plumber? Or had you conveniently forgotten about that?

But Yes! You're right - the people of this country will get a chance to vote soon - and hopefully they won't believe any more spin and lies from Labour and will annihilate them as they so richly deserve.

As for diminishing the "experience of those millions of people systematically murdered by totalitarian governments" - well, clearly the irony of that statement in the light of your continued support for Labour is - lost on you.

Tom said...

"the film footage speaks volumes and it is probably why LABOUR - that's right! YOUR LOT - are about to make it an offence to film police officers going about their lawful business of beating up members of the public"

No, they're not. The legislation you're referring to has been confirmed by the courts to only apply to such information as "calls for an explanation" and which raises a "reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to assist in the preparation or commission of an act of terrorism". Anything for which there was an obvious other reason (which would clearly include coverage of the police at a protest) is not covered by the offence.

Stuart White said...

Tom: thanks for your clarification. I'm not an expert on this. But for a different perspective, take a look at Lewis Cooper's comments in response to my post on Next Left, 'Why hasn't the BBC shown this film?' Lewis argues that the police could use this legislation as a pretext for seizing cameras. While the seizure might subsequently be 'laughed out of court', the damage will have been done.

Silent Hunter said...

Come off it Tom!

You know as well as I do that the phrase "reasonable suspicion" is a carte blanche term of legalese which allows the police to prevent photography - like the film clip we're discussing - to be shown in public or even made in the first place..

Only the politically naive would believe the police wouldn't abuse this power.

I mean come on! - They used anti Terror legislation to ban an 80 year old Labour supporter from their own conference for shouting "Rubbish" at JackBoot Straw AND they used anti terror legislation against Iceland - funny how it sems to fit anything that Labour or the police want it to fit Huh?

At least Stuart White understands the principal of 'damage having already been done'.

I repeat - Labour are a threat to our civil liberties.

Newmania said...

As ever you cannot wait to have go at the Police. They were because you and your nutty friends with dogs on strings wanted to protest about god knows what while ordinary people ( alien species to you) were trying to get to work
This video is not shocking , I can see you have never been chucked in the van ( no suprise there ). He had a heart condition he died boo hoo. If anyone is to blame its the protesters ,the Liberals MPs there is suport and the Labour supprters like you who urge them on
You may be right about a watershed moment. Not one the parasites will like though

Zio Bastone said...

Sunder Katwala:

A totalitarian State (one without accountability to the people) and a police State (where, as you define it, the police lack operational independence from the government) are by no means always coextensive. Apartheid South Africa was both a (partial) democracy and a police state within your definition.

Nor do either of those definitions apply to what, increasingly, we have here in Britain: a State in which, on the one hand, the complex means by which a healthy polity accounts for itself to itself become etiolated and/or decoupled one from another (joined up government? Hah!) and where participants (like the voters) walk offstage and, on the other, shadowy and/or unaccountable forces tend to occupy the vacuum that is left.

Whilst what we have in the UK is patently not a ‘distributed totalitarianism’ such as happened with the South American death squads of 80s, the trends are extremely worrying. Not just New Labour’s overwhelming desire to amass all sorts of information about the individual and New Labour’s managerial model of how to govern but also, in particular, a steady shift away from ‘justice’ and towards ‘control’: towards the arbitrary, unconstrained use of power through the regular invocation of states of exception (terror legislation and Iceland is in this category); the creation of catch-all legislation whose operational interpretation is at the whim of the police (photography, questioning individual police officers); government attempts to constrain the judiciary through tick-the-box sentencing guidelines, and at an individual level examples such as David Milliband’s quite disgraceful prevarication over torture allegations.

Sunder Katwala said...

Zio Bastone raises a set of issues which all require vigilance and scrutiny. Others might not agree on every point but it is an intelligent contribution (without being unable to also be a passionate or angry one) particularly because it distinguishes between different issues but also argues they amount to a trend which should be challenged and reversed.

Whereas Silent Hunter's case includes wanting to string up Labour from lampposts (ministers? MPs? party members?) and just can not see the point of a fair inquiry and trial for the police simply because the prima facie evidence is extremely worrying and apparently damning. With respect, that is not a good foundation on which to promote the cause of civil liberties.

Newmania - my instinct is not to have a pop at the police. I am sceptical (over on the latest Liberal Conspiracy) on Sunny's framing of the debate in that way. Stuart's initial eye-witness account was calm, rational and expressed some sympathy for the police themselves.

Mark Thompson said...

I agree that this may well become a watershed moment. Hopefully the police will learn from this and it will make it less likely to happen in future.

I have made my contribution to this debate here.