PC Simon Harwood
April 5, 2011
The Pc who pushed Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London did so after a strike on the thigh had failed to move the newspaper seller away from the police line, an inquest has heard. Pc Simon Harwood told the hearing he had been “amazed” Mr Tomlinson fell forward after the “poor push”. The 47-year-old collapsed and died moments later, on 1 April 2009. Earlier, Pc Harwood said he had palmed off protesters and pushed a cameraman as confrontations “got out of hand”. Pc Harwood, part of the Metropolitan Police’s specialist Territorial Support Group (TSG), was caught on film pushing Mr Tomlinson to the ground in Cornhill, central London.
He said he had first seen Mr Tomlinson talking to two police-dog handlers and an officer near a bike shed on the Royal Exchange. He said he saw a police dog bite Mr Tomlinson on the ankle. “I then remember Mr Tomlinson moving in front of me from my right to my left as though he was walking or encroaching into the police line,” he said. Pc Harwood said he struck Mr Tomlinson because, although he was not a threat, he was ignoring other officers’ requests for him to move. Describing the moments he hit the father-of-nine, the officer said: “I struck the upper part of his leg with my baton. I didn’t get a reaction so I pushed him with the right palm of my hand to the top right of his shoulder. “Once I pushed him, he fell forward. I was amazed that he fell forward. I looked for other threats, then I moved back behind the police dogs.”
Pc Harwood said he had used forced “initially as an encouragement to make him move away”. “I hit him in the thigh because usually that’s where you get less harm but the maximum reaction. It really encourages people to move away.” He then said he had pushed Mr Tomlinson because he had got no reaction to hitting him in the thigh with the baton “and I needed him to move away from the police line”. Mr Tomlinson, who was not a protester and had been selling newspapers in Fish Street, was on his way home when he encountered the 1 April protests. The inquest, at the International Dispute Resolution Centre, is examining the actions of the police, the pathologist and independent investigators.
Pc Harwood told the court of the moments leading up to Mr Tomlinson’s death. He said he had had to “recompose myself” after several confrontations as the demonstrations got “out of hand”. He said he had been “frightened and confused” in the tense atmosphere and after being hit on the back by an object and palming off a protester who had approached him with a “clenched fist”, he had felt “very” scared. As video footage was played to a jury of Pc Harwood at the Royal Exchange Buildings, the officer said: “I was frightened and confused, I wondered where I was.” He said he had to find time to recompose himself after realising he had lost his colleagues.
On Monday, Pc Harwood told how he had been in fear for his life after attracting the attention of a “hostile crowd”. He said protesters had jeered and shouted as he tried to arrest a man on suspicion of criminal damage to one of the police vans. There was a “large gasp” from the crowd as the suspect he had hold of collided with the door of a police van, he said. Footage showed him leading the man further away from the vans with the crowd surging behind him. “At the time because he was becoming more aggressive, more hostile, I was starting to believe that this was getting out of control. “I was aware there was a very hostile crowd and I was actually in fear for my life then from what was coming towards me.”
Ian Tomlinson inquest – Tuesday 5 April 2011
10.34am: An important development. Another camera angle, and the jury is being shown footage of Harwood knocking into a BBC TV cameraman, Tony Falshaw. The footage shows Falshaw falling to the ground. In his initial statement, Harwood said he “collided” with the cameraman. In contrast, Falshaw described being “pulled” to the ground by the officer. Having watched the footage again, Harwood accepted he pulled the BBC cameraman to the ground. He said his balaclava and helmet impeded his peripheral vision, so he did not see Falshaw’s camera. He said he turned to “keep him [Falshaw] away from myself”.
10.38am: On to the scene seconds later, and we see footage of Harwood with his back to Royal Exchange Buildings, standing beside a handful of other officers he did not know. Harwood said the crowd was “very hostile”, although I’m not quite sure the footage alone shows that. “I was aware of a large number of objects being thrown,” he said. “I believe I got hit on the back of the head by an object at the time, by a protester.” Asked by Hewitt where the object was thrown from, Harwood said it came from behind him. When Hewitt pointed out he had his back to a building, Harwood said the object was thrown at him moments before that.
11.56am: Harwood accepts that he initially did not record details his use of force in his notebook. At the time he said it was “difficult to recall” all of what happened. He said he does now have independent recollections of the incident.
12.03pm: Harwood said he was just over two-thirds along Royal Exchange Building passage, still behind the dog handlers and walking south, when he saw Tomlinson standing by a bike stand to his right. He said he saw two dog handlers and a police officer interact with Tomlinson, as if to move him away, and a dog possibly biting him. “I believed from his actions that he possibly wanted to get through the police line,” he said. He added that Tomlinson was both “encroaching” and “obstructing” the oncoming police line.
“He wasn’t moving away from the police line, even through he had police interaction at the time. I moved forward to engage Mr Tomlinson. I then struck Mr Tomlinson around the upper half of his left leg – his thigh – with my baton. I didn’t get any immediate reaction from Mr Tomlinson, to [which] I then, as reaction, pushed him in the top half of his right shoulder. I pushed him with my right palm.”
12.31pm: Harwood said the baton strike “had not been as effective as I thought it would be”. He said he therefore considered it necessary to push Tomlinson “to further encourage him to move away”. Harwood has described the push as “reasonable, but poor”. He said: “Contact was made, but it was glanced rather than pushed through. It wasn’t pushed through.”
2.33pm: Harwood is now recounting the moment he saw footage of his pushing of Tomlinson on Sky News, a week after the death. “I believed it may have been myself,” he said. He said his team inspector responded that another officer, from Hackney, had been identified as the officer in the footage.
2.38pm: Ryder begins by telling Harwood he now has a “real opportunity” to help the Tomlinson family. He said everyone had seen the video, and that Tomlinson had his back to the officer. “I don’t agree,” Harwood interjected.
2.42pm: Harwood said an ambulance was called to his house when he “passed out and fainted” after watching the footage at home. He is struggling to answer questions from Ryder. They are having to be repeated several times.
Ryder told Harwood he must have known at this stage that he was the officer in the footage. The counsel pointed out that Harwood had watched the video in excess of 20 times. Pressed repeatedly on whether he knew he was the officer in the footage when making this statement, Harwood eventually replied: “Possibly, yes.”
3.01pm: Harwood accepts that he asked for a considerable amount of material about Tomlinson before answering more questions, including details about his “lifestyle”, previous movements at the protests and any possible previous offending. Ryder asked: “Were you trying to dig for material to discredit Mr Tomlinson, PC Harwood?” Harwood denied this.
Ryder: You said you are here just to help. You also said you were here to give some sort of answers to help the Tomlinson family … When you said that, did you mean that you were going to give truthful answers?”
Ryder: I am going to give you the opportunity now to really help us, if you would. We have all seen the video. We have all seen that, at the time you pushed Mr Tomlinson, he had his back to you. Do you agree with that?
Ryder: We have all see the video, how you push him and follow through, and we have heard from everyone else who was there as to how they perceived it. You have told us that you didn’t perceive Mr Tomlinson to be a threat … If you want to help, would you like simply to admit that what you did to Mr Tomlinson was unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive?
4.04pm: Another alleged discrepancy in Harwood’s evidence. He said that, when arresting the suspect, the suspect “ran into the door”. The footage shows Harwood ahead of the suspect, apparently dragging him.
Ryder: You’re ahead of him? But he has run into the door has he?
Harwood: … I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.
Ryder: From the video, can you see him running into the door?
Harwood: He has gone and hit the door, collided with the door, yes.
Ryder: Do you understand the word ‘run’, PC Harwood?
The exchange goes on in this fashion for several minutes, with Harwood seemingly reluctant to accept that the protester did not actually run into the door. Ryder suggests the police officer is willing to “be evasive and lie” even when the footage is being played to the court. “We can all see as well, PC Harwood, that is the problem,” he states.
4.09pm: Just to recap – we’re now listening to evidence relating to an incident around 10 minutes before Harwood struck Tomlinson, when the officer tried to arrest a protester daubing graffiti. Ryder has accused Harwood of trying to arrest the protester to be “the centre of attention” and misleading the jury about the circumstances of the incident. Harwood’s original statement said there was “a crowd of 200 protesters rioting and throwing missiles at me”. He said they were attacking him “armed with banners and glass bottles”. The footage being shown to the court does not show this. Ryder states: “You have been caught out haven’t you, PC Harwood? The reality is the video shows what you are saying isn’t true. So you’re having to pretend it is true.” Harwood denies this.
4.22pm: OK – a bit of rabbit out of the hat moment. Ryder has repeatedly asked Harwood about his claim to have been under serious attack by protesters, in fear for his life and unable to return to his carrier after trying to arrest the suspect. He mentioned that Harwood’s colleague, PC Hayes, was able to return to the van. Ryder asked repeatedly: “Is that the truth, PC Harwood. Are you telling the truth?” Harwood said it was. The counsel then asked the jury to be shown new footage. The CCTV footage shows that Harwood is surrounded by a number of other officers, and turns his back to the approaching protesters.
4.31pm: A series of still pictures are also being shown to the jury. They show the same aftermath of Harwood’s attempt to arrest the protester, less than 10 minutes before striking Tomlinson and around the time he claimed to be in fear for his life. The images show Harwood standing around with lots of other officers, including his colleague PC Hayes, who was able to return to his van. Ryder again accused Harwood of lying, of giving the “impression” that he was isolated, in fear for his life and unable to return to his vehicle when, in fact, he was standing beside colleagues including Hayes.
4.50pm: Proceedings have finished for today – but not before another significant development. Questioned by the assistant deputy coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, Harwood has accepted that the account of events he put in his notebook two weeks after the protests was incorrect. These relate to Harwood’s explanation of the aftermath of his attempt to arrest a protester for daubing graffiti, when he said he came under attack from hundreds of protesters and was in fear for his life. Video cast doubt over that, and Thornton specifically went through the list.
Harwood: At the time I wrote this, I thought I fell to the floor.
Thornton: Do you now accept that this is not correct?
Thornton: That you lost your baton – that is not correct?
Thornton: That you received a blow to the head – that is not correct?
Thornton: And that there were violent and dangerous confrontations – that is not correct?
Thornton: And you were struck by a missile – that is not correct?
Thornton then asked how Harwood got all this wrong when he wrote the statement on 16 April, more than two weeks after the protests. Harwood said: “Because at the time that is what I believed happened, from the information I had, that is what I believed happened to me there.”
April 5, 2011
The police officer who struck and pushed Ian Tomlinson shortly before he died was “amazed” to see the newspaper vendor fall to the ground after what he termed “a pretty poor push”, an inquest has heard. PC Simon Harwood told the central London jury that he had decided to tackle Tomlinson because he thought he was refusing to move away from a police line during the G20 protests in London in April 2009. “I felt at the time he was obstructing the police line moving forward,” he said. However, asked whether he had believed the 47-year-old posed a threat to either himself or anyone else, Harwood repied: “No, I don’t believe he did.”
Harwood said he stepped out from behind a pair of police dog handlers to “engage” Tomlinson after he failed to move away. “I thought it was proportional to do so, because he was still not moving away from the police line,” he said. “I then struck Mr Tomlinson around the upper half of his left leg – to his thigh – with my baton. I didn’t get any immediate reacton from Mr Tomlinson … as [a] reaction, I pushed him in the top part of his right shoulder. I pushed him with my right palm.
Once I had pushed Mr Tomlinson across the shoulder, he tended to fall forward and as he fell forwards I was then, was amazed, as he fell forwards, and once he had fallen over [I] was then looking around to make sure of any other threat that may be in front of me as well, and then retraced back behind the dogs.” Asked by Alison Hewitt, counsel for the inquest, why he had been amazed to see Tomlinson fall, Harwood replied: “The push that I had used wasn’t that much force in my mind to have caused that to happen.”