Friday 2 April 2010

One Year On - Where's The Justice?

Yesterday was the first anniversary of both the G20 protests and the shocking death of Ian Tomlinson. In the morning, there was a short but emotional vigil in the City of London where the family laid flowers at the spot where Ian Tomlinson died. The Guardian also printed a letter from campaigners, politicians, trade union leaders, lawyers and academics, raising concerns about the Crown Prosecution Service's lack of transparency and continuing delay in announcing whether charges will be brought against those responsible for Ian's death. Promises ere given that a decision would be made before Christmas, but we are still waiting.

We know that successful prosecutions of police officers are incredibly rare, even when the evidence against them is strong. The recent acquittal of riot officer Delroy Smellie was hardly a complete surprise, although the decision of the main witness Nicola Fisher not to give evidence made this almost a certainty from the start (incidentally, imagine if we all gave up on the pursuit of justice, however unlikely it may be to achieve, in exchange for selling a story to a national newspaper for £26,000? There would be no campaigns, no scrutiny and the police would be able to act with even greater impunity than they do now.)

It may therefore seem understandable that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, wants to be well prepared before making an announcement, but it is difficult not to see his actions as anything other than following the pattern of so many other custody death cases I have been involved with over the last decade. The long delay leaves the family, their legal team and supporters in limbo, fearful of saying anything that may been seen as prejudicial to any potential prosecution, whilst allowing other investigations into the conduct of the police on 1 April last year to effectively write Ian Tomlinson's death out of the narrative. It now seems unlikely that a potentially controversial decision will be made until after the general election.

It was good to see that so many people, including those whom activists have had some disagreements with in the past like the Green Party's Jenny Jones (who sits on the Metropolitan Police Authority), insinctively understood the importance of standing in solidarity with the Tomlinson family on this most difficult of days. Respect to all of them for doing so. The only real frustration this week was with one organisation, who shall remain nameless, that kept wanting to make changes to the joint letter, eventually agreed to the initial text and then threw a strop because their director's name was used without specific permission. It was just so inappropriate and so different from the generosity of the support offered by others - somehow, I don't think we'll be asking for their help again.

The same solidarity demonstrated on the Guardian letters page was shown by all those who attended yesterday's vigil and weren't there as part of the scrum of photographers. But it was weird being back in the city and standing on Cornhill a year on. It was so quiet - completely different from the excitement and expectation of the same time last year. That there was no return by anti-capitalist campaigners weeks before the election, supposedly the big political event of the year, highlights how much of the anger against the banks has dissipated, turning to cynicism or even despair over the last twelve months. The bankers are back receiving their obscene bonuses whilst every mainstream political party argues that ordinary people, especially those working in the public sector, must suffer for the disaster that the banks created. And it feels as if there is nothing we can do.

So no justice for us - and still no justice for the Tomlinsons. But if the Director of Public Prosecutions does the unthinkable and refuses to press charges, I can't see them reaching for the PR services of Max Clifford and giving up on the search for justice. From experience, I know that waiting twelve months for answers is just the beginning - and that Ian's family will need the generosity, solidarity and support shown yesterday on many more occasions in the coming year.

Photos: Bob Archer


Pie 'n' Mash Films said...

VIDEO Death of Ian Tomlinson 1 year on - Report by Bill Maloney:
Award winning film director Bill Maloney and his courageous camera woman Lilly Starr join the grieving family of Ian Tomlinson to pay their respects on the anniversary of his death. Ian Tomlinson was innocently making his way home from work through the G20 protests in London on 1 April 2009. Videos and CCTV footage showed an unprovoked assault on Mr Tomlinson by a police officer striking him from behind with a baton then proceeding to thrust him, also from behind pushing him with force to the ground. The police made no attempt to help Mr Tomlinson. He died shortly afterwards on the pavement in the street. Bill Maloney exposes the fear that Ian's family have of speaking out against the Establishment, this is corroborated by Ian Tomlinson's son 'Paul' in this video.
Interviews are held with supporters: Anna Bragga (The Green Party), Raj Ullah (Brother of vicitm Habib 'Paps' Ullah) and Paul King, Son of Ian Tomlinson bringing this tragic story up to date.

Anonymous said...

Has this country become corrupt?

Or has it always been corrupt, with people having to fight for justice?

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