Tuesday 31 August 2010

Condemnation of Tomlinson Pathologist Further Undermines DPP's Refusal To Prosecute

Today, the General Medical Council unpicked another thread in the state's case for denying justice to Ian Tomlinson's widow and his children.

It comes as no surprise that the GMC has ruled that the pathologist Dr Mohmed 'Freddy' Patel failed to meet professional standards during post-mortem examinations in three cases between 2002 and 2005. I can still remember clearly how devastated my friends Rupert and Sheila Sylvester were back in 1999, when Patel wrongly announced to reporters that their son Roger, who had died in police custody in Tottenham, had been a crack cocaine user. Patel was reprimanded for that instance of professional misconduct too and in 2003, Roger was found to have been killed unlawfully by the police. Still, it wasn't until July last year that Dr Patel was finally suspended from conducting any further post mortem examinations for the Home Office or the police.

Common sense suggests this leaves in tatters the claim by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, that there was an "irreconcilable conflict" in medical opinion over the death of Ian Tomlinson that prevented a charge of manslaughter. On the one hand, there's the post mortem opinion of Freddy Patel, a discredited pathologist with a string of reprimands and disciplinary verdicts against him, a doctor who has had no formal working arrangement with any UK police force for five years before Ian's death. On the other hand, there's the opinion of Dr Nat Cary, the former Head of of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Guy’s Hospital, a member of the Home Office's own Scientific Standards Committee and the author of more than fifty peer-reviewed published articles, mainly in relation to cardiovascular disease. Medical evidence stands and falls on the reputation of expert witnesses and whilst their testimony should never be relied on as the only evidence, I still can't understand why a jury can't weigh Cary's opinion against the value of Patel's credibility, alongside the video evidence available.

Meanwhile, there's still the question of why the coroner Paul Matthews picked Dr Patel over Dr Cary (who is normally called in for suspicious deaths in London), especially as earlier this month, an investigation by BBC Radio 4's The Report found that Patel had failed to meet the criteria for inclusion on the Home Office's Register of Forensic Pathologists. We also need to know what role the City of London Police had in influencing the coroner's decision - they paid Patel's fee at the same time as they were busy telling the Tomlinson family that here was nothing suspicious about Ian's death. And then we need an explanation why two investigators from the Independent Police Complaints Commission were denied access to the original postmortem by Dr Patel.

The accusation of a cover up is one that should always be made with caution - but in this case, the evidence is becoming alarmingly compelling.

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