PC Simon Harwood, the Metropolitan police officer who struck Ian Tomlinson before he was unlawfully killed at the G20 protests in April 2009, but has been found not guilty of Tomlinson’s manslaughter, is facing a disciplinary hearing – in public.
This is the first time a Met police internal disciplinary case has been heard in public, but Harwood isn’t bound to attend. And unless you’re one of the people who applied for a seat last month, you can’t go either. Eighteen seats are reserved for journalists, so the details will be available.
It’s not quite clear what precise rules Harwood is supposed to have breached. The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 lists the standards of professional behaviour expected of police officers and we assume that the hearing will focus on use of force (“Police officers only use force to the extent that it is necessary, proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances”) and Harwood has already accepted a charge of discreditable conduct (“Police officers behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in it, whether on or off duty”).
After the not guilty manslaughter verdict, Harwood’s disciplinary record was made public. Low points include an alleged road rage incident, and a misconduct hearing that was cancelled after Harwood retired from the force on medical grounds in 2001. Eighteen months later he was an officer with Surrey police, where he was accused of grabbing a suspect by the throat, punching him in the face and pushing him into a table with enough force to break it. By 2005 Harwood was a member of the Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG), the section wheeled out whenever there are public order disturbances in London. He has since been accused of kneeing a suspect in the chest, threatening to burn someone’s house down and searching police databases to find a driver who’d been involved in an accident with his wife, though most of these accusations remain unproven.
All this information will be available to the panel. If found guilty, Harwood can be sacked from the force. The police hope that holding the hearing in public will help restore public confidence, which has been seriously eroded over this case. London Assembly Member Jenny Jones said:
I welcome the fact that this hearing was held in public because justice has to be seen to be done in these high profile cases if we are to restore the public’s trust in the police. I hope that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime would encourage the Met to hold hearings with a strong public interest in public in the future.