The Unlawful Killing of Ian Tomlinson

Dedicated to the memory of Ian Tomlinson (7 February, 1962—1 April, 2009) and the 1,772 people who have died after contact with the police in England and Wales between 1990 and 2020, for not one of whose deaths has a police officer been convicted.


P.C. Simon Harwood killed Ian Tomlinson
With a standard-issue extendable baton
At the G-20 protest at the Bank of England,
On Cornhill Street, by the Royal Exchange Buildings,

Where he lay on the ground not possibly knowing
He had less than ten minutes of life left within him.
And helped to his feet by passing protesters,
With his skin deathly grey, his eyes dazed and feet stumbling,

Within sixty yards collapsed on the paving.
And the cops stood around and stopped resuscitation
By a news photographer who wanted to help him,
And a medical student who tried to revive him,

And refused to speak to an ambulance operator
Called on emergency services by a social worker,
But waited to take him to the Royal London Hospital
To pronounce Ian Tomlinson: ‘Dead on Arrival’.

But you, who sympathise with the police
And excuse all of their crimes,
Take your hands away from your eyes,
It’s time to look at their lies.


Dr. Freddy Patel was a Home Office pathologist,
Twice suspended by his peers from medical practice,
But employed by the police of the City of London
To rule out evidence of assault on Ian Tomlinson.

At an autopsy kept from the relatives of the victim,
Ignoring the wounds where the police dog had bit him,
And the bruise on his leg where the baton had hit him,
And another on the side of his head where he’d fallen,

Without taking blood samples from his examination,
Concluded he’d died of a ‘heart condition’.
But a second autopsy reached a different decision:
That Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding

Caused by blunt trauma to his upper abdomen.
And a third agreed with the second conclusion —
Though detectives attempted to influence their opinion,
And withheld evidence from the family of Ian Tomlinson.

But you, who identify with the police
And ignore all of their crimes,
Take your hands away from your ears,
It’s time to listen to their lies.


P.C. Simon Harwood, at forty-five years of age,
Was an officer in the Metropolitan Police,
With ten complaints of misconduct in twelve years of service:
For assaulting and arresting a man while off-duty,

And punching a girl he was racially abusing,
And falsifying police records to cover his lying,
Who had run through the crowd with his steel baton swinging,
And his shoulder number removed and his face well-hidden.

At the Independent Police Complaints Commission
(Only called when the press published video recordings)
Defended his actions with falsehoods and accusations
About being assaulted and other fabrications,

While the papers sold lies about ‘brick-throwing’ protesters,
And the inquiry ignored six surveillance cameras,
And obstructed journalists in their investigations,
And acquitted P.C. Simon Harwood of all allegations.

But you, who empathise with the police
And forgive all of their crimes,
Take your hands away from your mouth,
It’s time to speak out at their lies.


Ian Tomlinson was a newspaper vendor
Who had moved to London for work as a scaffolder.
He was forty-seven years old and father to nine children,
And sold the Evening Standard outside Monument Station,

And enjoyed a drink and supported Millwall,
And lived in a homeless shelter in Smithfield,
And was trying to get home through the police cordons
That had kettled protesters for seven long hours.

And walking away, with his hands in his pockets,
Was knocked to the ground, his arm trapped under his stomach,
Struck from behind by a riot policeman
In a helmet and stab-vest and surrounded by police dogs,

Who was free to assault whomever he wanted
With his riot-shield and tear-gas and his metal baton,
In a split-second decision killed Ian Tomlinson —
And he never even saw P.C. Simon Harwood.

But you, who apologise for the police
And dismiss all of their crimes,
Open your mouth, your ears and your eyes,
It’s time to expose all their lies.


In Southwark Crown Court the Crown Prosecution Service,
Faced with a death they’d dismissed on the basis
Of conflicting causes from different autopsies,
Were called to reconsider the medical evidence

By the inquest’s verdict of ‘unlawful killing’
By excessive and unreasonable force when striking,
Beyond the reasonable doubt of the inquest jury.
In a new criminal trial, without police testimony

About the defendant’s record of misconduct hearings,
In judgement of a copper who had killed without warning
(That a final police disciplinary hearing
Finally dismissed for ‘misconduct’ on a full police pension)

Despite all the evidence for the charge of manslaughter,
And the removal of the pathologist from the medical register,
On the standard of proof, with a unanimous jury,
Found P.C. Simon Harwood to be: ‘Not Guilty’.

And you, who sympathise with the police
And excuse every one of their crimes,
Close your eyes, your ears and your mouth,
The truth must still wait for its time.

— After Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (1964)

More political poems by the same author:

Parking in Fletching

The Battle of Hyde Park

The Nuremberg Defence

Open for Business

The Red Lady of Paviland

Explaining a Few Things

Definitely London Town

Holy Island

 The Aylesbury Wall

When We Marched For Homes


New Left Revue (Being for the Benefit of Mr. Assange)

The Nation’s Favourite Poem

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