Police officer Simon Harwood was today cleared of killing newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London in 2009 as concerns about previous allegations of violence emerged.
Pc Harwood, 45, shoved the 47-year-old father of nine, from behind and then hit him with his baton, causing him to fall heavily to the ground.
Minutes later, Mr Tomlinson collapsed and died on the street.
The act was described by the prosecution as a “gratuitous act of violence by an officer whose blood was up.”
However, the jury of five men and seven women returned a not-guilty verdict after 18 hours and 45 minutes of deliberation, prompting Mr Tomlinson’s widow, Julia, to break down and walk from Southwark Crown Court.
The officer sat emotionless in the dock then began crying as the Tomlinson family left the room and his wife Helen sobbed and texted others on her mobile. As he was released, still sobbing, he hugged his wife.
The verdict comes 14 months after an inquest jury ruled that Mr Tomlinson was unlawfully killed, prompting the Crown Prosecution Service, which had initially declined to prosecute, to reverse its decision.
Pc Harwood admitted he was wrong to hit Mr Tomlinson during the protests in April 2009 but listed a series of more extreme measures he could have resorted to control the situation – including using his gun.
He said: “At the time I believed he was obstructing the police line and needed to be encouraged to move away.
“We don’t get time to sometimes think of your options because it is an instant reaction.”
It can now be revealed that Harwood’s attack on the homeless alcoholic marks the lowpoint of a police career blighted by violent outbursts.
In 2005 Harwood was hauled up by his bosses after he was seen to knee a suspect in the kidneys as he lay on the ground.
Again in 2008 he was at the centre of allegations of ‘heavy handed’ policing after he twisted the handcuffs of a manacled motorist he had pulled over for an apparent speeding offence.
Jurors did not hear evidence of the two incidents after Mr Justice Fulford ruled it would complicate the hearing and compromise its fairness.