Im leaving myself open to deliberate misunderstanding here, but am I alone in my unease at the tone as distinct from the substance of some of the coverage of the death of Ian Tomlinson in the G20 demos? Comment (from Ken Livingstone for example) was overconfident about declaring it as clearly a case of police assault when they couldnt possibly know what happened seconds before the apparently damning video clips. Channel 4 Newss two items on the story last night amounted to almost 15 minutes and began to seem like a campaign. We may be seeing the results of trial by media of the police, in the slowness of the officer concerned to come forward, and in the terrible PR from the beginning, as if nobody in the Met had learned anything from the de Menezes affair, other than to suffer trauma themselves.Yes, I know the story may be going even further in the other direction, with reports that Mr Tomlinson may have been struck several times earlier. The line of defence emerging in the Daily Mail for example is that he was a drifter and alcoholic ( and therefore by implication obstreperous and in fragile health), but as even the Mail insists, thats of course no excuse for police brutality. Still, we have come along way from the death of Sammy Devenney which took 32 years to reach a still unsatisfactory conclusion by the modern machinery of the Police Ombudsman in NI, then Nuala OLoan, whose equivalent in England and Wales is the far more tentative Independent Police Complaints Commission. Two final thoughts. Police walls of silence are probably stiffened by hue and cry which may make even the most rigorous inquiry more difficult. Yet without the media storm, the police might have stuck to their initial complacent and evasive line indefinitely. Police accountability in England has some way to go before it matches the system and culture in Northern Ireland. How would Hugh Orde have handled the Tomlinson affair if he had got the top job?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London