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Enough with the IPCC already

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | G20 | G20 fatality pushed by policeman.

I object to the very existence of the IPCC. A British policeman should be an ordinary citizen employed to enforce the law, just as anyone else could (and should). He should have no special rights or privileges. If a policeman misbehaves, he should be subject to exactly the same laws and processes as the rest of us. The Guardian's video shows what appears to be an unprovoked assault. There should be a prosecution, just as there would be if you or I had attacked Mr Tomlinson. There should be no delay for an IPCC investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service has a clear opportunity to redeem itself here, after its shameful performance in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes.

You may say that an independent body is needed to investigate the investigators. You may even be under the impression that this is what the IPCC does. Not so. In truth, this incident is being investigated by the City of London Police. The IPCC has no investigative resources of its own and is merely "managing". It is not designed for the prosecution of suspected criminals. Its rather limp mandate is:

We set standards for the way the police handle complaints and, when something has gone wrong, we help the police learn lessons and improve the way they work.

This is not about complaints handling or the learning of lessons. It is about a serious crime which may have led to a man's death. The police and the CPS can and should do the right thing. In the interests of restoring confidence in Britain's police forces, which many of us now see, not as our protectors, but as the praetorian guard of our out-of-control politicians, they should do it right quickly.

Miss Paine the elder tells me that one of her friends (a well-meaning young eco-sap) was at the G20 demonstration. Her impression was that the police focussed on soft targets. For example, she saw a 14 year old girl struck by a police baton when she was presenting no threat; just trying to find her way back to the group of friends from which she had become separated. On the other hand, she claims that the police steered well clear of violent anarchists, some of whom were attacking other protestors. So, they left the violent to get on with it, while seemingly determined to provoke a violent response from the peaceful. She also reported that the police constables near her group were initially friendly, but that their attitude changed after they had been taken aside for a pep talk by their officers.

The Tomlinson incident proves how wicked and foolish is Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act. The American gentleman who filmed the attack arguably committed an offence. After all it is undoubtedly "...useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism..." to have film of how (ineptly) the police conduct themselves in such circumstances. In making the film, he performed an important public duty. Since none of us (tellingly) expects the footage from 10 CCTV cameras in the area to have survived, he has served the cause of justice and we should be grateful. The omnipresence of camera phones and cheap video cameras should mean that the police are more likely to be detected in any misconduct. That is a good thing. It is hard not to be cynical about their apparent determination not to be filmed or photographed.

In passing, can I just express my contempt for James Graham, the LibDem blogger who is busy making snide and scurrilous political points about the story? He alleges that rightwing and libertarian bloggers don't care about Mr Tomlinson because he's not from the middle classes (unlike - presumably - Jean Charles de Menezes). To hell with him and his class war. This is a story that should concern all of us.