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Parliamentary scrutiny of political policing

copwatch | 24.03.2009 11:46 | SOCPA | Analysis | Social Struggles

With only ten days to go before the massive protests against the G20 summit taking place in London, the Parliament's Joint Select Committee on Human Rights accused British police of being heavy-handed, misusing counter-terrorism laws and anti-social behavior legislation when dealing with demonstrators.

"The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one that the state and police have a duty to protect and facilitate," said Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon and chair of the committee.

After a year of inquiry, the seventy-page report raised serious concerns about the police forces ability to distinguish appropriate use of the powers they are given. The committee complained that police have been routinely using "legal powers not designed to deal with protests such as anti-social behaviour legislation and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997."

The report was particularly damning regarding the police's abuse of stop-and-search powers to intimidate, unjustifiable seizures of personal property, and improper detention and containment of protesters. The committee's chairman said: "The state must not impose restrictions unless it is necessary, and proportionate, to do so. That is a high threshold. The presumption is in favour of protest without state interference."

Related Indymedia Posts: Police 'turn themselves in' over abuse of power claims | Report into police tactics at Kingsnorth released | Video of police tactics at Kingsnorth | Summer of rage? It's a figment of febrile imaginations | Senior police officer warns of “summer of rage” | Protest against police state | Britain 2009 (are we in a police state?) | Climate Camp Cops feel the heat | Over Policing | Police maintaining special database | Whole TV series on this issue

Police display a warning before attacking protesters (Photo: Tash [alan lodge])
Police display a warning before attacking protesters (Photo: Tash [alan lodge])

Mike Schwartz, a partner at London law firm Bindmans, said: "The police have adopted mission creep. One of the symptoms is their misuse of the power of stop and search under the Terrorism Act. It is being misused because the police have the power to impose a blanket area, where any police officer can search anyone without reason for suspicion on the basis that a senior police officer has thought that there might be terrorist activity or terrorists operating in the area."

Also under the spotlight was Police intimidation and monitoring of journalists, refusal to recognizing press cards, and accusations of obstruction and assault. The committee said it was unacceptable that journalists had to resort to taking court action against officers interfering with their work.

London's Metropolitan Police Service excused their wide-ranging misuse of power by saying, "We will always facilitate lawful protest and are committed to doing so but do have to minimize the disruption caused to others going about their lawful business".

The criticism follows a report was made to parliament last week into the abuse of police powers during the climate camp protests at Kingsnorth in 2008. The report and accompanying video documented systemic abuses of power including blanket stop and searches, arbitrary seizure of property, and a campaign of psychological intimidation which included sleep deprivation through helicopter overflying late into the night, mock night and dawn raids by tooled up riot police, and the infamous 'Flight of the Valkyries' incident.

David Howarth, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Secretary said, “What happened at the Climate Camp was deeply disturbing and part of what seems to be a disturbing national trend. Political agendas have no place in policing."

Defending Kent police's handling of the Kingsnorth protest, Home Office minister Vernon Croaker had claimed that seventy officers had sustained injuries in clashes with protestors. However a Freedom of Information act request proved that the police chiefs had misled parliament as no officers had really been injured in clashes at all.

Lib Dem MP David Taylor told the Commons: "We were told that [the police behavior] was justified because dozens of injuries were incurred. We have now found that those injuries were of a more prosaic origin—they were due to things such as insect stings and sunstroke. Unless the protesters are to be held responsible for wasps and the weather, are we not to conclude that the justification used at the time was wholly bogus and vacuous?"

Attempting some damage control after the damning report, the Kent Police chiefs have now voluntarily referred complaints about the actions of it's officers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Even before the these two reports in Parliament, the extent of political policing had been further exposed by the Guardian article revealing that the police have been building up a database of thousands of political activists as well as harassing sympathetic journalists.

Meanwhile however, the police propaganda department has launched it's annual offensive against mass protester. They've flooded the mainstream media with pieces on the much hyped 'summer of rage' in which they began to lay the foundations to justify heavy handed suppression over the coming months.

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Hide the following 6 comments

NO to socially constructed "laws" of convenience ANYWHERE.

24.03.2009 13:11

we are all - equal - human beings born on to this planet.

this corrupt parliament's endless deluge of unoriginal "legislation" becomes more and more meaningless & will increasingly be challenged - before the ink dries, ie: they can stick their socially constructed self serving "laws" of convenience, where the sun doesn't shine, while the people will just carry on trying to do the right thing/making a difference.

sadly far worse is israel's "military order" - 101 - (you couldn't make this crap up) which is routinely used to arbitrarily arrest,detain & convict palestinian children, for freedom of expression.

since israel does not recognise that the un convention on the rights of the child applies to palestinian children, palestinian children can be arrested and tried in a military court which follows military orders which are only about "enforcing" the illegal occupation, before being imprisoned in a military prison.

the "military orders" being of course a key tool in the program of ethnic cleansing - and the children a key target - specifically because they are children, and therefore vulnerable.


(o) Military Order 101: "Order Concerning Prohibition Of Incitement And Hostile Propaganda" -- "It is forbidden to conduct a protest march or meeting (grouping of ten or more where the subject concerns or is related to politics) without permission from the Military Commander. It is also forbidden to raise flags or other symbols, to distribute or publish a political article and pictures with political connotations." This includes artwork. No attempt should be made to influence public opinion in a way which would be detrimental to public order/ security. Censorship regulations are in accordance with the Defense (Emergency) Regulations 1945. The punishment for non-compliance is a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of 2,000 Israeli lira. Soldiers may use force to apply this law.

babs tucker

I hate the term "facilitate"

24.03.2009 15:39

The police use it as they want to imply that they're presence is somehow required for a protest to be legal. They want everyone to think that they have control over an area and that the citizenry are not capable of protesting without the assistance of the police.



Who are 'The Police'

24.03.2009 18:58

these political decisions taken by 'the police' should be traceable up the chain of command to an individual cop or politician and action taken against them. The term 'the police' is used as a cover behind which these unacountable individuals hide - 'the police' did this or 'the police' decided that makes it sound as if ordinary plod on the ground decided how to 'deal with' the Climate Camp for instance, whereas these are decisions taken by either an individual (Chief Constable/politician) or more likely an unelected unacountable cabal such as ACPO.

The state crackdown on the1980s miners strike was directed by Thatcher who, through ACPO, gave the police carte blanche to deal with the strikers in any way they thought fit. The policing of the Climate Camp was also at least rubber stamped by the Home Secretary (or someone else in government) in order to get the massive amounts of cops helicopter blanket stop and search powers etc.

The press and other media are also complicit in their 'reporting' of the policing of both the miners strike and the Climate Camp among many other state clampdowns, whereas any journalist worthy of the name would be trying to trace these political decisions back to the individual responsible, and investigating how such policing decisions were reached.

King Arthur


26.03.2009 16:50

Could we not face down the police with a similar banner that states "UNLAWFUL USE OF POLICE POWERS COULD RESULT IN YOUR PROSECUTION AND SUBSEQUENT REDUNDANCY'?

The Unbeliever

Be Specific

27.03.2009 11:43

In the interests of good journalism be more specific where "terrorist laws" are concerned. There are several and some are not called "terrorist" laws even when they are. Quote exact Title and year then the section number. This is also a large fault in the mainstream media but by doing this you sound like you know what your talking about and not just a "loony lefty".