Monday, October 11, 2010

UK police want to be above the law

The London Metropolitan Police has a problem: they keep abusing their powers and wrongfully arresting or even killing protestors. They keep discriminating against non-white members of their own force. And people keep finding out about these things using the UK's Freedom of Information Act. So they've hit upon a solution: put themselves above the law:

Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, has privately lobbied the home secretary to make it harder for people to take legal action against his force, the Guardian has learned.


The proposals are contained in appendices to a letter marked "confidential" and sent to Theresa May by Stephenson, who is Britain's most senior police officer, on 22 June. In the documents, released after inquiries by the Guardian, he suggests:

  • Making it harder for people to sue the police for damages in civil actions. These usually involve allegations of brutality or wrongful arrest.
  • Loading higher costs on to officers and other staff suing police forces at employment tribunals. These cases include claims of discrimination and unfair treatment.
  • Charging the public a fee for freedom of information requests. The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to help citizens hold public bodies to account.
The result of these changes will be impunity for police: impunity to abuse, impunity to discriminate, impunity to behave unlawfully. That is completely unacceptable in a democratic country under the rule of law.