Friday, April 15, 2011

Protest policing must be proportionate

In April 2009, at the London G20 protests, UK police responded to peaceful protestors by "kettling" them, then beating them with fists and batons for "failing to disperse". Today, the High Court found that those tactics were disproportionate and unlawful:

The judges heard police used the tactic of mass detention against protesters that they accepted were peaceful, with officers meting out punches to the face, slaps and shield strikes as they tried to move a demonstration against climate change.

Judges found that the force used by police was "unjustified", criticised "imprecise" instructions given by senior officers about releasing innocent people, and said the mass detentions for five hours were an unlawful deprivation of liberty under article 5 of the European convention on human rights.

Sadly, the police still seem to be in full denial, and are appealing. But I expect the higher courts to echo the ruling. Public order policing must be proportionate to the actual threat. And when both the chief inspector of constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have concluded that this incident was not, you know you're on pretty shaky ground.

The door is now open for every single one of the 5,000 protestors unlawfully detained that day to sue for damages. I hope they do. Because clearly, the message needs to be got through to the UK's police hierarchy that this sort of abuse of power is unacceptable, and directly attacking their budget through the courts is the only message they will understand.