The organisers of planned protests in London against the UK G8 summit in June have issued the following legal advice to people who may be travelling to London or Northern Ireland from EU and non-EU countries.
Crossing the border.
If you want to come from another country to join us in London in June, you are very welcome! We have had a few questions from people asking if they may have any problems crossing the border to get into the UK. We don’t anticipate any major extra problems for the G8, but here is some information you might find useful.
If you are an EU citizen:
Britain is not in the Schengen zone, so you will get stopped and asked to show your passport or ID at the border. The police have the power to
search you and ask questions.
However, according to experienced legal activists (LDMG), it is very unlikely that you will be refused entry to the UK (unless you are very
high profile). If they think that you are coming for the G8, it is quite possible that you will be searched and asked questions, but then let
through the border.
If you are stop and searched or to held in a kettle, you DO NOT have to give police your name and address. The police will often ask for your details in these situations, but you DO NOT have to provide them.
However, under section 50 of the Police Reform Act the police DO have powers to take your name and address (but not date of birth) IF they reasonably believe you have engaged in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is defined as doing something likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others.
Section 50 powers are sometimes used by the police as a blanket means of obtaining protester names and addresses. This is potentially unlawful and seriously undermines protest freedoms.
If you are told to give your details under ‘section 50′:
- Clarify that they are using s50 Police Reform Act. If possible, record them saying this. In some circumstances the police have subsequently denied using s50 powers, claiming that people gave their details voluntarily.
- Ask them to tell you exactly what they believe you have done that constitutes anti-social behaviour. They must have a reasonable belief that you did something likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
- If possible film what they do, or record what they say on your mobile phone.
- It is not enough for the police to say they believe you are ‘going to’ engage in anti-social behaviour. Section 50 powers do not apply to possible future actions – only if a person ‘has been acting, or is acting in an anti-social manner’.
Powers given to the police to deal with anti-social behaviour are increasingly being used to gather information on participants in political protest.
Section 50 of the Police Reform Act gives police the power to demand personal details, if the officer reasonably believes that the individual has been involved in anti-social behaviour. Over the years the police have interpreted a wide variety of protest activity as ‘anti-social behaviour’ in order to obtain the names and addresses of those taking part. This has included sit-down protests, handing out leaflets and spontaneous demonstrations.
Failure to provide personal details when questioned under s50 is a criminal offence for which an individual may be arrested and prosecuted. It is hardly surprising that most people choose to provide their names and addresses, rather than face arrest, even if they do not believe they have been acting anti-socially. These powers provide an easy mechanism for the police to gather intelligence data.
Netpol observers have reported that the police are using allegations of anti-social behaviour as a blanket means of obtaining protester details, coercing people who decide not to provide that information voluntarily. Continue reading
A must-see film from Fat Rat Films:
While filming a routine stop and search of her boyfriend on the London Underground, Gemma suddenly found herself detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest.
Act of Terror tells the story of her fight to bring the police to justice and prevent this happening to anyone else, ever again.
Act of Terror from Fat Rat Films on Vimeo.
The following is a press release issues by the Netpol Lawyers’ Group.
The Metropolitan Police has complained that activists are not contacting them to discuss plans to protest at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. The police should be reminded that for stationary demonstrations there is no legal requirement that the police be notified beforehand. Furthermore, given the significant number of ‘pre-emptive arrests’ which have taken place during the Royal Wedding and at other events and the suggestion by the police of similar tactics being used again, it may not be surprising that protestors are wary of providing the police with information which could lead to their arrest and detention for exercising their right to free speech. Continue reading
Thatchers death prompted street parties in Brixton and Bristol on Monday night
Netpol has increasing concerns regarding the approach being taken by the Metropolitan police in relation to the policing of protests at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday and the planned party in Trafalgar Square on Saturday. Fears are growing that people organising or planning protest will be placed under surveillance, and that the police will be willing to resort to ‘pre-emptive arrest’. Continue reading
The use of civil injunctions and lawsuits is fast emerging as one of the biggest threats to protest freedom in the UK. Sussex University has obtained an injunction preventing any person from entering or remaining on the campus or buildings for the purpose of protest. At the time of writing students are still waiting to learn whether the injunction will allow the university to take possession of Bramber House, currently the site of a student occupation. Continue reading
Last week five of the nine people prosecuted for breaching public order act conditions while on a Critical Mass bike ride in July were convicted. In this article some of the defendants give their views on the arrests, prosecutions and the police attitude towards the Critical Mass.
On 27th July 2012, the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics displayed a
host of elements pruned from British history – customary ‘folk’
celebrations, the struggle of the Suffragettes; the invention of the
internet – wrapped in the glow of the physical liberation felt in sport
itself. But while these totems of dissent and liberation were being
worshiped inside the stadium, the Metropolitan Police arrested 182
cyclists outside on the roads of Stratford, on suspicion of disobeying
police orders: the largest mass arrest in the UK for many years. Continue reading
For those of us who have spent many years fighting excessive and intrusive surveillance of political protest by the state, the victory of John Catt in the Court of Appeal this week was especially sweet. The judgement rules that the gathering and retention of information about John Catt’s political activity was an unlawful breach of his right to a private life, and leaves police intelligence gathering practices in tatters.
John Catt was an 85 year old peace campaigner with no criminal history, known for making sketches at protests. He attended demonstrations against the EDO factory in Brighton called by the organisation Smash EDO where he was noted and identified by the Domestic Extremism Unit – at that time called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). When he made a subject access request under the Data Protection Act, the NPOIU was found to hold details of his appearance, his vehicle, demonstrations he had attended (not all of which were connected to Smash EDO), and other personal details. His daughter, Linda Catt, also found that her details and presence at the same demonstrations were similarly recorded by the NPOIU.
This sort of data gathering is not unusual. Continue reading
Chief Insp Sonia Davis
This article explores the continuing controversy over the use of Police Liaison Officers, or Protest Liaison Officers as they are alternatively known, in relation to their role in the arrest of 182 cyclists participating in the Critical Mass bike ride of July 2012.
We all know Police Liaison Officers (PLOs): their baby blue bibs, their smiling faces, their fondness for photo opportunities and good PR. We know their Twitter accounts, and their public guise as the new friendly face of public order policing. But how much do we know about what they actually do? Although they deny their role as intelligence gatherers in the strongest possible terms, we’ve yet to see any policy or guidelines on their function. So when Chief Inspector Sonia Davis, the head of the Metropolitan Police PLO unit, was called as a prosecution witness in the Critical Mass trial, we knew that hearing her speaking on oath would be the best chance yet of actually getting some answers. Continue reading