“Something has to change” – new Netpol report calls for immediate review of policing of fracking protests
New report calls for “comprehensive review of national policy” on the policing of opposition to the onshore oil and gas industry
Outside shale gas company Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road near Blackpool, Netpol is today launching its new report, ‘Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime’, which documents our many concerns about the way the police have responded to opposition to fracking at sites around England.
Much of the report focuses on protests in Lancashire, where there have been over 300 arrests since January. Throughout 2017, Netpol has heard testimony from campaigners and seen evidence of police officers pushing people into hedges and even knocking them unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.
We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. Campaigners have repeatedly accused Lancashire police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by Cuadrilla.
However, during a visit last week to Kirby Misperton in north Yorkshire, where protests only began on 19 September, Netpol spoke to campaigners who are already echoing many of the same complaints made by their counterparts in Lancashire. Read more
It remains unlawful for police to require identification and submission to filming as a condition for release from a kettle
The decision by British Transport Police (BTP) to use Railway Byelaws [, 174 kB] to obtain personal details from people taking part in recent Calais solidarity action does not change the basic advice to protesters – you do not have to consent to having your photograph taken or comply with demands to provide your name and address as a condition of release from a kettle.
The principle that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle, is contained in the High Court ruling on the Mengesha case in 2013. Lord Justice Moses made it clear that “it was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.” Read more
Westfield mass arrests the result of ‘police obsession with intelligence-gathering about political protest’
The arrest on 10 December at Westfield London of seventy six people taking part in a solidarity action against police violence is the latest in a series of mass arrests that, on this occasion, was apparently motived by the incursion of protest into ‘corporate space’. However, the police tactic of arresting large numbers of people to gather intelligence on protesters, deliberately disrupt protest and ‘punish’ those who take part in them has been a growing concern for Netpol since 2012.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered in support of demonstrations in the US, called after the failure to prosecute the New York police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death during his arrest for unlawfully selling cigarettes. The decision to take the protest to a mall was understandable: the point of protesting is to get noticed by the public and at this time of year, there are few places as ‘public’ or as noticeable as Westfield’s vast White City shopping centre. Activists in the US had adopted a similar approach, with Ferguson protests deliberately targeting shopping centres on ‘Black Friday’. The point, one of them stated, was “to let the world know it is no longer ‘business as usual’”. Read more
Netpol has been asked to share the following statement made by the organisers of Wednesday evening’s Eric Garner solidarity protest at Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush
We the organisers: London Black Revs, NUS Black Students’ Campaign and London Campaign against Police & State Violence thank the hundreds of participants of our protest and a special thank you to those who travelled from West London, to Central London, Leyton, Sutton and Wandsworth to assist and greet arrestees as they were imprisoned overnight. Read more
Students have spoken out at their anger and frustration at being kettled, filmed and questioned at the end of a demonstration at Birmingham University last night.
There had been a national meeting, followed by a march and an occupation of Birmingham University’s Great Hall. As the students left the occupation, they were met by lines of police. They were then held in a kettle, in cold and wet conditions, for up to four hours.
One student told us she had struggled to cope with the cold and wet and the lack of toilet facilities,
“It felt like forever, I needed the toilet and it was so horrible and uncomfortable and cold. When I finally got out my friends had to hold me up I was so cold and drained. I felt really helpless and wanted to cry.
My friend was in tears – this was the first demo she’d been on. She doesn’t want to go on another one ever again. The police terrify her now.
They kept us like that to keep our morale down, to absolutely smash our morale. I just feel really bitter and angry”
The arrest of 286 antifascists demonstrating against the presence of the English Defence League in East London on Saturday is another example of what seems to be a growing trend in public order policing – the mass arrest of people participating in unauthorised marches, rallies and processions.
The tactic of mass arrest is highly indiscriminate – no consideration is made of whether the individuals concerned are truly suspected of any offence. Netpol observers spoke to a boxing coach in East London yesterday, who had tried desperately to get police officers to realise that one of the people they had contained had simply been en route to his gym, which was round the corner from the police kettle. No-one seemed willing to listen to him. Read more
By Susannah Mengesha
This month I was thrilled to receive successful decision on my judicial review case against the Police Commissioner regarding the police use of Kettling for indiscriminate intelligence gathering purposes.
The court held that the police must not demand protesters to give their name, address and date of birth, and demand that they be filmed, as the price for leaving a kettle. Read more
For years it has been common practice for protesters held in a kettle (police containment) to be forced to submit to police filming and/or provide their details as a condition of leaving. There have been countless incidents in which protesters who have tried (lawfully) to refuse these demands have been threatened with arrest, or told they could not leave the kettle.
This should now change, as the High Court has today ruled that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle.
Lord Justice Moses criticised police practice in no uncertain terms. He stated,
It is unacceptable that a civilian photographer on instruction from the police should be entitled to obtain photographs for investigation and crime investigation purposes…as the price for leaving a containment. Although the common law has sanctioned containment it has done so in only restricted circumstances.
It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.
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 (ASB)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 routine or blanket means of obtaining names and addresses, especially during stop and searches. But if the police do not have a genuine and reasonable belief that the person they are dealing with has been involved with ASB, the use of this power would be unlawful.
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. Read more