Merseyside Police is accused of ignoring the standard practice, adopted by most UK police forces, of acknowledging that independent legal observers are not the same as protesters – and of justifying this on the basis of the way those monitoring a protest in Liverpool were dressed.
During a recent English Defence League (EDL) march and counter demonstrations against it on Saturday 3 June, legal observers who are part of Green and Black Cross‘ national network of volunteers who monitor the policing of protests were out on the streets near the city’s Lime Street station. As always, they were clearly identified by their familiar fluorescent orange bibs. According to media reports, there were over 200 officers and 25 riot vans deployed on the day.
As counter-demonstrators gathered, legal observers were told a Section 14 notice, imposing conditions on public assembly and giving police the power to order protesters to confine their protest to a certain place, had been issued. They were then instructed to join protesters in a designated protest area for members of Unite Against Fascism, one of the groups opposing the EDL march. Read more
The UN’s Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai is visiting the UK next week. We assess what has changed in relation to the freedom to take part in protests – and what issues remain a concern – since his last official visit three years ago.
Netpol was one of a number of groups who met Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, when he last visited the UK in January 2013. His report on that visit was published in June 2013 [, 588 kB].
Next week we are meeting him again. Here are some issues we think he should consider – and a reminder of how in a number of important respects, little has changed since his last report. Read more
This is a guest post by Netpol member Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG).
For (too?) many years, LDMG has been urging protesters who get nicked to plead not guilty, point out that being charged is not the same as being convicted. Even if it seems that you are bang to rights, there is a long way between arrest and trial.
17% – the chance of arrest
As you can see from the tables below, only 43 of the 100 cases we have monitored ever even went to trial. Of those that did, a number were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service at the start of the trial. A common reason for throwing the case out of court was the police not even showing up as witnesses, or offering no evidence, sometimes ‘losing vital tapes or documents. Read more
Members of Netpol partner organisation Green and Black Cross (GBC) travelled to the East Midlands yesterday to provide training for activists at the new ‘Daneshill Community Protection Camp‘ on becoming effective legal observers. Read more
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
Netpol – the network for police monitoring – is a grassroots organisation made up of various community groups which works for activists, supporting their right to effective protest. Netpol supports activists and community groups by:
- monitoring policing,
- writing reports and
- campaigning about oppressive policing such as excessive use of force, data gathering and intimidation of protestors.
In the current climate of counter-EDL demonstrations and protests about the cuts, Netpol urgently needs more funding to continue its work and increase its reach and effectiveness.
To donate to Netpol please click one of the standing order options below:
We aim to have one-off donation options available soon.
Police Liaison Officers (PLOs) have become a regular part of the policing of political protest up and down the country, ostensibly to promote ‘dialogue and communication’. Jason Parkinson, in a film made for the Guardian, has questioned the extent to which the PLO’s are also using their role to intimidate, harass, and gather intelligence on political activists.
Netpol has been monitoring the use of Police Liaison Officers in Sussex and London. We have concerns, based on our observations, that PLOs are taking on some of the intelligence gathering tasks that were previously done by the now widely distrusted ‘Forward Intelligence Teams’ (FIT). Read more
The Security Games are almost upon us. This summer’s London Olympics sees the largest peacetime policing and security operation since 1945, with a budget that has soared to around £1 billion.
Between now and mid September, the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) and its member organisations are gathering evidence of the impact that this huge police, private security and military presence has on the right to freely protest and the right of communities who live near to Olympic events to go about their daily lives without interference.
Legal observers from NetPol members Green and Black Cross and Legal Defence Monitoring Group will be monitoring the policing of demonstrations and protests that take place over the next six weeks. In east London, NetPol member Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is organising a pool of over 100 trained ‘community legal observers’ who will patrol in Stratford, Canning Town and the surrounding areas that are predominently poor, working class and the home of black and Asian communities. NMP is aiming to gather evidence of the misuse of sweeping police stop & search and dispersal powers, especially those targeting young people. Read more
A detailed new report launched today by the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) highlights how promises made by the police to ‘adapt to protest’ after 2009’s G20 demonstrations in London have been forgotten in a remarkably short space of time and a far more intolerant ‘total policing’ style response to protesters has developed in the UK.
The report, which covers a fourteen month period from late 2010 to the end of 2011, paints a bleak picture of the state of the freedom to protest in the UK. It documents how the tactic of containment known as ‘kettling’, the use of solid steel barriers to restrict the movement of protesters, the intrusive and excessive use of stop & search and data gathering, and the pre-emptive arrests of people who have committed no crime, have combined to enable an effective clamp-down on almost all forms of popular street-level dissent. Read more
A Judicial Review was brought by John Catt on February 9th to challenge the lawfulness his entry onto a ‘domestic extremism database’. , The veteran peace activist, who has no criminal convictions, and is often seen sketching on protests has 66 entries on a secretive database run by the National Domestic Extremism Unit(NDEU). The NDEU now operates as part of the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism command.
The majority of the entries concern his association with protests against the EDO factory in Brighton, which manufactures arms components, although an estimated 15% of the entries relate to other protests both in Brighton and around the UK.
The police also admitted to having retained, but recently deleted, John Catt’s photograph. Yet they continued to maintain justification for the retention of personal information about Mr Catt, including his appearance, his movements and details of his car.
HMIC recently criticised the units handling and retention of data in their report on undercover policing, finding, “the rationale for recording and retaining the intelligence was not strong enough”. This was dismissed by the Met in court as ‘not applicable’ to the current case.
Judgement is still awaited.
Facebook riot cases
Another man has been cleared of encouraging rioting or looting via Facebook during the August’s riots. A jury took just 90 minutes to agree that Christopher Milligan’s post did not amount to ‘intentionally encouraging or assisting rioting’.
Milligan is the fourth man to have been acquitted by a jury for writing on Facebook. His fate differs markedly from that of Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who were jailed last year for making very similar comments. Both men had pleaded guilty to encouraging crime in their home towns, although there were no outbreaks of disorder in either location.
Dale Farm – Production Order
Essex police obtained a production order, after a fiercely contested case at Chelmsford Crown Court, forcing journalists present at the Dale Farm eviction to hand over to un-broadcast footage. Judge Gratwick ignored serious concerns put forward by journalists, and found a ‘clear and compelling case for disclosure’.
The police are demanding all footage taken by the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 as well as freelance filmmaker, Jason Parkinson. The NUJ has stated its intention to appeal the decision to the High Court.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is an attack on press freedom and turns photographers, videographers and journalists into potential targets. Journalists are not there to carry out investigatory work for the police.”
John Domokos, video producer for Guardian.co.uk said: “We are very concerned about this production order as we believe it will not only seriously jeopardise his safety and ability to cover future events of this nature, but also affect the safety and impartiality of all video journalists.” Read more