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
Nowadays with most of us having a camera on our mobile phones, more and more people are able to film the actions of the police during a stop and search and are choosing to do so.
However, there are a few basic suggestions that may help you to be better prepared, can ensure that deciding to film the police makes a difference and can mean any footage has genuine value as possible evidence.
Why stop and film?
Ordinary people stopping and filming the police can mean that officers behave differently than they would if no-one was watching and recording their actions. This might make the experience for the person who has been stopped far less intimidating or threatening.
The more often the police are filmed stopping people, the more officers may come to expect that they may be filmed in the future, which can influence the way they generally treat people and whether stop & search powers are routinely used indiscriminately. 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
The use of police ‘kettles’ on demonstrations is now so completely routine and expected, that scarcely an eyebrow was raised at the kettling of yet another march last Saturday. According to the Law Lords and now the European Court of Human Rights, kettling (or containment in police-speak) is supposed to be a tactic used only ‘in extremis’, where police have no other options for ‘the prevention of serious public disorder and violence’.
There was never likely to be ‘serious public disorder and violence’ at the save the NHS demo on Saturday. There was, however, a very real threat that protesters may not be entirely obedient to the wishes of the Metropolitan police. They moved into and sat down on the road, and then set off on a spontaneous march with the intention of taking their protest to Virgin, one of the companies seen as most likely to profit from NHS privatisation.
This was enough for the Met to deploy large numbers (relatively speaking) of police to stop and kettle the protest. Some quick movement by protesters scuppered their first attempt, but the police persevered and eventually succeeded. The kettle was relatively short in duration, with people kept only for half an hour or so. But it succeeded in disrupting and dispersing the protest. And it enabled the police to demand a name and address from everyone detained within it.
The now commonplace practice of lining people up for searches, and demanding names and addresses from each of them, is an intimidating and thoroughly uncomfortable experience even for those who have become used to it. For people not used to being in contact with the police it can be downright frightening. Many people end up complying with police demands and giving their details even though they have every right to refuse, especially if they are told – and they frequently are – that they won’t be able to leave the kettle otherwise. Read more
News from the Kettle Police Powers campaign
Welcome to the December/January policing briefing from the ‘Kettling police powers’ campaign. For 2012, we have decided to focus on the following key areas:
• The repeal of stop and search powers which allow police to potentially harass and intimidate young people. Section 60 is perceived as a ‘sus’ power as it doesn’t require reasonable suspicion and is therefore susceptible to being use to profile people based on stereotypes.
• A removal of police powers used to demand the name and address of people who have committed no criminal offences. We believe Section 50 of the Police Reform Act is often misused as a statutory ID check, forcing people to provide their details on threat of arrest.
• A move away from the control of protest through ‘pre-emptive arrests’ and other pre-emptive strategies (such as kettling), which disproportionately undermine protest rights.
• An end to police powers to impose punishment through conditional cautions and police bail conditions. Police bail conditions are frequently used to restrict movement and political freedoms before there is even enough evidence to charge with an offence.
Netpol will also be monitoring and challenging excessive policing and any abuse of police powers in the build up to this summer’s Olympic games.
Get involved in the campaign:
• Sign up to support the campaign to kettle police powers.
• Share your experiences of policing – if you have examples of the issues we campaign about or want to raise other policing issues, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @policemonitor
• Get involved – people engaged in civil rights, protest and community groups are welcome at our regular campaign meetings. Mail email@example.com for for info.
Excessive force and mass arrests at Congo protests
During December, there were a series of protests by the Congolese community in Central London culminating in two large demonstrations on 10th and 14th December in the Whitehall area. Read more
Kettling the Powers of the Police is a new campaign, aiming to take on ‘the worst of the worst’ of police powers and practices.
The campaign is an initiative developed by the Network for Police Monitoring in collaboration with a range of other protest, community and legal groups. It will push for an end to the abuse of police powers, the unrestrained use of surveillance and unending expansion of public order and protest laws, and all groups affected by policing issues are being invited to join in.
The campaign statement of intent states “no matter how often or how powerfully concerns are raised about the disproportionate use of extensive police powers, little seems to change. Both ineffective reform and the promise that human rights laws alone can provide a realistic defence against oppressive policing of protest and of black and working class communities have failed to contain the police’s capacity to regulate and enforce public order in whatever way they see fit.”
“The time has come to fundamentally change the debate. Instead of just reacting to brutal kettling and arbitrary assault of protesters, new revelations about indiscriminate intelligence gathering or the latest evidence of misuse of stop and search, we need to start demanding that draconian police powers are abolished instead of reformed.
It calls for “A new approach towards public protest that recognises its value as a positive and essential expression rather than an inconvenient nuisance that must be contained”.
One of the initial objectives of the campaign is to build a ‘dossier of evidence’ of incidents where the policing has been excessive or unreasonable. Many such incidents are currently unreported and a dossier will bring to public attention the scale and range of the problems being faced.
The dossier will compile evidence in four key areas:
- Public order policing – kettling, dispersal, pre-emptive arrests, use of force and the failure to facilitate protest.
- Surveillance – police photography and filming, databases, facial recognition and gathering of intelligence.
- Community harassment – stop and search, stop and account and other measures targeting specific communities or groups
- Custody, bail and sentencing – abuse in custody, misuse of police bail / bail conditions and over-charging.
We are calling on lawyers, frontline groups, individuals with experiences of police misuse of powers, activist and protest groups, bereaved families and deaths in custody campaigns to join and actively support this campaign.