Dispersal powers are discriminatory. anti-democratic, open to abuse and completely unaccountable.
The Network for Police Monitoring has today launched a new campaign to repeal powers under Section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which extended the police’s ability to dispense individuals from an area for up to 48 hours.
Police officers have been granted even greater levels of discretion about what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’ to disperse people and it is far too easy for the police to use their new powers in an extremely restrictive way.
Since it was introduced, there is growing evidence that police are misusing these powers against vulnerable and often socially excluded people: teenagers, sex workers. the homeless, particularly in areas with a large black population. Section 35 powers are also increasingly targeting people exercising their democratic right to freedom of protest. These powers are used with absolutely no public oversight.
We believe it is time Section 35 is repealed.
Netpol is asking people to come forward with their own stories so we can build the case for the repeal of Section 35. We have already started to gather case studies where dispersal powers have been misused – and challenged – in a wide range of situations.
You can find out more on the microsite we have set up at repealsection35.org.uk
The word “impunity” – exemption from any possibility of punishment or harm – comes up again and again when bereaved families talk about the death of a loved one at the hands of the police. The family of Jean Charles de Menezes used it again in a statement yesterday.
It is little wonder, when charges against officers are so rare, when investigations take so long and when efforts to discover the truth are so vigorously contested, that many start to believe the police – uniquely in society – are immune from prosecution following a death in their care.
Often it seems all families are allowed to hope for is a vague promise to “learn the lessons from the tragedy” and the possibility that senior officers feel at least some sense of shame for the loss of life on their watch. But justice? That is apparently asking for too much.
The announcement of the appointment of Cressida Dick as the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner must feel particularly painful for the Menezes family. Ms. Dick was the senior officer in charge of the botched operation that led to the execution of the Brazilian commuter by firearms officers at Stockwell underground station in London in the summer of 2005.
The Metropolitan Police then lied about the circumstances of Jean’s death and during subsequent investigations vital evidence went missing, including Cressida Dick’s instructions to allow Jean into the station because he did not appear a threat. In 2007, the Met was eventually found guilty of breaking health and safety laws and endangering the lives of Londoners and a year later, an inquest jury decided that a series of police failures contributed to Jean’s death. No individual officers were ever charged or disciplined. Read more
Campaigners will be holding a mass demonstration outside the Home Office, calling for an end to the secretive ‘Security and Policing’ arms fair that is happening 8 – 10 March in Farnborough. The demonstration has been called and supported by Stop the Arms Fair, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Kevin Blowe of Netpol, speaking for the coalition of groups who have organised the protest, commented:
“Security & Policing is a celebration of heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending. These do not improve our security or make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it.” Read more
In January, Netpol discovered that the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) was planning to hold a national conference on the policing of protest.
Initially a solicitor who is also a member of the Netpol Lawyers Group was approached by the NPCC – what was previously known as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) – and asked to participate in the conference, speaking about protests against fracking. This is a key area of Netpol’s work and so we therefore contacted Norfolk Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Hamlin, who leads the NPCC working group on Public Order & Public Safety and is organising the event, to ask if we could attend as observers.
We expected to hear nothing more, but Hamlin agreed we could attend and then went further, asked if we wanted to speak.
Last year we sent a detailed briefing to the NPCC on the policing of anti-fracking protests, which included eighteen questions on their new policy that we felt, after talking to anti-fracking groups, required urgent clarification. After receiving an acknowledgement, we received no further reply.
The NPCC conference, which is about developing future strategy and takes place on 16 March in Derby, thus provides us with a new opportunity to put these questions again, directly to policing commanders with public order responsibilities. It raises the possibility that this time, we might receive a response, if not full and genuine transparency.
We thought long and hard about speaking at the event and the possibility that the police would try to misrepresent our attendance as endorsing a policy of generally engaging directly with the police. That is not why we even considered it. The only reason to turn up is to demand answers, not to offer a viewpoint that is simply ignored.
This is why we said yes. Kevin Blowe and Val Swain from Netpol will give a presentation specifically on our briefing. The organisers have given us 30 minutes.
The police’s communications plan for the conference says its aim is “highlighting the pro-active steps forces are taking to improve the policing of protests” and that key messages include exploring ways that the police can better ‘facilitate peaceful protest’.
However, this is neither our aim nor our key message. Our aim is greater accountability for the extraordinarily disproportionate policing of anti-fracking protests; greater justice for protesters who repeatedly complain about wrongful arrests and the way they are treated; and greater transparency about the branding and criminalisation of campaigners as violent ‘domestic extremists’.
Our key message is the police certainly do have a duty to facilitate protest – the problem is not that they need to improve, but that they repeatedly fail to fulfil this duty in any way.
In the interests of our own transparency, we will post the presentation we give on our website the day after the event.
DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE THE HOME OFFICE NEXT WEDNESDAY AT 5pm
Next week, the Home Office and the arms industry body ADS are organising ‘Security and Policing 2016‘ , a secretive event bringing together governments, police forces and military delegations from around the world with the companies supplying the necessary equipment to support violent militarised policing, aggressive border controls and oppressive surveillance operations.
Organised far from London, it provides a “discreet environment” for hundreds of companies who want to “display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment”.
Companies such as Serco who make a fat profit from the inhumane detention of thousands of refugees in centres like Yarls Wood; or weapons companies like BAE systems whose business is dependent on human suffering and continuous wars.
The heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending do not improve security and they do not make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it. Read more here. Read more
Join the discussion online using the hashtags #DomesticExtremist and #ShutNDEDIU
Today is Domestic Extremist Awareness Day, an annual event launched by Netpol in 2014 to publicise how the label of ‘domestic extremist’ is increasingly applied by police to anyone involved in political dissent.
This year, we are calling for the closure of the National Domestic Extremism & Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU), the discredited police unit responsible for surveillance on protesters. We are also asking you to share why you think the NDEDIU should shut down.
This article first appeared on the Red Pepper website
Police chiefs are fond of talking about the way UK law enforcement is guided by a bedrock principle of “policing by consent”: the idea that police officers are legitimised by a consensus of support in the communities where they exercise their powers.
Whether this has ever been true is another matter. Over the last four decades, there have been many in working class mining villages, in black and Asian communities, amongst numerous protest movements and in the north of Ireland who would profoundly disagree. Nevertheless, it is a comforting and prevailing fiction – even if it is hard to reconcile with the fact the police in this country are apparently in a permanent state of war. Read more
A legal observer writes:
Last September demonstrators and Legal observers were being bussed from the Stop NATO peace camp in Tredegar Park to the anti war demonstration taking place in Newport, where the No to NATO group joined, among others, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to march on to Celtic Manor resort which was hosting the summit itself.
Shortly after leaving the peace camp the bus was pulled over by police using section 1 of PACE. The main power used on a daily basis by police. It allows police officers to stop and search a person or vehicle for stolen or prohibited articles. The power can only be exercised if the officer has “reasonable grounds” for suspicion. Stop and Search and Stop and Account are always being abused by the police to gain information and intelligence. Here is a prime example of that abuse of power.
The demos at Stop NATO were peaceful and quite small. Never at any point was the summit under any threat from these peaceful protests. The summit protected by gun ships, with a police and military operation puffing up it’s chest for the world to see. A ring of steel which disrupted anybody going about their normal business and shops shut down for security or from fear-mongering. The police and state over exaggerated the risks from the demonstrations and the numbers of protesters expected, creating an atmosphere of fear. Fear a tool of control.
The organisers of protest marches planned in London over the spring and summer have taken the significant step of coming together to jointly reject attempts by the Metropolitan Police to impose additional costs on their demonstrations to cover commercial security and traffic management. 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