Policing of the G20 Protests - Home Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. In some respects, the policing of the recent "G20 Protests" on 1-2 April was remarkably successful. More than 35,000 protesters demonstrated in the centre of London, requiring police officers to work over 10,000 shifts. Despite this, businesses in the City reported, at most, minor damage and non-protesters were able to go about their lives with little or no major disruption: as Gold Commander of the police operation, Bob Broadhurst told us, "if you put the disorder and violence that was seen [on the day of the G20] into the context of other demonstrations such as Poll Tax, May Day 2001, it is nowhere near on that scale."[1] Indeed, it can be said with confidence that aside from a few, high-profile isolated incidents the G20 Protests were extremely peaceful and successful both from the perspective of the police and the protesters. It should also be remembered that the policing of public protest is a labour-intensive, expensive task. It is estimated that the policing of the G20 Protests cost around £7.2 million. By comparison, the Tamil Protest in Parliament Square which took place over a much longer period of time cost, as of 19 May, £8 million and encountered many of the same problems as the G20 Protests.[2][3]

2. However, these isolated incidents have caused serious concern over the tactics used in policing large-scale protests and demonstrations. The use of so-called "kettling" tactics and similar "containment" strategies and allegations of the use of force, as in the well-publicised cases of Ian Tomlinson and Nicola Fisher, have raised serious questions over the methods, doctrine and attitude of the police in these situations.

3. There are currently several reviews of separate aspects of the G20 policing operation: the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating four individual complaints of violence against protesters, including the death of Ian Tomlinson and the allegations of violence against Nicola Fisher, and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is reviewing the tactics used by police in public order situations. Our inquiry investigated some of the wider concerns which have been raised over the policing of large-scale public protests and the application of "kettling" tactics, particularly at Bishopsgate. In particular it focused on:

  • Police relations with the media, including the use of Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to remove journalists from an area;
  • Communications between police and protesters and the level of leadership displayed by both parties during the protests themselves;
  • The use of close containment ("kettling") both as a question of ideology and application; and
  • The use of force by the police. We also examined the possible use of Conducted Energy Devices in similar circumstances in future.

4. During the course of this inquiry we have taken evidence from Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ); David Howarth MP, who was a member of a contingent of Liberal Democrats who acted as "observers" to the protests; Frances Wright, Chris Abbott and Nicola Fisher who told us of their experiences as protesters; Oliver Sprague of Amnesty International; ACC Simon Chesterman and ACC Sue Sim of ACPO; Sir Hugh Orde and ACC Duncan McCausland of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI); and Sir Paul Stephenson and Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police Service. We have also received numerous written submissions from interested bodies and visited the Public Order Training Centre in Gravesend, Kent. We thank everybody who has assisted us.

1   Q366 Back

2   Q368. Back

3   The protest in Parliament Square lasted from 7 April 2009 to 18 June 2009.The overall cost may be in excess of £10 million Back

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Prepared 29 June 2009