4 Use of Close Containment|
38. The use of containment strategies has "been
around since the [ACPO] manuals began",
and it is an established, accepted tactic by the police. After
its application at Oxford Circus during the May Day protests of
2001, its use was challenged in the courts. A case brought by
Lois Austin against the tactic is currently being considered by
the European Court of Human Rights. The House of Lords has already
passed a ruling in this case. The Austin ruling says that
containment as a strategy is lawful only in specific circumstances
including: when the cordon is necessary for purely crowd control
purposes and to protect people and property from injury, when
many of the people contained were bent on violence; and those
who were not demonstrators, or were seriously affected by being
confined, were allowed to leave.
The continued use of containment strategies from a lawful perspective
is therefore a matter for the courts and as a tactical measure
is to be addressed in the forthcoming HMIC Report. However, we
have been told of several problems with the application of close
containment at the G20. This Chapter will address these problems.
39. From a tactical perspective, a containment strategy
has much to recommend it both in the context of the G20 Protests:
If [the protesters] intention was to cause as much
disruption to the City as possible, containing them is the most
sensible option. The only alternative to containment is dispersal
you push the crowd back and get them to disperse in small
groups so they go their own ways.
And more generally, as ACC McCausland told us:
our role in terms of the use of containment has been
to potentially diffuse the situation and allow protesters and
people to move away from the area the that they are potentially
wanting to get into.
40. It is undoubtedly to the benefit of the police
if protesters can be contained in one area; it allows the police
to focus their efforts and resources on one area and theoretically
prevents many minor disturbances. If there are potentially violent
elements in a crowd of protesters, it is certainly better for
these to be contained in one area under heavy police supervision.
Containment tactics should be encouraged in these circumstances.
However, it is entirely possible, as at the G20 Protests, that
innocent bystanders can be caught up in the contained area and
be detained for several hours until the police judge it appropriate
for them to leave. This detainment of innocent, peaceful bystanders
is a violation of their rights and is something which must be
minimised as far as possible.
41. The use
of containment involves a shift in power and control from the
protesters to the police and should be used sparingly and in clearly
defined circumstances. These circumstances should be codified.
The use of containment tactics should also be closely linked to
police intelligence. The police must have reasonable grounds to
believe that the protesters being contained are liable to cause
disturbances elsewhere and innocent bystanders and non-violent
protesters (where they can be identified) must be allowed to filter
out; containment should continue only for as long as absolutely
necessary and the comfort of those contained must be given as
much consideration as possible. As we discuss later on, this was
not the case in the particular example of the G20 Protests.
The application of containment
tactics at Bishopsgate
42. The use of "containment" as a tactic
remains controversial and we would appreciate greater clarity
from the police over its use. We are also concerned about incidents
that occurred within the "kettle" and question elements
of its application.
43. One point of contention is
the question of how comfortable protesters were made during their
containment. After the May Day protests in 2001 it was recommended
that the police make a greater effort to ensure the comfort of
those 'contained'. We have heard conflicting information on the
provision of water and toilets at the 'Climate Camp' in Bishopsgate
and at Bank. Commander Broadhurst assured us that the City of
London Corporation provided water supplies and toilets for those
contained but we
also have been told that this was not the case throughout the
day; after one police "charge" the toilets were behind
a cordon and water was not made available to those who requested
it. It is impossible
for us to judge whether water and toilets were made freely available
to protesters. However, given the recommendations made after the
May Day protests this is a question that should not need to be
asked; that there remains doubt on this issue is unacceptable.
44. While the comfort of those contained at the Climate
Camp and at Bank is one issue of concern, a more worrying element
of the application of the kettle is the attitude of police towards
protesters who claimed they had a medical problem. We have heard
much anecdotal evidence from those present at the protests that
people requiring medicines were unable to leave the containment
area despite their medical need. "We were told specifically
by the police that they were under specific orders not to let
people out even for medication."
According to Commander Broadhurst, the Bronze Commanders on the
ground at the G20 Protests were unwilling to allow protesters
to leave the containment area to gain access to medicines in case
they were lying about their medical condition.
This position seemed to be endorsed by the Commander.
45. There is
no excuse for the police preventing peaceful protesters or other
people innocently caught up in a protest from leaving a "contained"
area when the police can be sure that they do not pose a violent
threat to society. This is doubly true when people are asking
to leave for medical (or related) purposes. We are particularly
concerned at the evidence we have received suggesting that an
explicit order was given to maintain the "cohesion"
of the police lines at the expense of peaceful protesters' right
to egress and to access medicine. While it may be true that some
protesters would falsely claim a medical need to leave a contained
area for the purposes of causing disorder, we believe that this
is a risk that the police must be prepared to run; the dangers
of denying protesters their needed medications are too great.
46. The police
must reorganise their priorities with regards to the circumstances
under which protesters are allowed to leave a "contained"
area. It is not acceptable for a blanket ban on movement to be
imposed. Again we recommend a devolution of power in this area.
During any containment procedure experienced officers must be
authorised to use discretion and allow access and egress in cases
where a medical need is involved, trusting their own judgement
and experience when necessary. Crucially, as with the media contact
points, their existence and availability in this role must be
commonplace; it must be made clear to front-line officers in briefings
before and during the day.
7pm onwards at the Climate
47. The "Climate Camp" at Bishopsgate illustrates
many of the problems in the way the containment strategy was applied:
a failure on both sides to communicate; the lack of a "filter"
system for dispersing protesters (in contravention of ACPO best
practice); and the "very intense, very rapid"
dispersal under Section 14 of the Public Order Act all combined
to create a situation which typifies the worst aspects of the
policing of the G20 Protests.
48. In Chapter 3 we criticised the lack of communication
between the police and those who were "contained". In
the interests of fairness it is worth stating that this experience
was not uniform. Earlier in the day when the police considered
it necessary to make changes to the policing arrangements at Threadneedle
Street, "They warned that people needed to move back. Protesters
listened and everybody moved back peacefully, with nobody getting
this was not the case in the Climate Camp after 7pm.
49. The most troubling aspect of the "kettling"
was the subsequent "dispersal" of the crowd at around
11:30pm. This has been described as a "very intense, very
The use of force to disperse protesters in this situation could
have been easily avoided and can be traced back to an incorrect
application of the "kettle". According to ACPO lead,
Sue Sim, beat practice requires that:
They have to communicate with people, it is good
practice to communicate, and that is what the manual says: it
talks about communicating with crowds. It also talks about allowing
people to filter out, and that is what would be considered to
be good practice.
We feel that the application of the kettle at Bishopsgate
fails to meet these two requirements.
50. It is not clear to us why, having contained protesters
in one place to prevent "lots of little disturbances,"
the police were unable to "filter" out the protesters
in small groups (searching them for offensive weapons first if
needs be). We fear that this may be a common approach nationwide
and not merely isolated behaviour from one force; in written evidence
from Cambridgeshire Police we were told that "any group given
the right circumstances is potentially violent".
While technically this may be correct, it does strike us as an
inefficient approach. The police and HMIC should consider whether
it would be better, as far as possible, to use intelligence to
identify potentially violent protesters and contain them while
simultaneously filtering out small groups of peaceful protesters.
This would reduce the need for "mass" clearances, limit
the use of force (as the contained area would be that much smaller),
be a more efficient use of resources and be more in the spirit
of the Austin ruling.
51. Again we stress the importance of communications
between the police and protesters before large-scale events, not
least because this will help the police identify violent elements
within the protests. Both sides benefit from an orderly protest
and it is in the protesters' interest to signal their peaceful
intentions beforehand. This would allow the police to focus their
energy on those groups who have identified themselves as potentially
violent through their lack of communications: "if they choose
to engage: great. If they do not then you know what you are dealing
with and you police in a different way."
While we do not deny the essentially peaceful nature of the 'Climate
Camp' we are concerned that the group provided the police with
the bare minimum of information beforehand
and we believe that this was may have been a contributory factor
in the subsequent use of force by the police.
52. We fully
endorse Sir Hugh Orde's comment that "talking works".
We are firmly of the view that the problems that were reported
by those "contained" at Bishopsgate could have been
easily prevented through greater communication throughout the
day. We recommend that in future the police exhaust all possible
avenues of communication before using force and be as open as
possible about their intentions at all times. We also recommend
that the police follow their own guidelines and allow peaceful
protesters to filter out of the cordon and go home. This would
minimise and focus force used in a subsequent dispersal.
we recommend that groups of protesters make every effort to prevent
the police viewing them as a threat to public order. We are of
the opinion that in the case of the 'Climate Camp' the degree
of reticence on the part of the protesters adversely affected
the police's perceptions of the protest and made the use of force,
unfortunate though it was, more likely. Groups with peaceful intentions
should make every effort to alert the police to their intentions,
removing any suspicions the police may (rightly) have and aiding
the planning process to mutual benefit. Protesters should remember
that "talking works" is a maxim which is true for both
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For the full ruling: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldjudgmt/jd090128/austin.pdf Back
"Legal Observation at the Climate Camp" Tom Brake
"Legal Observation at the Climate Camp", Tom Brake
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