5 The Use of Force |
54. The results of the issues above, the poor communications
with the press and protesters, the lack of training for some officers
and the somewhat indiscriminate use of Section 14 and close containment
tactics, can be seen in the aspect of the policing of the G20
Protests which has raised greatest concerns with the public: the
use of force against protesters.
A lack of communications and
55. The use of force per se is not an illegitimate
act while policing protest; according to ACPO Lead Sue Sim, under
Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act, "if those officers [who
used force] are able to justify the violence that they used then
that would be alright"
and in certain circumstances, the use of "distraction"
tactics such as a slap to the face may be approved tactics.
However, it is harder for officers to justify the use of force
if no warning has been given before its use and we are concerned
that inexperienced officers are being taught that the use of force
can be acceptable in all situations, providing it is subsequently
56. In oral evidence to us, Ms Nicola Fisher told
us of her experiences on 2 April. From this and other accounts
we have heard, the vigil which Ms Fisher had attended was peaceful
until the sudden appearance of police who were acting in what
seemed to those present an overtly aggressive manner, certainly
one which was disproportionate to the supposed "threat".
The issue here is not the deployment of police in that area, which
is a decision to be justified by the Silver Commander on the ground;
instead it is how the police behaved. From the evidence we have
received the use of force against Nicola Fisher was a first, rather
than last resort. We do not know whether it was justified, but
equally we do not know whether it was needed; Nicola Fisher never
got the chance to obey the officers' orders.
57. While the film and images of the incidents involving
Nicola Fisher, Ian Tomlinson and others are shocking, we cannot
say with any certainty what actually occurred immediately before
and after these incidents. However, it is clear that confrontations
of some description did occur, during the course of which Nicola
Fisher was hit with a baton and Ian Tomlinson collapsed. We have
subsequently learnt that police trained in crowd control are taught
that a slap across the face or a baton strike to the leg (as inflicted
on Nicola Fisher) are appropriate actions to prevent an escalation
of violence, and a textbook example of "distraction"
58. We do not
pass comment on the cases of Nicola Fisher and Ian Tomlinson.
However, it remains true that the images of "distraction"
tactics in action have the potential to undermine the public's
trust in the police. We hope that these pictures and films are
the start of a widespread public debate on the use of force by
the police and lead to further discussions on the tactics available
to the police in similar situations. We recommend that the police
publicly clarify how and when they should legitimately be used.
59. While the individual actions of some officers
on the 1-2 April appear unacceptable, we are still wary of criticising
the police service as a whole. We echo Sir Paul Stephenson's comments
that "it was a remarkable operation
the vast majority
of officers did a remarkable job".
We consider the performance of the "vast majority"
of the police on duty that day to be even more remarkable given
the circumstances under which they operating. We are shocked by
Commander Broadhurst's admission that some officers had not received
adequate training for this duty and most had not policed actions
of this nature before.
Given that the Metropolitan Police Service claims to be "used
to handling big events"
we find this statement doubly surprising. The use of force in
individual cases may or may not be justifiable; however when it
is preceded by a lack of training it is troubling regardless of
the merits of each individual case. Ultimate responsibility though
must rest with senior officers; given Commander Broadhurst's admission
that some officers lacked the training necessary for this work,
the actions of some individual officers at the G20 Protests become,
if not excusable, at least understandable.
60. Never again
must untrained officers be placed in the front-line of public
protests. At the very least each unit should contain a core of
fully trained, experienced officers. While greater funding must
be made available, the police must also allocate their resources
better to ensure that all officers on the front-line of public
protest are trained adequately.
Force, the use of Section
14 and Close Containment
61. Given the admission by Commander Broadhurst that
some officers on duty lacked training in policing this sort of
event we suggest the use of close containment tactics and the
over-reliance on Section 14 of the Public Order Act in the dispersal
of journalists and protesters could have been counter-productive.
We urge the police to examine their doctrine in these areas given
the resource limitations under which they work. Given the inexperience
of some of the officers on front-line duty that day, we wonder
whether such a "confrontational" approach is suitable.
Certainly we are unsure of the merits to untrained and inexperienced
officers of labelling protesters a source of "serious disorder",
suggesting that "distraction" tactics are a valid technique
and then placing them in a tense situation for a sustained period
of time. We wonder whether the lack of training which some officers
had received was taken into account during the planning of the
62. Throughout this Report we have commented on the
inappropriate use of Section 14 of the Public Order Act. We have
heard evidence that Section 14 was used against two discrete groups
of people, journalists and protesters in an effort to disperse
these groups from a given area. In neither case are we certain
that the groups in question posed a threat of "serious public
disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to
the life of the community". We are concerned that the police
view Section 14 of the Public Order Act as a handy "catch-all"
tool to be used whenever they wish to move people on from a given
area. This would be an abuse of the rights of protesters to demonstrate
in a peaceful manner and a misuse of the powers granted to the
63. We are concerned
over the police's apparent reliance on Section 14 of the Public
Order Act. Given the importance with which it is viewed by the
police, we find it odd that officers are not given training on
the suitable legal application of this power. We recommend that
all public protest training, especially that of a more advanced
level, incorporates the correct application of Section 14. Equally,
if communications and relations between the police and protesters
are good and both sides put emphasis on prior communication, as
we have already recommended, then it may be possible to negotiate
a mutually acceptable 'finish time', removing the need for police-driven
64. We also heard that the victims of force at the
G20 Protests will be waiting an inordinate amount of time for
their cases to be resolved. Nicola Fisher told us the IPCC would
take between 12 and 18 months to complete their inquiries.
We accept that the consideration of these cases by the prosecuting
authorities inhibits the IPCC somewhat and contributes to the
delay, but since
these cases must be a high priority for the IPCC we cannot imagine
why this amount of time is needed; but equally, we understand
that the G20 Protests have placed an inordinate amount of strain
on the IPCC. The 40 officials who are currently investigating
incidents around the G20 Protests are a third of the total number
of investigators employed by the IPCC.
The G20 will therefore obviously affect the performance and capability
of the IPCC for a sustained period of time.
65. That it
takes over a year to investigate a high-profile case such as the
use of force against Nicola Fisher is distressing. We would like
to hear from IPCC as why the inquiry will take this long and what
efforts they are making to speed the resolution. We are also concerned
about such a large proportion of the Independent Police Complaints
Commission's investigators being allocated to the events of the
G20. Greater funding must be made available to provide the resources
the IPCC needs to complete their investigations in a more timely
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