Policing of the G20 Protests - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 222-239)


12 MAY 2009

  Q222 Chairman: Deputy Chief Constable, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to this short inquiry into the policing of the G20 protests. You have had the benefit of listening to the evidence of Nicola Fisher, David Howarth and others. Are you concerned with what they have said this morning and what you have seen about the way in which the G20 protests were policed as you are the ACPO Lead on Public Order?

  Ms Sim: I think what I need to do for the Committee is to explain what the ACPO Lead in relation to public order is.

  Q223  Chairman: No. I would like you to answer my question. I will come to what you do. I have asked you a specific question. You have heard the evidence of Nicola Fisher. You have heard the evidence of David Howarth. You have known about the circumstances of the G20 protests and you will have seen the reactions of other senior police officers. What is your reaction? Are you concerned with the way in which the G20 protests were policed?

  Ms Sim: What I will say is that I have heard today for the first time the version of events from Mr Howarth, from the two colleagues that were with him and for the first time I have heard what Ms Fisher had to say. I have not heard what the police commander has had to say about it and neither have I heard what the police officers have got to say about it. I am aware that there is an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry into a number of complaints. Experience over a considerable period of time in policing, 24 years actually, has shown me not to jump to conclusions. I have seen photographs that have appeared in newspapers which if taken on a first-hand impression would lead me to believe that police officers had inflicted dreadful things of violence. I have then listened to the investigations after that and had the photographs explained in such a way as to show me that actually there was not any misdoing in relation to the police officers.

  Q224  Chairman: With the greatest of respect, you are not a High Court judge, you are the ACPO Lead on Public Order. So Sir Paul Stephenson was wrong to be concerned and Dennis O'Connor in evidence to this Committee? I am sure you have seen his evidence because that was part of the G20 protests. These senior officers themselves were not present but saw exactly what you have seen and have all commented on this and said that they were concerned with the way in which these matters were dealt with, to the extent that Sir Paul has set up a review. Are you still not concerned with what was seen?

  Ms Sim: I have not said—

  Q225  Chairman: Will you answer my question then?

  Ms Sim: You have asked me whether I was concerned with the way the G20 was policed. My answer to that is I do not know because I do not know the full extent of the policing of the G20. The officers who will be able to provide you with those accounts are the ones that you have got coming before you next week.

  Q226  Chairman: So you have no comment to make about it despite the fact that the Metropolitan Commissioner has made a comment and the new Inspector of Constabulary has made a comment? ACPO and you as the Lead on ACPO will make no comment on whether or not this matter was—

  Ms Sim: Until I am fully aware of all of the facts I will not make comments about individual police officers' actions.

  Q227  Chairman: I am not asking you about individual police officers. Did any behaviour at the G20 protests violate ACPO norms?

  Ms Sim: What the ACPO norms say is that police officers have to be able to justify any force that is used in line with Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act. If those officers are able to justify the violence that they used then that would be all right. If not, then the investigations will find that and the officers will be dealt with accordingly. I have no intention at all of saying that if police officers have committed deliberate acts of violence then that is acceptable. What I am saying is I do not know the full circumstances and I do not believe in trial by press. I believe that a full investigation has to take place and what happens as a result of that investigation then is what happens.

  Q228  Mr Streeter: Could you just share with us the ACPO guidelines for the policing of public protests like this? I am interested particularly in kettling. We have heard a little bit this morning about the line of police with the shields just marching towards people without any warning and dialogues with people. Could you just share the relevant guidelines that ACPO has handed down? Are they available for public record?

  Ms Sim: Firstly, I do not understand the term "kettling". Kettling is not a British policing public order tactic, it is something that has been created apparently in the media.

  Q229  Mr Streeter: What do you call it when you group people together in this way?

  Ms Sim: I would call that containment.

  Q230  Mr Streeter: Containment?

  Ms Sim: Yes. The public order doctrine says that you should have a strategy in relation to how you are going to police protests, you should be aware of the tactics that you are going to use and your officers should be fully trained to deliver the tactics that you are going to put into place. When Mr Howarth said that the public order doctrine was that all police officers viewed protest as unlawful, that is not the case: police officers and our manuals talk about the fact that human rights is at the very foundation of our democracy. If my mum wants to protest, I am more than happy for her to protest, it is a fundamental right, and police officers are taught the human rights articles. Specific emphasis is placed on Article 10 and Article 11 in relation to public order policing.

  Q231  Mr Streeter: But when a six-foot police officer cuffs a five foot young lady around the face, is that in accordance with ACPO guidelines?

  Ms Sim: What the ACPO guidelines say is that the police officer has to be able to justify their actions via section 3 of the Criminal Law Act. It is up to that police officer and the investigation, because all we have heard so far is Ms Fisher's version.

  Q232  Mr Streeter: We have seen a little bit of video evidence, have we not?

  Ms Sim: Yes, there has been a small part played, but, as I have also said, we have seen a considerable number of times before evidence that would appear, in the first place, to be prima facie but then subsequently does not turn out to be so.

  Q233  Mr Streeter: We have just heard that the IPCC might take 12 months or 18 months to investigate that particular claim. Do you think that is a reasonable amount of time, or do you think that perhaps three months for something like this would be much more reasonable? There is significant public interest. What on earth can take 12 months?

  Ms Sim: Again, I cannot talk for the IPCC. I do not know whether it is the case that they have said that. I am not disputing Ms Fisher's version of events, but the IPCC would have to explain why they are saying it is going to take 12 months.

  Q234  Tom Brake: Can I come back on the issue of public order policing? You say that the police are taught about the human rights of protesters. Are you aware that apparently, when the Army and the Police do joint training exercises on public order, they are taught to consider the protesters they are dealing with as the enemy? Is that likely to lead to good public order policing if that is the attitude that is being adopted in training exercises?

  Ms Sim: Mr Brake, I am not aware of that.

  Q235  Tom Brake: Could I ask you perhaps to investigate whether in joint Army and Police training that is the attitude that is being adopted?

  Ms Sim: I will certainly look at that. I am not aware of any joint Army and Police training in relation to public order, but I will certainly look at that on your behalf.

  Q236  Mr Winnick: Ms Sims, you have said that you have listened to one version of events, namely Ms Fisher's. Would I not be correct in saying that you have seen for yourself what happened when you saw she was slapped across the face on television?

  Ms Sim: Mr Winnick, I have seen it on television, but, as I have said, I did not see the issues that happened before the incident.

  Q237  Mr Winnick: Can I, therefore, ask you this question. Are there any circumstances in which you believe it would be appropriate for a police officer to slap someone across the face in the way in which Ms Fisher was slapped across the face?

  Ms Sim: I believe whole-heartedly the British law says that the officer has to be able to justify his decision.

  Chairman: Could you answer Mr Winnick's question?

  Q238  Mr Winnick: It is very simple. You are not here as an apologist, presumably, for the Metropolitan Police. Yes or no?

  Ms Sim: I do not know all of the circumstances. I cannot prejudge an officer that an investigation is going on in relation to.

  Mr Winnick: Unsatisfactory.

  Chairman: We do accept "I do not knows" sometimes.

  Q239  Ms Buck: Going back to the issue of kettling as a term, as a concept, it is something that has entered discourse in terms of crowd control probably since the May Day demonstrations at the beginning of the decade. In an earlier answer you kind of rejected it as a term. Are you saying, really, that this is a media invention and that actually there has been no change in the tactics of crowd control?

  Ms Sim: Kettling is not a term that is contained within any policing manuals or with any policing concept. The issue of containment is a public order tactic.

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