Examination of Witness (Questions 337-359)|
19 MAY 2009
Chairman: Could I welcome to your right
Commander Broadhurst, who is the Gold Commander. We have some
specific questions to you as well, Commander. If you want to chip
in, you can, but we do have other things to ask you about. You
are welcome to sit there.
Q337 Mr Winnick: Sir Paul, I do not
want to break the sequence of questions on the G20 but with the
Chairman's permission, before you leave I will ask you another
unrelated question. I believe I have the Chairman's permission
to do so. Continuing with the questions on the G20 protest, what
is your concern? You told the Chairman a moment ago you have a
concern about the demonstration. What concern do you have?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I said I
was concerned about the video imagery, some of the things I saw.
Q338 Mr Winnick: Like what, for example?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I saw an
officer push somebody to the ground. In the context of what I
saw in that video imagery
Q339 Chairman: Sorry. You saw an
officer do what?
Sir Paul Stephenson: On the video
I saw an officer push somebody to the ground.
Q340 Mr Winnick: Sir Paul, did you
see, as we all saw on television, a police officer slapping first
of all with a gloved hand a woman protester who later says she
was not in any way being violent, and then, after slapping her
across the face, hitting her on the legs?
Sir Paul Stephenson: Yes, I saw
that. That is why I am saying those are the images that caused
me concern that need to be investigated.
Q341 Mr Winnick: As the Chairman
said, we had Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector. He said, in
reply to a question of mine on 21 April about what he saw: "I
was very uncomfortable with it, I was concerned by it, but what
I would have to say is this: the object of conducting an inquiry
into the tactics and into the behaviour is to unpick all of that"
and look into it accordingly. Do you share the same sentiments
as he had when he addressed us, namely that he was uncomfortable
with what he saw?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I would use
my own language, Mr Winnick, and that is that I am concerned and
it is right it should be investigated.
Q342 Mr Winnick: I asked him whether
he would consider that what he saw was incompatible with British
policing. He replied: "What I saw was unacceptable."
That is your view as well?
Sir Paul Stephenson: No, that
is not my view. My view is that I am concerned at what I saw and
it should be investigated. May I remind you, as I have already
said to this Committee, I am the disciplinary authority for the
Metropolitan Police Service. For me to prejudge these matters
would be entirely improper.
Q343 Mr Winnick: So you do not go
along with what he said, "What I saw was unacceptable"?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I do not
know how I can expand on my answer.
Chairman: I think we must move on to
the next question.
Q344 Mr Winnick: I am going to ask
you about Ian Tomlinson. There is just one question before moving
on to Ian Tomlinson, Sir Paul. How is it possible for a police
officer to do what we saw and about which you agree you have concern?
How is it possible for a police officer to act in the way we saw
on television, what I have just mentioned?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I think you
are actually asking me to go into the investigation, and I am
trying to give you a very proper reason as to why I cannot and
should not do that.
Q345 Mr Winnick: On the statement
which was issued on 1 April regarding Mr Tomlinson, do you stand
by that statement?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I stand by
what the Met said. Based on the information known to us at the
time, that is accurate.
Q346 Mr Winnick: But it was not accurate,
was it? The police statement said that the police had no involvement
with him before that.
Sir Paul Stephenson: That was
not our statement. That is not what the Met said.
Q347 Tom Brake: You are carrying
out an internal review of video footage. Can you confirm whether
that is going to include looking at a rather serious allegation
made by a photographer working for one of our national newspapers
who alleges that he saw plain clothes officers in the crowd agitating
Sir Paul Stephenson: I have seen
reports of that. It is an extraordinary allegation. To my certain
knowledge that is not something we have ever done but if there
is evidence to suggest that is the case and the evidence comes
forward, either we or more appropriately the IPCC will investigate
it, I am quite sure.
Q348 Tom Brake: What sort of evidence
do you need? I have in fact written to you on the subject and
provided you a copy of the report which contains the said allegation.
Do you need more in terms of evidence to be able to look at that
as part of your internal review of video footage?
Sir Paul Stephenson: We will take
the appropriate action and no doubt contact you accordingly. If
it is a complaint or should be dealt with as a matter of complaint,
then we need to refer it to the IPCC. I wonder whether we have
done that, Mr Brake. If it is, that is what we should do and I
will check and make sure we have done it.
Q349 Tom Brake: The difficulty would
be that if they were plain clothes officers then they will not
have any form of identification, so I am not quite sure how the
IPCC would be able to pursue that particular allegation, whereas
yourselves you have access to the video footage which might be
able to confirm who these plain clothes officers were.
Sir Paul Stephenson: Let me assure
you that if there was an investigation by the IPCC, they would
have access to any video footage within my possession or indeed
the City of London's possession.
Q350 Tom Brake: Presumably there
were plain clothes officers in the crowd. I would expect there
to be to spot the worst trouble makers.
Sir Paul Stephenson: I just have
to say the idea that we would put agent provocateurs in the crowd
is wholly antithetic to everything I have known about policing
for the best part of 34 years.
Q351 Tom Brake: Can I ask Commander
Commander Broadhurst: I was obviously
the Gold Commander. We had no plain clothes officers deployed
within the crowd. It would have been dangerous for them to put
plain clothes officers in a crowd like that. The only officers
we deploy for intelligence purposes at public order are forward
intelligence team officers who are wearing full police uniforms
with a yellow jacket with blue shoulders. There were no plain
clothes officers deployed at all.
Q352 Tom Brake: In which case, Commander
Broadhurst, can I ask you what explanation there is for two men
who I personally saw walking through the police lines where I
had attempted to secure the release, if I can put it that way,
of a number of people who needed medical attention for instance
and not succeeded? What explanation can you give for the fact
that those two men walked through the police lines without any
form of challenge? Who were they and why were they allowed to
walk through the police cordon?
Commander Broadhurst: I do not
know who they are. They were not plain clothes officers deployed
by me or anybody on the operation. All I would say initially,
and you can come back to me later on when I give evidence to you,
is that there is an issue around the discretion used by individual
officers, the message communicated to those individuals, how they
interpret that. It may well be that the people you saw have gone
through some officers who have used more discretion than others
who are not letting anybody out. That is an issue I need to grapple
with in our training and our work on such tactics.
Q353 Mr Streeter: I have a very short
question, Sir Paul. One of the things we were hearing in relation
to the Tamil demonstrations in Parliament Square over the last
two or three weeks is that because of the media onslaught over
the G20 policing, the police were sort of going softly softly
and perhaps too timidly. Can you just assure me that you will
not overreact to any criticism which may come from any quarterand
I agree with your comment about the policing of the G20 by and
largeand that you are not now going to overreact in the
wrong direction and be far too timid?
Sir Paul Stephenson: Mr Streeter,
we will learn lessons from any operations, be they successful
or otherwise, but in learning lessons we will not overreact; we
will not be too timid. We will do what we think is appropriate
based on our experience, the lessons learnt and what we think
is right for the circumstances. I think you have to look at the
Tamil process and look at the different and difficult circumstances
as to how we police that event and we police every event commensurate
with the threat, the intelligence and the likely consequence of
our actions, and that is what we have done with the Tamil protest.
I think as people will have been aware last night, there were
some difficulties last night. Not wishing to overstate it, that
has resulted in round about 25 injuries to police officers and
some injuries to other people. We will do what we think is the
right thing to do and then learn lessons from that.
Q354 Chairman: Commander Broadhurst,
you are the Gold Commander for the Tamil protest as well, I understand.
Commander Broadhurst: I am currently,
Q355 Chairman: Can I declare my interest?
I am a member of the All Party Tamil Group and I support their
causeand clearly the situation in Sri Lanka is dreadfulbut
also I have seen an ever increasing number of people outside Parliament
and they have been able to build a structure where people are
at the moment on hunger strike, or have been on hunger strike.
The worry for me is that although I have sympathy, and members
of this Committee have sympathy, with the plight of the Tamils,
there may be other organisations in the future with whom we may
not have so much sympathy who will do exactly the same thing.
The concern is that you are setting a precedent. Those of us who
stayed in central London last night heard the police helicopters
going above Westminster throughout the night. This is obviously
going to go on; it is not going to stop. Do you think you are
being a little too soft on this?
Commander Broadhurst: I do not
think I am being soft at all, sir. As you heard from the Commissioner,
last night, in trying to move the more belligerent end of those
protesters, we took a number of injuries, none serious but a broken
nose and other injuries such as that. The biggest problem we have
with the Tamils, and I will perhaps come back to it later on,
is that we have no organiser to speak to. Nobody within that community
will give us information about what to expect. We will always
police proportionately. If I have 30 demonstrators, I would have
very few police officers to manage those, provided they were not
violent or others, which this community tend not to be. Our problem
with the Tamil community is that they have the ability to mobilise
hundreds and, as yesterday, thousands within a very short space
of time, which then overwhelm police resources. We have had them
a few times when they have split into the road, probably only
about six times in the last six weeks that this demonstration
has been running. I have always taken the view that when that
happens, they tend to put their women, babies, children and the
elderly at the forefront, which then makes it difficult for us
to use force. You cannot move even a peaceful crowd without some
degree of force, unless they themselves move. I have always been
of the opinion that we have managed to clear the Square; it has
taken some hours and at some inconvenience but we have done it
peacefully. In terms of the structures, that was an authority
given to them by the Greater London Authority which has the authority
for structures on the Square. They are actually breaking a bylaw.
We have no powers of arrest as such; we can only prosecute. The
decision was taken on humanitarian grounds whilst they had hunger
strikers on the square, again a situation I was unhappy with but
had no police powers to deal with; it was given on humanitarian
grounds. My understanding now is that the last of what I would
call the true hunger strikers have gone. We have some students
who are undertaking a daily fast. Discussions are now underway
with the GLA that is the responsible authority around them giving
authority to get the tent down. Clearly we will then have to work
with the protesters to try and do that in a peaceful way. Like
yourself, Chairman, there is a concern around setting a precedent.
We do not think we have set a precedent and we must take each
protest on its own, but this one now I think needs, and I am asking
today through the Home Office, some form of Government intervention
around messages we give to the community, now the war, is over
about how we bring it to some kind of exit strategy and finish.
Q356 Chairman: I spoke to the Serjeant
at Arms about this yesterday and what she said is that the police
just needed the powers to do what they had to do. Is it more powers
Commander Broadhurst: There is
a debate of course around the powers outside Parliament and that
will continue. In terms of moving the tent, if the Greater London
Authority serves notice on them that they want the tent taken
down, I would say in the first instance they should get bailiffs
along to remove them, as would be normal police practice. We would
stand by to prevent a breach of the peace. I would have concerns
about the numbers of supporters the Tamils could get before we
do that. Then the question I would ask of the Operational Commander
is: do you want me to pick a fight to get the tent down? I would
rather negotiate and get it down but I fear we would never arrive
at that situation.
Q357 Chairman: Commissioner, you
wanted to come in.
Sir Paul Stephenson: Can I add
a couple of quick points? With all due respect to yourself, the
issue of whether we sympathise or not with whoever is on the Square
demonstrating is not a matter for the police. We will treat them
within the law and within our capabilities. Secondly, whatever
the rights and wrongs of any demonstration, it does have to be
said, at this moment in time, that policing that demonstration
is a huge drain on the resources that should be available to Londoners,
and it is damaging the Met Performance and does lead to lack of
policing on the streets of London. I think that is the context
for these demonstrations.
Q358 David Davies: I just wondered
if Commander Broadhurst or Sir Paul felt a certain irony that
they are being criticised by some politicians for apparently over-policing
G20 but as soon as a protest comes along with inconveniences the
politicians themselves they are being urged to do more about it.
How on earth can they get a clear message unless the politicians
involved are prepared to give them one?
Sir Paul Stephenson: I think the
most appropriate answer to that is I hear what you say but it
is not a policeman's lot to be over-sensitive, sir.
Chairman: Mr Davies wants to declare
Q359 David Davies: As a Special Constable
with the British Transport Police who, I am sure the Commander
will feel, did equally as well as the Metropolitan Police during
the G20, at which I was also present, albeit in a different capacity
to Mr Brake. We have heard a lot of anecdotal evidence from protesters,
some of it quite concerning. In my own capacity I have heard a
lot of extremely concerning anecdotal evidence from police officers
about what went on. We have heard from senior police officers,
like yourselves. Do you think it would help the Committee's inquiry
if we heard from individual police officers who were involved
in policing those protests about the sort of provocation that
Sir Paul Stephenson: I think it
always helps to get a balanced view of what went on and what did
not go on, and we can hear from Commander Broadhurst and Assistant
Commissioner Chris Allison has given evidence to another Committee
to try and place the right context on these matters. Without wishing
to try and be overly humorous I would also be concerned; at this
moment in time we are extraordinarily stretched, and the officers
you are talking about speaking to are currently out there actually
trying to keep peace on the streets.