1 Introduction |
1. The main purpose of this short Report is to make
available the evidence we have taken about the policing of recent
protests and preparations for the imminent TUC March. We took
the evidence with a view to identifying the most important lessons
to be learned from recent protests and to feed those lessons into
preparations for protests to come.
2. On 14 December 2010 we took evidence from Aaron
Porter, President of the NUS, and Simon Hardy, Spokesperson for
the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts; and from DC Allison
of the Met Police and Sue Sim, ACPO lead on Public Order and Safety.
On 1 March 2011 we took further evidence from Nigel Stanley, Head
of Communications, and Carl Roper, Head Steward for the 'March
for the Alternative', the Trades Union Congress; Jo Kaye, Assistant
Inspector, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC);
and Lynne Owens, Assistant Commissioner, and Commander Bob Broadhurst,
Head of Public Order, the Metropolitan Police Service. We thank
these witnesses for their evidence. We also wrote to the Metropolitan
Police with a number of detailed questions following the first
evidence session and received a very full and helpful response
which is attached to this Report.
Human rights, policing and protest
3. Our particular interest is the extent to which
the policing of protest in practice respects human rights. The
policing of protest engages a number of human rights and freedoms.
Most obvious are the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful
assembly, which are both recognised as fundamental by the common
law and protected by Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention
on Human Rights (ECHR). Tactics for policing protests also engage
a range of other rights protected by both the common law and the
ECHR, including the right to life (Article 2 ECHR), the prohibition
against inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR), the right
to liberty (Article 5 ECHR) and the right to respect for private
life, which includes the right to physical autonomy (Article 8
The role of the police
4. We heard evidence from the Metropolitan Police
that it has in some respects changed its stance since the G20
protests so that it is now more facilitative of protest.
We welcome this renewed commitment to facilitating protest. We
accept that policing public order is a very challenging task,
and that in the current climate the police have to deal with various
regulatory burdens with diminishing resources, and with the changing
profile of protests detailed in the recent HMIC report, Policing
Public Order published in February 2011. We note in particular
the increasing unpredictability of protests which poses particular
challenges for the police. We also note that the police's senior
leaders welcome scrutiny, accepting that it inevitably produces
recommendations which they see as their leadership responsibility
to translate into practical guidance for frontline officers on
The role of the HMIC
5. The oral evidence we received from HMIC served
to emphasise the importance of that organisation's role. Policing
Public Order is an important report, reviewing progress made
against recommendations in two previous HMIC reports (issued following
the G20 protests of 2009) and setting out the key challenges for
policing protests which have been brought into increasing prominence
by the protests of 2010. The report identifies a number of questions
which it says require urgent consideration: containment, the capacity
of the police to remove problematic groups from amongst peaceful
protestors, the ability to filter the vulnerable away from containment
zones or possible disorder, information gathering and communication.
While recognising the progress made by the police against many
of the recommendations from the earlier reports, the 2011 report
is critical of the amount of time that is being taken to transfer
changes of policy into changes of actual practice and sees better
and updated training as key to improving this.
The role of protest organisers
6. We also heard evidence from organisers of demonstrations
about their acceptance of the responsibilities that accompany
the organisation of a demonstration and about their attempts to
discharge those responsibilities. There is also a duty upon those
organising protests to try and ensure so far as they can that
the protest is peaceful, well-marshalled and well run. We touch
on some key issues for organisers, in relation to communications
and stewards a little later in this Report.
The TUC 'March for the Alternative'Saturday
welcome the high degree of co-operation between the Metropolitan
Police and the TUC in planning for the demonstration on 26 March.
We agree with the observations of witnesses that in many respects
the planning for this event between the police and the organisers
provides a model of good practice. We
hope that this will be reflected in a successful and peaceful
demonstration in which all participants feel that they have exercised
their democratic right to protest. We also hope that this example
of good practice will be followed and generalised in the future,
including, so far as possible, in relation to smaller scale and
more impromptu protests than the proposed TUC march.
We do however note that, when we took evidence, neither side had
raised with the other the possibility of the need to use containment
or "kettling". This was an oversight that ought not
be repeated with regard to the planning of future demonstrations.
welcome the involvement of expert human rights and civil liberties
NGOs such as Liberty in preparations for the TUC March and the
plan to involve independent human rights observers and advisers,
as well as representatives of the organisers, in the control room
during the demonstration itself.
8. Effective and proactive communications between
the organisers of a protest and police before major demonstrations
is recognised to be one of the most important features of a 'no
surprises' approach to policing protest. We heard evidence that
liaison between police and organisers prior to some of the student
demonstrations in November and December had not been as good as
it ought to have been. We also heard that communications from
the police during the student demonstrations were not very effective
in reaching the demonstrators, particularly once the containment/kettle
had been imposed. The police recognised the importance of communication
and acknowledged that this was a challenge during the demonstrations
9. We welcome
the Metropolitan Police's development of its capacity to communicate
directly with protestors by means of social media such as Twitter,
and through the use of leaflets distributed to protestors and
tailored for the demonstration in question.
10. The police were critical of the organisers of
the student protests on 9 December for failing to communicate
effectively with the demonstrators, including about the route
of the march. They provided evidence of officers having attempted
to communicate with stewards about the need to keep the march
moving, and of stewards being uncooperative and failing to communicate
with the protestors.
There is an important responsibility on the organisers of protests
to communicate with those who are protesting. The proper discharge
of this responsibility is an important aspect of facilitating
the right to peaceful protest.
11. We recommend
that the organisers of future demonstrations ensure that they
have arrangements in place to communicate with protestors during
the demonstration, including about the route of the march or any
changes to that route, and make the best use of social media to
do so. We also welcome the plans for the
police and the stewards at the forthcoming TUC March to be in
radio contact during the demonstration, which will enable the
police to relay communications to demonstrators through the stewards'
chain of communication, and vice-versa. Good communications between
police and protestors should be established at the planning stage
and carry through to the demonstration itself.
12. In terms of protest organisers responsibilities,
the use of stewards, trained or experienced where possible, is
important. We commend the TUC for its detailed plans for the use
of stewards during the 26 March demonstration and recognise that
this must involve significant cost for the organisation. Not every
organisation can call upon a reservoir of trained or experienced
stewards, or can train them prior to any protests. However, the
importance of the clear provision and identification of sufficient
stewards who understand how the protest is to be run cannot be
Containment or "kettling"
13. At the first of our two evidence sessions, we
heard considerable concern expressed about the use of the tactic
of containment or "kettling" at the student demonstrations
in November and December last year. The complaints included the
length of time for which people were detained within the containment
or "kettle"; the large numbers of people affected and
the apparently indiscriminate nature of the restrictions imposed;
the lack of access to basic needs such as food, water, toilets
and in some cases medication; the effect on particularly vulnerable
individuals such as the young and the disabled; the lack of communication
with the protestors about matters such as the reasons for the
use of the tactic, the likely duration and the arrangements for
leaving the area; the disregard of factors such as the low temperatures
and the age of many of the protestors; and the lack of opportunity
for peaceful protestors to cross the police cordon and leave the
area. As a result, we heard that demonstrators were "terrified
of kettling" which
caused "significant anxiety."
14. We also heard the Metropolitan Police's account
of the use of containment or "kettling" at these demonstrations.
Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison of the Metropolitan Police
Service, who has responsibility for the policing of demonstrations
in London, told us that containment was only used at the 24 November
2010 demonstration after police came under attack. He said that
commanders took the view that allowing the demonstration to move
on would have led to "widespread damage and disorder";
they ensured that it was necessary and proportionate in the first
place and then implemented what they had learnt from the G20 protests.
Toilets and water were provided, he told us, access through the
lines was given to journalists, and the vulnerable were allowed
out. The long duration of the kettle was explained by "fear
15. We consider
it the responsibility of demonstrators and organisers to recognise
that failure to protest peacefully will require the police to
take action, but there does appear to be a lack of clarity about
the level or seriousness of the violence that must have occurred
before containment or "kettling" can be resorted to.
We are concerned about the apparent lack of opportunity for non-violent
protestors to leave the contained or "kettled" crowd,
the adequacy of arrangements to ensure that the particularly vulnerable
such as disabled people are identified and helped to leave the
containment, and the general lack of information available to
the protestors about how and where to leave. We consider that
there remains considerable room to improve the understanding of
the ACPO Guidance concerning containment on the part of frontline
officers. We look forward to hearing practical proposals for how
to ensure the guidance is translated into action on the ground.
Use of force
16. In its 2009 Report, Nurturing the British
Model of Policing, only one police force (West Yorkshire)
was found to be using the correct definition of the term 'proportionate'
with respect to the use of force in its training materials. The
recent HMIC Report found, with regard to the use of force, that
there is still a very broad range of interpretations within police
forces of 'proportionality' in this area, from "the minimum
required to achieve the legitimate aim" (the correct definition)
through to such inaccurate explanations of the term as "corresponding"
or "making defensible decisions".
17. The Metropolitan Police thought that HMIC's assessment
of its understanding of the use of force was "a little harsh".
We were pleased to hear that
the Metropolitan Police have changed their training on the use
of force, which now starts off with "a whole first day about
the proportionate use of force and the escalation of that process."
We look forward to seeing the training materials on the use of
force which are currently being finalised.
18. The Association of Chief Police Offices' guidelines
on the policing of protest state that during demonstrations batons
should only be used in a reasonable and proportionate manner by
officers. Specific guidance on the use of batons is set out in
the ACPO Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace.
It states that "the level of force should be reasonable and
proportionate (i.e. the minimum required to meet a lawful
objective). However, we were
surprised to find that there appears to be no specific guidance
setting out the circumstances in which the use of the baton against
the head might be justifiable. The human rights requirement that
the use of force be proportionate requires operational guidance
to frontline officers which deals directly with this issue. We
recommend that such detailed guidance about the use of batons
be drawn up, and that in the meantime training reflects this concern.
The use of horses in some of the demonstrations
of November and December 2010 was controversial and claims were
made about horses "charging" which were challenged by
the police in their evidence to us. This is an issue which we
hope to look at in more detail in the future.
19. On a broader point, in
the light of recent public concern about the use of undercover
police officers in peaceful protest movements, we asked the Metropolitan
Police to confirm that undercover police officers are not being
used in the trade union movement.
We understand the considerable public benefits that can be obtained
by the appropriate use of properly authorised covert intelligence
gathering within a proper regulatory framework. We also understand
the important need to protect the safety of legitimately deployed
undercover officers. The
response to our questions was that the Metropolitan Police are
"not in a position to confirm or deny what level of undercover
officers will be deployed in the event."
its evidence to us, HMIC forcefully argued that the lessons to
be learned from events must be extracted very quickly and assimilated
by those on the ground. The system for doing this needs to be
more nimble, compared to the lengthy and arduous process of policy
reviews and the formulation of new guidance involving ACPO, HMIC,
the National Policing Improvement Agency and individual forces.
We agree. We also sense
that in the context of the changing profile of protest, those
organising demonstrations will be keen to learn what lessons they
can both from the difficult circumstances of the November and
December protests and the larger and more diverse TUC demonstration
planned for 26 March.
21. The issue of policing and protest within the
framework of respect for human rights is an important one for
this Committee, and indeed is of vital concern for everyone in
a democracy, and we very much hope to return to it in the near
1 WE2, p. 17. Back
See e.g. Q93 (Commander Bob Broadhurst). Back
Letter from Assistant Commissioner Allison, 24 January 2011, Q2. Back
Qs 102 and 104. Back
Appendix 1, pp. 106-7. Back