Facilitating Peaceful Protest - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The TUC 'March for the Alternative'—Saturday 26 March

1.  We welcome the high degree of co-operation between the Metropolitan Police and the TUC in planning for the demonstration on 26 March. 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. (Paragraph 7)

2.  We also 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. (Paragraph 7)


3.  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. (Paragraph 9)

4.  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. (Paragraph 11)

Containment or "kettling"

5.  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. (Paragraph 15)

Use of force

6.  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. (Paragraph 17)

7.  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. (Paragraph 18)

Undercover officers

8.  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. 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." (Paragraph 19)

Lessons learned

9.  In 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. (Paragraph 20)

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Prepared 25 March 2011