Facilitating Peaceful Protest - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Written Evidence

1. Letter from the Chair, to Assistant Commissioner Allison, Metropolitan Police Service, 20 December 2010

Thank you for providing evidence on 14 December on the policing of the student protests in November and December 2010. I am writing to follow-up on a number of issues, some of which I raised at the end of the session. I have set these questions out below. I would be grateful if you could respond to them by close of play on Monday 24 January 2011.

1. You told us that on 9 December the containment strategy was used on protestors in Parliament Square until around 9pm when the remaining demonstrators were moved to Westminster Bridge. You also told us that containment was used as a last resort after disorder broke out. I would be grateful if you could provide us with more detail on the decision making process, in particular:

   (a)  The degree of disorder and the attendant risk to public safety which triggered the decision to use the containment technique;

   (b)  How the commanding officer determined that containment was a necessary and proportionate response to that risk;

   (c)  Whether advice on human rights issues was taken by the commanding officer prior to making that decision, and/or had the decision-making officer had training on human rights and the right to protest?

   (d)  Why it was necessary to contain demonstrators for as long as 7 hours?

   (e)  Whether the necessity of the maintaining the containment tactic was regularly reviewed during this time? Can you provide us with evidence to show that these regular reviews took place?

2. You told us during the evidence session that officers communicated with those demonstrators on 9 December who were being contained in Parliament Square including through the use of a "warning and informing" tannoy system. The representatives of the National Union of Students and the National Campaign Against Fees and Curts told us that communications were not received by all demonstrators.

   (a)  Please provide more detail on the "warning and informing" tannoy system used;

   (b)  What steps were taken by you to ensure that communications were received throughout the contained crowd, and to facilitate supplementary information being provided by stewards and marshals, if any.

   (c)  What were those being contained told by the police about:

      (i)  the reasons for the containment,

      (ii)  the likely duration of the containment,

      (iii)  access to facilities and how to exit the containment? What other information was communicated to the contained demonstrators?

3. During the evidence session Mr Porter of the National Union of Students questioned what efforts had been made by the police to gather information on demonstrators that had caused trouble during the demonstrations on 10, 24 and 30 November and how this information was used to police the demonstrations on 9 December. Can you explain what intelligence was gathered on those expected to be participating on the demonstrations on 9 December and how this informed the policing strategy on this date?

4. 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. Can you comment on whether the use of batons on 9 December was both reasonable and proportionate and provide evidence for your view? Is there any more specific guidance about how batons should be used, e.g. are there any specific instructions that officers using batons should attempt to avoid blows to the heads of demonstrators?

5. There have been reports that a disabled demonstrator was pulled from his wheelchair by police officers on 9 December. Is specific guidance and training available for officers on the treatment of disabled demonstrators during protests?

6. You described to us an "active advance" made by mounted officers on 24 November to disperse demonstrators, but told us that no such advance was used on 9 December. Can you comment on suggestions that mounted officers approached those contained in Parliament Square on 9 December at a fast pace and explain the purpose of the advance in this case, given that the demonstrators were already contained and so had nowhere to move to?[13] You described the "active advance" as an ACPO-approved tactic. Is there any specific guidance on when and how it should be deployed?

I thank you again for providing evidence to the Committee and encourage you to include any further information you feel would be helpful to the Committee in your reply.

20 December 2010

13   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qhUTF4hOp8 Back

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