2. Letter to the Chair, from Assistant
Commissioner Allison, Metropolitan Police Service, 24 January
I am writing in response to your letter dated 22
December 2010. In it, you ask me to respond to a number of questions
following my appearance in front of the Joint Committee on Human
Rights on the 14 December 2010.
The attached twenty five page document (Appendix
1) contains the answers to those questions as best I possibly
can, with the information having been pulled together from a large
number of the officers' decision logs and such records from the
day that time has allowed us to review. I apologise for the length
of the document but I feel that it is necessary to be that long
to properly answer your questions and provide an explanatory narrative.
The Metropolitan Police Service accepts that it is fully accountable
for its actions and I hope that the detail that I have provided
in the report shows our willingness to fully explain what we do
and why we do it. I have also attached other supporting material
that is referenced in the document.
As you will see from the document, there are extensive
references to the Silver Commander who was the tactical decision
maker on the day. Regretfully, he has been on an extended period
of annual leave abroad and is not contactable until he returns
to work in the second week of February which is after your deadline
for a reply. As such, he has not had the opportunity to add any
of his comments to the document or to assist in deciphering some
of the writing in his logs which is why the word "illegible"
appears in two extracts included in the report.
As I said at the beginning of my oral evidence, the
student protests at the end of 2010 saw some of the most serious
and sustained disorder the MPS had seen at public protest in nearly
ten years. I pay tribute to both those officers who worked on
the front line and those who commanded them. The MPS fully accepts
that people have a right to peacefully protest and will work with
the organisers over any such protest. However, violence can never
be justified in the name of protest and the MPS hopes that protests
in the future are not marred by the disorder and damage that we
witnessed in November and December.
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
(a) The degree of disorder and the attendant
risk to public safety which triggered the decision to use the
(b) How the commanding officer determined that
containment was a necessary and proportionate response to that
(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
1. Your question touches on a number of areas that
I will address in the following chronological order.
The availability of human rights advice and/or human
rights training available to the Silver Commander
The degree of disorder leading to the decision to
contain the protestors
The determination of necessity of containment
Silver's ongoing reviews of the containment tactic
The duration of the containment
The availability of human rights advice and/or
human rights training available to the Silver Commander
2. Across the MPS, human rights (HR) awareness training
has been extensive and the fundamental principles that the European
Convention (ECHR) and 1998 Act (HRA) seek to protect are firmly
embedded in the conscience and actions of this organisation. This
knowledge forms the foundation of public order command training.
3. The Silver Commander for this operation is part
of the MPS's Public Order Cadre, established to ensure that only
the most competent and capable officers are permitted to command
these types of operations. The Cadre has an enviable reputation
for the quality of the officers who serve on it and the results
they routinely achieve.
4. The training of Cadre officers is grounded in
a legal framework that includes comprehension and application
of HR legislation. There are basically three levels of training
that lead to an officer joining the Cadre and them remaining a
part of it.
Foundation Course for Event and Major Incident Management
5. This is a mandatory course of all officers promoted
to the rank of Chief Inspector and those Inspectors responsible
for planning operations on London boroughs. Officers aspiring
to join the Cadre must have completed this course.
Advance Public Order Command Training
6. This is effectively the process for joining the
Cadre. Officers apply for selection and are assessed for their
suitability. To join the course, they must pass an examination
that includes a significant assessment of their HR knowledge,
including Articles 2, 5, 9, 10 & 11.
7. The course then consists of 3 separate modules
throughout which an individual's knowledge and application of
the whole legal framework is continuously tested.
8. The modules continue to be pass or fail and there
is an approximately 30% attrition rate on first attempt.
9. Once accepted into the Cadre, officers are required
to attend 2 workshops and 1 seminar a year.
10. Additionally, each commander is expected to show
operational competence by commanding at least 3 operations a year,
the quality of which is objectively reviewed by peers. When they
are assessed as experienced enough, they are allowed to command
more complex operations.
11. A record is maintained of each commander's operational
activity. Since 1999, the Silver Commander for 9 December has
commanded at least 351 operations as either Bronze, Silver or
Gold. In the calendar year up to 9 December, he had commanded
82 public order events, making him one of the most experienced
commanders in the MPS.
12. It is therefore not surprising to find constant
references to HR within the documents associated with the student
protest of 9 December. Of course, the fact that both the planning
of the police response and our subsequent actions are well documented
is the first indication of the Silver Commander's awareness of
his HR responsibilities. I would like to give you a sense of Silver's
awareness of HR issues from some of the entries in documents he
13. Firstly, the Silver Commander produced a planning
document that was richly sown with HR considerations. I would
cite the following abstracts from the planning document. These
are not exhaustive references but give an insight as to how intrinsic
HR considerations were to the planning of the whole operation:
All legal powers will be considered in accordance
with the Human Rights Act, in respect of proportionality, legality,
accountability and necessity.
While considering tactics I have ensured that
the various Bronze Commanders pay particular attention to the
various articles within ECHR legislation. They have recorded this
in their individual tactical plans.
Use of Force
ECHR Article 2 controls the use of force, as does
ECHR Article 3 and Article 8
When extreme or excessive force is used, or where
the application or force is maintained for longer than is necessary
to achieve a lawful aim, this may constitute a violation of ECHR
3 [...] or ECHR 8 Human Rights
I have considered human rights throughout the
planning of these event. The tactical plans reflect these consideration
as they apply
[...] I have ensured that Bronze Commanders are
aware of the need to consider, the Right to Liberty, (ECHR Article
5) and that the tactic must be resorted to in good faith, be proportionate
to the situation making the measure necessary and not be enforced
for longer than is necessary.
14. Later, in his log of the day's events, Silver
continues to demonstrate an awareness of how his decisions might
engage with HR considerations and some of this will become apparent
in later answers, particularly with reference to proportionality.
15. The Silver Commander had also commanded the demonstrations
on 24 and 30 November 2010 and had discussed his decision making
at those events with a senior lawyer within the MPS Directorate
of Legal Services. As the principle witness in the MPS defence
to a judicial review claim arising from the containment of demonstrators
in Bishopsgate on 1 April 2010, he is also particularly aware
of and familiar with the engagement with human rights issues that
is inherent to a public order event of this nature. The MPS Directorate
of Legal Services was available on 9 December 2010 to provide
advice and guidance as required, and did in fact provide advice
in relation to the incursion of demonstrators on to Parliament
Square Gardens during the afternoon.
16. The Silver commander also had the use of a Tactical
Adviser on the day, who was a specialist public order trainer
from the MPS Public Order and Operational Support Unit in Gravesend.
In this role, he provides human rights training to officers within
the public order context and was therefore particularly able to
assist with any human rights considerations that arose.
The degree of disorder leading to the decision
to contain protestors
17. The earliest recorded disorder occurred at 11.25
when protestors were reported to be climbing statues in Parliament
18. There was a degree of disorder almost from the
outset of the march from University of London in Malet Street.
19. The ULU notified march commenced as agreed but
at 11.55 a number of persons were reported in Malet Street wearing
masks, carrying padded shields and wearing hard hats. At 12.07,
marchers in Malet Street began throwing placards at police. Police
decided to take a negotiated approach to stop this from happening
rather than through enforcement. By this time there were about
2000 people in Malet Street. Intelligence suggested that some
people had concealed weapons about them.
20. The next significant event was at about 13.15
when the front of the ULU march started to fight with police and
attempted to break away from the main body and deviate from the
agreed route. A high level of force was used in this breakout,
which required other officers to be drafted in to redirect protestors
back to the agreed route. Shortly afterwards, the levels of threat
within London started to increase. This included reports of a
petrol bomber in the area of Trafalgar Square and the first of
many sustained assaults against police formations. At 1507 a man
was reported to be in Parliament square with a firearm although
this was never substantiated by arrest or seizure of the weapon.
21. Up to 15.23 hours, the time at which Silver directed
a full containment of Parliament Square, there are over 40 incidents
of violent or disorderly behaviour recorded in the main bronze
22. The following are key entries taken from Silver's
public order decision log (rationale in brackets taken from the
right side of log):
13.18 Bronze 4 asks:
Does Silver want the march contained. Silver states not at this
time. Let them continue on prescribed route. (Containment at Trafalgar
Squaredecision not to be attempted at this time. Rationale:
[...] The containment tactic is one of last resort and at this
time, although there have been some outbreaks of violence, the
march is sticking to its route. I have fortified Parliament Square
itself to prevent incursion, and therefore will allow protestors
to continue on agreed route at this time.)
13.37 Bronze 9 informed
that march entering P. Square
13.48 To Bronze 5.2.
Request for demonstrators to be encouraged into Whitehall as the
blockage in P. Square is causing safety issues. (Encourage march
to move out of Parliament Square. Rationale: March has stopped
in Parliament Square at junction with Whitehall/Parliament Street/Great
George Street. This is causing those at the back to bunch up and
(illegible) on those at the front. The agreed route is up Whitehall
and then into Victoria Embankment.)
13.56 (Lockdown all
VPs (vulnerable premises)rationalesubjects been
moving away from march and route. I do not want unlawful building
incursions and damage and fear a breach of the peace.)
13.59 (Officers to
withdraw to secondary line across front of Parliament. Rationale
for thisThe numbers on the march is 15-20,000 people. The
front of the march is static and there is some disorder. The pressure
being put on the demonstrators and police lines is now getting
dangerous. Bronze 2 and I have agreed a contingency in the event
of this happening. This will be officers withdrawing back to secondary
lines at Broad Sanctuary and Victoria Street. This allows the
protestors both sides of Parliament Square and will relieve pressure.)
14.06 (All officers
to wear full protective equipment. Rationale: violence being offered
is now very extreme. Missiles, including flares, have been thrown.
The "protestors" have broken down the Heras fencing
around the grass area of Parliament Square.)
14.08 Silver meeting
[...] Tactical plan discussed re Parliament Square Cordons: Great
George Street, Broad Sanctuary. Not a containment. Exit via Whitehall
. (Cordons at locations to prevent entry into POWcordons
in place preventing people in Parliament Square from entering
POW. I have left Whitehall open as this is the agreed route out
and onto the rally. Officers to encourage people to leave via
this exit. The cordons are in place to prevent a breach of the
peace at POW and to maintain the democratic process of Parliament.)
14.16 Fencing being
used as a weapon.
14.22 St Margarets
Church next to Westminster Abbey damaged.
14.47 Meeting with
Gold: Tactics discussed re dispersal. Will wait until after vote.
14.51 Bronze 4.2Large
group heading north in Whitehall. Silverestablish where
they are going. OKEmbankmentVictoria.
15.08 Churchill statue
damaged by students.
15.11 Decision made
not to go into crowd in Parliament Square at this time. (Not to
enter Parliament Square and protect statuesRationale: Numbers
involved in violence are very high. 1000 seen to move from cordon
line to cordon line. Information re missiles are they are concrete,
snooker balls and such like. These could easily kill. Also information
re possible firearm. At this time, entry will only be made if
life at risk not to protect property at the expense of police
officers getting seriously injured.)
15.12 Victoria Street
cordon breached. Small number break through. Cordon back in, Missiles
thrown, including flares.
15.15 Federation: yellow
jackets not flame proof. Silver: message to all bronzes. Yellow
jackets to be removed.
15.18 More flares used.
Police being attacked from behind.
23. These entries show a progressive and systematic
escalation of violence on police, a number of hours before the
Parliament Square containment was implemented. The level of violence
was way above simple pushing and shoving that might be expected
from a large crowd. I would highlight the deliberate destruction
of fencing, protecting the grassed area of Parliament Square that
was used to attack police across the barriers erected to protect
the Palace of Westminster (PoW). The throwing of flares could
have resulted in serious burns and the variety of other missiles
could and did injure officers and protestors alike.
The determination of necessity of containment
24. The above extracts demonstrate the level of violence
faced by police and indeed, those who wished to protect peacefully.
25. In the face of these events, Silver decided that
the containment of Parliament Square was necessary at 15.23; his
log again captures his rationale.
Silver meeting with Gold. Containment discussed.
Due to serious offences being committed. People allowed to leave
if not committed offences or vulnerable. Loud hailers to be used.
Gold agreed. (Full containment of Parliament Square authorised.
Rationale: There has been serious violence within Parliament Square
over the last 2 hours. Demonstrators have attacked police lines
intent it seems in getting through to POW. This will cause serious
outbreaks of further damage and violence. I fear that unless I
contain this group in Parliament Square, they will move onto other
roads and rampage through London. I fear a real and imminent breach
of the peace that I will not be able to prevent unless I contain
them. I will then look for options to arrest people for offences,
and disperse the group in small manageable numbers as soon as
possible. However, I do take into account that the reason for
the demonstration is the vote in POW and therefore release before
this is unlikely unless the crowd dynamics change dramatically.
I have briefed all bronzes to ensure discretion is used in allowing
vulnerable people out of cordon wherever possible. I am also cognisant
of the fact that Whitehall has remained open for some time so
they could leave if they had wished to do so [...] I have instructed
the bronzes on cordons to undertake role of letting people out
and helping vulnerable people out.)
Silver's ongoing review of the containment tactic
26. Silver's review of tactical options was a continuous
process however, the containment tactic in particular was subject
to regular and well documented review. There were 3 specific reviews
and 2 other decisions specifically intended to bring the containment
to an end. Again, I provide the relevant extracts to demonstrate
both the timing of, and considerations made during, reviews.
To Continue. The level of violence continues. I now have groups
of protestors in the west end causing damage and violence. The
numbers are 100-150. I fear this will even larger if I do not
contain this group in Parliament Square who already have shown
their propensity to extreme violence; and I therefore fear a real
and imminent breach of the peace if I release them. I am satisfied
that everything is being done to extract vulnerable people by
the bronzes on the ground and have witnessed this myself.
containment. There is little change from when I last reviewed
the circumstances of the containment. However I have met with
Bx [Bronze] 11Supt Bird and asked him to command my dispersal
when I authorise it to take place [...] Evidence gatherers and
cameras will be at dispersal point to arrest persons for substantive
offences. The vote is imminent in the House of Commons.
to deploy into Parliament Square to arrest offenders given to
Bronzes; Rationale: The level of violence has not desisted over
the last 4 hours. The [illegible] appear to be trying to [illegible]
and damage as much as possible in and around the Parliament Square
area. It is now necessary to stop this as if these buildings catch
light there is a real and imminent danger to life. I therefore
want officers to intervene. This will mean the level of force
will have to be higher and proportionate to nullify the real threat
posed by the demonstrators.
reviewedno change in circumstances at this time. BX's still
releasing people if possible.
the clearance of Parliament Square into Bridge Street. Rationale:
The Breaches of the Peace and Criminal Acts continue. It is now
possible to move these people into a tighter containment. This
will prevent them causing damage, violent acts and setting fires.
The plan will mean forcing them into Bridge Street. This is also
part of the dispersal plan. It is necessary to do this to stop
the violence and damage that has been occurring in Parliament
Square. I note that the numbers in Parliament Square have reduced
significantly. This is due to the hard work of "weeding out"
some people (less of a threat) throughout the evening. Bx 11 is
in overall charge of this tactic and the dispersal tactic following
on from this.
The duration of the containment
27. The duration of 7 hours that you refer to was
directly linked to the sustained violence that continued through
Parliament Square and elsewhere up to the start of the final dispersal
detailed above. Large groups continued to roam the West End and
some of these committed acts of violence, mostly notably at 19.21
when a group attacked HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess
of Cornwall. There were other incursions and violence used against
commercial premises and the National Gallery, where 100 protestors
forced their way in.
28. Within Parliament Square, some of the worst acts
of violence of the whole day continued including repeated attacks
on the Treasury building and the Supreme Court. Fires were set
and police lines came under constant and sustained attacks.
29. However, it would be wrong to suggest that there
was a continuous containment throughout this period. There is
extensive evidence within command logs to show discretionary releases
of peaceful or vulnerable protestors throughout the whole period.
However, perhaps the most significant figure to support this would
be that at the start of events in Parliament Square there were
15,000-20,000 people present. At the point that the release plan
was initiated there were only about four thousand remaining in
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
(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
(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
30. I note from the outset that the representatives
of the NUS and the NCAFC state that communications were not received
by all demonstrators. We would not contest that this was likely
among a crowd of up to 20,000 people, a significant number of
whom were committing acts of violence and engaged in wide scale
disorder. Ensuring contact is effective with everybody in a crowd
that large, in the open air, would be a challenge for us even
if they were entirely passive.
31. Notwithstanding the violence that ensued there
were other environmental factors that created limitations to communication
- Traffic noise
- Helicopters (police and media)
- Amplified music within the crowd
32. That said, we recognise the importance of communication,
which should of course start with the provision of effective information
being provided to protestors by the organisers of the event. From
the outset this appears not to have happened and indeed, we have
received communication from students involved in 9 December protest
who acknowledge that they were not even aware of the route they
were meant to be taking.
33. When it became necessary for the police to take
over responsibility for communicating with the crowd, because
the organisers had lost control, we had planned to do so in the
- Direct verbal contact between
officers and public
- Amplified voice communications using loud-hailers
or vehicle mounted tannoy systems
- Visual communication through "dot-matrix"
- New and old media
34. There are variations on these themes and in
some circumstances, it might be appropriate to use banners or
written material such as leaflets. All communication systems have
their uses and limitations particularly when taking into account
the environmental factors explained above.
35. On 9 December the primary means of contact with
protestors was through officers talking directly with them and
by using the tannoy systems described above. The dot-matrix system
was available however it was not deployed. The system is required
to run on a petrol generator and there were concerns on this occasion
that it could not be sited in such a place so as to make it effective
and also ensure it was not overrun. You will appreciate the implications
of violent protestors gaining access to a generator's petrol tank.
36. Once the crowd had become violent, it was not
safe to enter the crowd in order to communicate with them. The
operation became reliant on direct communication between officers
at cordon lines or from the vehicle tannoys that can broadcast
to a greater distance. The tannoys are not sophisticated systems,
being part of the vehicles normal specification. They are almost
always positioned behind police lines and therefore in front of
protestors. As a result, those at the front of the crowd would
have heard the message though it is accepted that those in the
centre or at the back of the crowd may not have heard the messages
37. Direct verbal communications would have become
virtually impossible once it became necessary for officers to
don protective helmets and once attacks on police started, in
many cases verbal communication would not have been more comprehensive
than officers shouting "Get Back".
38. I would wish to reinforce the point that the
containment was not established until some significant time after
wide scale disorder had started and this made the universal communication
of containment information all but impossible.
39. What is clear from command logs is that commanders
on the ground were made very aware of the instructions to release
vulnerable people. Some commanders report personally passing this
information to the officers actively involved in controlling crowds
and there are examples that this message was getting through to
significant sections of it: I cite, as an example of how effective
communication was, the significant reduction in crow size that
occurred over the period of containment.
40. As an example of how individual officers communicated
I provide the following abstract from PC 470LX who in her Evidence
and Action Book provides the following information about what
her team did when positioned at the Victoria Street cordon sometime
between 1330 and 1530.
[...] slowly there were growing numbers of protestors.
They were given advice of where exit points where if they wanted
to leave. Protestors stayed and were getting aggressive verbally.
We informed them that the cordon was in place under section 3
of the Criminal law Act to prevent any further damage to property
in the street and under common law to stop a breach of the peace
41. Prior to this event, PC 470LX had been subject
to a number of attacks by protestors. She was typical of many
officers that day who started work at about 0900 and were then
continuously deployed into violent situations until nearly midnight.
I think that the calm manner in which she has attempted to communicate
with a hostile crowd is a great reflection of the professionalism
all of our officers displayed throughout the day.
42. There was no single "corporate" message
constructed, providing answers to the questions you pose in section
c, and to most, the reason for containment would have been clearly
visible around them. I do not believe it was practical to give
containment duration assessments as this was entirely dependent
on Silver's continuing threat assessments.
43. With regard to communication between police and
stewards, various command logs show that police officers tried
to communicate with organisers in order to keep the protest moving
through Parliament Square. Again, I will provide first hand testimony
from one of my commanders who perhaps best articulates the challenges
of working with the organisers:
1342; I am negotiating
with several different stewards/organisers and trying to get them
to restart the march. I have explained to them there is a risk
of crushing further up the march as the crowd becomes more dense.
They are not engaging with the crowd so I have asked for them
to use loud hailers. They state they are waiting for a banner
to arrive before they will restart but I have again explained
the importance of restarting the march along the agreed route
to stop harm being caused to people in the crowd.
44. It would appear from this entry that not only
had the organisers lost control by allowing the march to come
to a halt but that they were also being uncooperative with the
police. Shortly after this time, there were significant outbreaks
of violence and it appears that very little recorded communication
continued between the stewards and the police thereafter.
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?
45. In answering this question I will restrict myself
to generalities, as I would not wish to make public some of our
intelligence gathering methods. To expose our processes could
undermine the effectiveness of our methods or expose to risk those
who deliver information into it.
46. There are however general matters that I am happy
to share with you and which I hope will answer this question to
47. Clearly, the MPS is always capable of responding
to large-scale disorder and our commanders, planners and officers
are regarded as being world leaders in managing public order events.
We have considerable experience from policing some 4500 events
a year in the Capital, most of which pass peacefully and without
48. In many respects the policing of the recent student
protests has presented the Metropolitan police Service with unprecedented
challenges. Protests descending into lawlessness and protestors
using levels of violence not seen in recent times, has meant that
the MPS has had to learn and adapt so as to provide an appropriate
and proportionate response. The fact that these protests form
part of a connected chain presents opportunities to learn about
individual protestors, their organisation and tactics.
49. Very few protests require a significant intelligence
input. In essence most are single events, many are organised by
recognised groups or institutions and most are done in full cooperation
with the police and local authorities.
50. In most cases, the police will have some capacity
to gather information as an event progresses or it descends into
disorder. This might be through police evidence gatherers deployed
as part of the operation, or by something as simple as monitoring
CCTV networks. Much of the thrust of this activity is in gathering
evidence to support subsequent prosecutions if appropriate.
51. Such information may be of value as intelligence
but most is not.
52. I think it is important to note that generally
speaking, it is individuals who commit offences and not organisations
and the opportunity to pre-empt which individuals may turn up
to any particular protest may be very limited indeed.
53. The first student protests, which had been planned
for many months, were expected by the police to be lawful and
peaceful with the organisers being both willing and capable of
fulfilling their responsibilities. Accordingly there will have
been very little information gathering associated with them other
than to monitor open sources such as social networking sites and
public communications from the organisers themselves.
54. In the case of the student protests the MPS recognises
the democratic rights of unions to exist without state interference.
We have neither the resources nor political mandate to actively
gather intelligence about the NUS or any other union. Moreover,
the nature of student unions in particular, is that of transient,
informal membership and thus identification within these organisations
would be extremely difficult.
55. What the MPS does do is monitor the public actions
of individuals associated with organisations. In this way, it
might be possible to predict, based on their past actions, that
individuals from Organisation A are more likely to turn to disorder
than those from Organisation B and an appropriate policing response
can be developed to match the presumed risks. We know from experience
that those who would undermine peaceful protests prefer to work
under the cover of large numbers and therefore we can add to the
predictability equation, the anticipated size of the crowd.
56. It is fair to say that the rapid evolution of
the student protests has resulted in a similarly rapid development
of the way in which the MPS gathers, manages and uses information
to inform our intelligence about them.
57. Up to and including the 9 December protests,
much of the focus was to gather information and use it retrospectively
to identify offenders. One of the limiting factors in exploiting
the information gathered at earlier protests has been the scale
of material seized and limited time between protests in which
to view, assess and use it. There been 210 people arrested for
offences committed at student protests and many of these will
have come about because of the information gathered on those days.
60% of these people had never come to police notice before and
of those that had, few were known to us for protest-connected
58. Sometimes, information becomes intelligence in
that it can be used to predict criminality and therefore prevent
or disrupt it. However, in many cases, this might not be practical.
Mr Porter's question regarding our efforts to identify previous
trouble-makers might be taken to presume that even having done
so, police could act to neutralise their influence. The reality
is of course far different.
59. Firstly, among thousands, it is nigh on impossible
to say with certainty, which individuals may attend a protest.
60. Secondly, even people who have antecedence for
trouble making have a right to attend protests unfettered by police
interference, unless they are breaking the law or are known to
be intending to do so. Even then, if they are identified among
crowds of thousands, many of whom may be wearing face coverings,
there are significant risks if attempts are made to remove them,
even in the course of them committing offences.
61. It is far better to manage the situation that
presents itself and deal with individuals when it is safe to do
62. Thirdly, too early an intervention risks allegations
of heavy-handed policing and risks providing an excuse, albeit
one that is always unjustified, for those who would commit crime.
63. What became apparent from earlier protest is
that those attending were a loose affiliation. It might be possible
to predict (but not with certainty) which groups would turn up
but it is virtually impossible to predict which individuals might
join them. We saw legitimately interested parties attending to
protest but these were joined by gains from elsewhere in London
that were attending with the sole purpose of causing violence.
Subsequently, we were able to monitor some locations in London
so as to provide advanced warning of who and how many may be on
their way to central London.
64. Although some of the earlier protests had been
mostly peaceful there had been clear example that led police to
believe that escalations to violence were not only possible but
were perhaps likely. In response to this, there was a broader
intelligence gathering operation in place on 9 December to provide
commanders with an alert as to who might be attending.
65. On 9 December, there were opportunities to gather
intelligence in Parliament Square and these were actively used.
Based on this intelligence we were able to track and respond to
a number of developments and arrests for some serious offences
continue to this day.
66. Based on some of the learning from 9 December,
we were able to create a more sophisticated information gathering
operation on subsequent protests that created more opportunities
for taking immediate action against offenders identified from
earlier protests. This process will continue in future protests.
67. Lastly I would like to make brief comment on
the information given to officers working within public order
68. The basis of public order policing is of serials
of police officers working as teams to an overall tactical plan.
Officers rarely work independently and an officer being able to
identify an individual suspect from an earlier incident is not
only unlikely but is also likely to be un-actionable. It would
not, for example, be appropriate for an individual or even a serial
of officers to independently move into a crowd to detain someone
they had recognised from an earlier event without this being part
of the overall tactical plan: To do so would risk undermining
the whole tactical plan. Therefore, providing individual officers
with photographs or footage of shoes who had or were likely to
commit offences could be counter-productive and was not done,
except with specialist evidence gathering teams.
69. Similarly, the mindset of officers engaged in
public order policing is very important and it was decided not
to show video footage to officers so as not to cloud their views
of events that may unfold in front of them on the day.
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
70. Before answering this question, it is important
for me to point out that I am unable to comment on individual
uses of force on 9 December. However, all police officers are
all fully aware that they are individually accountable for any
force they use.
71. You will appreciate that there are ongoing criminal
investigations into the conduct of protestors and I would not
wish to engage in discussion that would jeopardise the fairness
of these or any subsequent criminal proceedings. Similarly, there
is an IPCC investigation into some uses of force and it would
be inappropriate for me to provide comment on these matters either.
72. However, I think it is useful to contextualise
the use of force as posed by your question and I am happy to discuss
how the MPS prepares its officers to use batons. I would like
to address the following:
- The law as it relates to use
- Preventative planning to avoid use of force
- The training of officers in the use of the baton
The Law relating To Use of Force
73. The ACPO guidance to which you refer provides
a number of considerations for the use of batons, among them being
the imperative for reasonable and proportionate use. Although
the deployment of batons is referred to specifically as tactical
option in the ACPO manual, the use of batons is just one way in
which a police officer may use force and is therefore covered
by the same law that regulates any use of force.
74. Thus, the legality of an individual use of a
baton in any situation is not governed by ACPO guidance, but determined
by the laws that permit the use of force and should always derive
from one of 3 sources. These are:
- Section 3, Criminal Law Act
- Section 117, Police and Criminal Evidence Act,
- Common Law
75. Overlaid on this domestic legislation is the
requirement to comply with the articles of the European Convention
on Human Rights. As you are aware, the 2010 ACPO Manual of Guidance
"Keeping the Peace" was amended in the light of the
recommendation and learning following on from the policing of
the protests immediately prior to the G20 summit in April 2009.
I enclose a copy of the relevant section of that Manual which
relates to the legal framework for Police Use of Force (pages
The MPS was involved in the revision of the Manual and all the
commanding officers for the policing operation on 9 December 2010
were familiar with the guidance.
76. Although there is no hierarchy among our domestic
use-of-force laws, each may be used according to need and circumstance.
Individual officers will commonly exercise their powers as they
see fit under the legislation that is most appropriate to the
circumstances they face. Ultimately, officers are individually
accountable for their use of force.
77. In my view, there were many circumstances on
the day when the use of batons would have been a wholly proportionate
response to some of the extremes of force faced by officers.
Preventative Planning To Avoid Use of Force
78. I would like to make it very clear that contrary
to evidence given to the Committee by others, my officers did
everything that they could to avoid confrontations with protestors.
This started with the operational plan.
79. The whole premise of the operational plan was
underpinned by the need to protect Parliament and the democratic
processes being undertaken therein. You will appreciate the challenge
of ensuring that Parliament remained accessible to those with
legitimate rights of access while preventing those who would disrupt
them. You will further appreciate the national and indeed, international
implications of parliament being overrun by protestors wishing
to prevent legitimate voting taking place.
80. The University of London Union had made clear
statements during our planning meeting that they intended to "march
on Parliament" and the MPS sought to work with them to facilitate
a peaceful protest.
81. You will have seen from media footage that there
were clearly many within the crowd who sought to breach police
lines that were probably the most effective barrier to mass invasion
of Parliament. I have little doubt that had those lines not stood,
there would have been a mass invasion of the Palace of Westminster
(PoW), the results of which we could still very well be dealing
82. Bearing this in mind, the planning principles
that underpinned the policing operation on 9 December took account
of the need to create a defensive barrier around PoW. Mindful
of our extensive experience in policing protests we recognised
that a simple police line, that would put officers "toe-to-toe"
with protestors may be both insufficient to deal with a concerted
attack on PoW and also create conditions where physical confrontation
was more likely.
83. Accordingly, a box shape barrier (known as a
'Wapping box') was erected across the front of Parliament with
express intention of preventing the invasion of Parliament but
with an equal purpose of preventing the need for officers and
protestors to come into physical contact.
84. You will undoubtedly have seen protestors attacking
this line with fencing that had been torn down from Parliament
Square, using this as an extended weapon because they could not,
themselves, physically reach across the Wapping box barrier. A
significant number of protestors attacked this line with such
ferocity that barriers were crushed and officers had to resort
to the use of batons to protect themselves and Parliament.
The Training of Officers in the Use of Batons
85. The officers used to police the 9 December protest
were drawn from many areas of the Metropolitan Police Service.
Their normal duties are many and varied, ranging from detectives
to safer neighbourhood officers as well as others from specialist
departments. All have common training in the use of batons.
86. Every officer up to and including the rank of
Chief Inspector is required to undertake mandatory officer safety
training every year. This is required to be for a minimum of 12
hours and covers those skill areas that involve use of force including,
tactical communications, unarmed skills, handcuffing, batons,
and use of incapacitant spray. This training is completed on a
pass or fail basis, and officers unable to satisfy the instructors
that they are competent are given development until they can do
so or are ultimately removed from operational duties.
87. It is important to note, particularly in the
context of proportionality, that batons are not taught in isolation
from other use of force methods. Equally important is the fact
that practical skills are underpinned by a great emphasis on being
able to understand how and why force should be used. In the past
10 years there has been a significant move towards more classroom
based "scenario" training so that officers may better
understand the rationales behind use of force and therefore be
more accountable. Ultimately, while the baton is a blunt and relatively
easy to use instrument, there are skills to be learned in using
the correct methods of drawing and striking.
88. All use of force training is linked to the Officer
Safety Model (OSM) that requires an officer to consider
- Impact Factors (including person
concerned, object they may be using against police and place where
incident is occurring)
- Risk Assessment (that would include an assessment
of risks to the officer and the subject)
- Powers and Policies (domestic and human rights
law as well as local policies)
- Tactical Options (ranging from talking to people
to actually using force by various means)
89. Within this model, the use of batons is specifically
linked to an understanding of alternative methods such as tactical
communications (i.e. warning people to get back, or trying to
calm them down), acknowledging the potential medical implications
of using a baton on any particular part of the body and understanding
the law in which use of force is applied.
90. The use of the officer safety model is a dynamic
process, being a cycle that an officer can go through many times
a minute in an environment such as Parliament Square. Of course,
this is not a precise science and their remains a degree of subjective
assessment that is clearly commensurate with the law as described
91. The overlaying of medical considerations on the
assessment process means that officers have a clear understanding
of the consequences of any particular course of action. There
is no prohibition on striking any part of the body but an officer
would be expected to demonstrate their understanding of the consequences
of any particular course of action and justify these in a legal
92. The use of batons in a public order context does
become more complex and officers who are trained to police public
order events receive additional "technical" training.
Specifically, it is more difficult to use a baton when carrying
a shield and officers are taught how to do this and there is
a specific "show-of-force" tactic where officers will
collectively raise their batons in warning to protestors. This
is a relatively unique tactic in that it is reliant on a 3rd
party (commander) giving an order to use force whereas this is
almost always an individual decision for officers.
93. The "command" use of force is dictated
by the conflict management model, which is a national model for
determining what actions are appropriate based on; the information
and intelligence available; the assessment of threat; the available
powers, policies and procedures and the tactical options.
94. It may be that while an individual officer does
not perceive a threat, the commander who has a much broader picture
of the whole incident, may deem that use of force is necessary
to meet the needs of the broader operation. On this basis, they
may direct officers to use that force although the individual
officers will remain accountable for the actual degree of force
used. A simple example of this might be a line of police officers
being directed to push a group of protestors towards a particular
area. A simple guiding hand may be all the force that is required
or, where violent resistance is encountered, a baton strike might
be more appropriate. All of our officers and commanders are trained
to understand the complexities of the use of force.
95. It is also recognised that the use of the baton
in public order policing may occur in "toe-to-toe" situations
that create additional difficulties. In a large and active crowd
such as that in Parliament Square, officers may be faced with
limited options as to where to strike persons using violence against
them. In a crowd, an officer may only be able to strike a head
or shoulders and may still find this necessary and reasonable
even in recognition of the potential medical consequences.
96. In a densely packed and dynamic crowd there remains
potential for collateral injuries where an officer may miss their
intended target and strike an adjacent person if there is a sudden
movement. This would be subject to a dynamic risk assessment where
the officer would weigh up the risks of striking against the consequences
of allowing violence to continue.
97. Finally, following the G20 protests of 2009 there
was an extensive review of our public order training including
the use of batons. The Public Order Officer Safety Manual was
rewritten to place a greater emphasis on human rights considerations.
Included in this was review by a leading medical expert who was
asked to consider the implications and provide advice on, the
various techniques likely to be used.
98. In support of their training, officers have access
in electronic format to the MPS Officer Safety Manual. This is
a very lengthy resource and I enclose for you hear a print out
of the section that specifically deals with the use of the baton,
as well as the introductory sections that deal with use of force
and the medical implications.
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?
99. The incident to which you refer is again subject
to both a criminal investigation regarding the conduct of protestors
and an IPCC investigation into the actions of police officers.
You will again appreciate that it would not be appropriate for
me to discuss this specific incident.
100. The Metropolitan Police Service has, as a strategic
principle, the need to respect diversity and this extends to a
much broader definition of disability than those who might use
wheelchairs. We are supported in the development of our strategic
response to disability by a Disability Independent Advisory Group
that is a proactive in giving us advice on how to address a host
101. A diversity directorate oversees the development
of diversity policies and practices and ensures that strategic
intention continues to be implemented practically.
102. Our strategic position on disability comes to
life through 3 means
- Mandatory training
- Performance review
103. The strength of our public order pollicising
is that, as explained previously, the officers used to police
protests are drawn from what most would regard as "normal"
policing duties. All the officers on duty on 9 December would
have undertaken diversity training either on entering the police
service or through a mandatory online learning package. Among
the subjects covered within this package is disability.
104. Additionally, every officer in the MPS has,
as part of their annual Performance and Development Review (PDR),
an assessment of their contribution towards policing diversity.
This constant focus on the practical demonstration of their respect
for diversity means that officers maintain a high level of awareness
of all issues.
105. Lastly, in terms of officer awareness, is the
fact that the single point of entry to the police service (i.e.
operational constable) means that all officers are exposed to
a broad range of communities and policing activities from their
earliest days. Most carry this vast experience of life with them
throughout their whole careers, constantly using it to inform
their decision-making processes. This means that officers who
become involved in public order operations come with the skills
required to deal effectively with all the people they meet.
106. Within training for public order policing, there
is no additional input aimed at raising officers' awareness of
the needs of specific disabilities. Focussing on, for example,
wheelchair bound protestors would be far too narrow a focus. It
is highly likely that among a crowd of many thousands there will
be many people suffering from different types and different degrees
of disability including some that would be apparent to officers
and many that would not.
107. There is however, specific tactical and strategic
training and guidance givenconstables through to commandersregarding
the use of containment tactics dependent on their role at a public
order event. This includes all them being trained to consider
the needs of those who might be viewed as vulnerable, and I accept
that a disabled person may become vulnerable in any situation
but especially so when they find themselves in the middle of a
violent protest. In a broader context, commanders are also trained
to consider the welfare needs of the whole crowd.
108. There are no separate tactics that police could
implement to prevent a disabled person from attacking or obstructing
a police line that are different to those that may be used with
able-bodied people. Essentially, officers will use the level of
force that is appropriate within the law to counter the violence
used against them, taking into consideration the medical implications
of such action as described in my answer to the previous question.
109. The police must be able to respond to vulnerable
people who are identified and who wish to leave protests. There
is strong evidence captured in various command logs that indicate
a clear intent by commanders and officers to support vulnerable
people within the crowd and release them through the appropriate
cordons as soon as possible.
110. I would also expect the organisers of a protest
to consider the needs of disabled participants; failure to do
so may contravene legislation in some circumstances. I expect
organisers to be responsible for ensuring that the planned peaceful
activities are open to all and that those requiring additional
support are afforded this. Where peaceful protest turns into violence
and disorder, it remains incumbent on the organisers to ensure
that vulnerable people are suitably supported. I am unaware of
the provisions made by ULU to cater for disabled participants.
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? You described the "active advance" as
an ACPO-approved tactic. Is there any specific guidance on when
and how it should be deployed?
111. Thank you for the opportunity to provide further
clarification regarding the use of horses on 9 December. I have
reviewed the transcript of our meeting on 14 December and disagree
with the statement that you attribute to me in your letter dated
22 December . The record does not show me as saying that "no
such[active] advance took place on 9 December" as you state.
112. What we are talking about here are degrees of
engagement and differences in tactical intent.
113. As I said to you on 22 December, horses are
used for a wide variety of reasons. The ACPO Manual on keeping
the Peace gives 5 reasons why they may be used:
- To assist with monitoring the
crowd dynamics and information/intelligence gathering
- To demonstrate that force is about to be/may
- To support cordons
- To escort marches/groups
- To assist with the dispersal of a crowd
114. On 24 November, the intent of the active advance
was to disperse the crowd and clear an area in support of further
dispersal. There were significant dangers to the officers who
were deployed in that area and who were being attacked despite
being largely defenceless. The use of horses was a tactic of last
resort to prevent further extremes of violence and their deployment
at that time was proportionate.
115. On 9 December, the circumstances and use of
the horses were somewhat different. What we saw at Victoria Street,
was a sustained attack on a police cordon with a presumed intent
to attack vulnerable premises in the near vicinity or to find
an alternate route to the Palace of Westminster. There was a need
to support and reinforce the cordon of officers trying to hold
116. Initially, the foot officers at that location
were providing a simple cordon to prevent large numbers of protestors
deviating from the agreed route, which was still open for them
to follow. The cordon was intended to allow the filtering of small
numbers of protestors into Victoria Street and away from Parliament
Square. However between 1400 and 1500 this cordon became the focus
for sustained attacks from a crowd described as 20 deep. It was
the attack on this cordon in particular, that was one of the reasons
containment was commenced.
117. During this period a line of officers was attacked
with fencing; had hundreds of protestors surging at them, and
were barraged with scaffold bolts, fireworks, flares and other
missiles clearly intended to cause them harm.
118. Had this police line failed to hold its ground,
a large number of violent protestors would have had free run up
Victoria Street and then spread into the heart of the nearby government
119. At about 1500 a unit of mounted officers were
making their way to take a refreshment break when they passed
through this area and observed the perilous state of the cordon.
They took the decision to self-deploy to Victoria Street to support
their colleagues on foot and formed up behind the police line
to provide a "show of strength". This is a recognised
tactic and is contained in the 'MPS Guide to Mounted Branch Tactics'.
120. After consultation with a Bronze commander it
was decided that the horses were the only means of preventing
the crowd from overwhelming the cordon officers. Prior to directing
the horses into the crowd, the bronze commander observed that
there was a large open space behind the protestors into which
they could move. It was obvious that this group of protestors
could have moved to the exit point at Whitehall but chose not
121. Initially, the mounted unit tried to conduct
a "Passive Push" into the crowd from behind the officers
which involved the horses moving at walking pace. This tactic
is described , and guidance contained, in the Public Order Tactical
Trainer's Manual. This is a less dynamic tactic than the 'Active
Push [Advance]' that would ordinarily be supported by the shield
officers and possibly take place at a faster pace.
122. They did this twice, withdrawing and assessing
the impact of their push on each occasion. The tactic provided
only temporary relief and on each withdrawal, the crowd surged
forward again to apply pressure to and attack the cordon. Finally,
the mounted commander took his team around the side of the cordon
and came across the front of the line of officers, to form an
"Absolute Cordon". This was a successful tactic and
the pressure started to abate. However throughout this engagement,
protestors continued to attack officers and horses alike and it
was at this point that one of the most serious injuries to officers
occurred when one of the mounted officers was pulled from his
123. Such was the ferocity of attacks on the mounted
officers that some of the evidence booklets completed after the
event refer to their horses "shivering" with fear. It
is testament to the bravery and skill of these officers that the
line was held.
124. There are several sources of guidance in the
use of horses, primary among these are:
- The ACPO Manual on Keeping
- The MPS Public Order Tactical Trainers Manual
- The MPS Guide to Mounted Branch Public Order
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