Facilitating Peaceful Protest - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


2. Letter to the Chair, from Assistant Commissioner Allison, Metropolitan Police Service, 24 January 2011

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.

Question 1

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?

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.

Continuation Training

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 created.

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:

Legal Powers:

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

[...]

Containment

[...] 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 Square.

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 command logs.

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 Square—decision 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)—rationale—subjects 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 this—The 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 POW—cordons 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 4.2—Large group heading north in Whitehall. Silver—establish where they are going. OK—Embankment—Victoria.

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 statues—Rationale: 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.

1550—review containment. 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.

1725—Review of containment. There is little change from when I last reviewed the circumstances of the containment. However I have met with Bx [Bronze] 11—Supt 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.

1842—Authority 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.

1957—Containment reviewed—no change in circumstances at this time. BX's still releasing people if possible.

2059—Authorise 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 the square.

Question Two

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?

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 including:

  • Traffic noise
  • Acoustics
  • 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 following ways:

  • Direct verbal contact between officers and public
  • Amplified voice communications using loud-hailers or vehicle mounted tannoy systems
  • Visual communication through "dot-matrix" display boards
  • 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 being passed.

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.

Question 3

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 your satisfaction.

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 incident.

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 criminality.

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 so.

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 serials.

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.

Question Four

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?

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 of force
  • 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 1967
  • Section 117, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984
  • 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 34-37).[14] 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 with today.

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 above.

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 context.

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.[15]

Question Five

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 of issues.

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
  • Experience

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 given—constables through to commanders—regarding 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.

Question 6

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 be used
  • 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 that area.

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 infrastructure.

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 to.

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 horse.

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 Peace
  • The MPS Public Order Tactical Trainers Manual
  • The MPS Guide to Mounted Branch Public Order Tactics.

24 January 2011


14   Not printed Back

15   Not printed Back


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 25 March 2011