London Assembly member calls for answers over police tactics

By staff writers
19 Dec 2010

Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London Assembly and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, has called for answers from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about the way the recent student demonstrations have been policed.

In an open letter to the Commissioner, Paul Stephenson, Jones writes that she has received many reports from witnesses at the recent demonstrations and that she believes the tactics of the Metropolitan Police bear further examination.

There have been a series of student demonstrations, in central London and elsewhere, following the government's decision to treble the cap on university tuition fees in England to £9,000 per year.

The proposal was narrowly passed by the House of Commons on 9 December after Liberal Democrats split over the issue.

"I do not doubt that policing these demonstrations has been extremely challenging for the Metropolitan Police,” wrote Jones in her letter, “Yet, I am sure you would agree that there are always lessons to be learnt and ways to improve the response in future”.

There has been widespread criticism of police tactics after the repeated use of the practice of 'kettling' - containing demonstrators, sometimes in large numbers, in relatively small spaces and refusing to allow them to leave, thus increasing the tension.

Certain incidents have sparked particular anger. One protester, Alfie Meadows, required three-hour surgery on his brain to save his life. Another, Jody McIntyre, was filmed being pulled out of his wheelchair by a police officer.

Jones questions whether the controversial tactic of kettling was the most effective way of controlling the protesters.

"It is vital to examine the decisions to kettle the crowd on the 24 November, 30 November and 9 December, as containment should be a last resort tactic,” insisted Jones.

She asks, “What were the triggers that led to that action being taken on each occasion? Were all other options explored before kettling? Why was it seen as the solution? And, were attempts made to remove the violent element from the crowd before kettling?”

Jones continues, “On 30 November, in anticipation of kettling, the protesters fragmented and pursued different routes around London. Can you confirm reports that relatively little damage, violence or arrests were recorded during this period, before the groups congregated in Trafalgar Square?"

Jones says that she is also concerned about the way horses were deployed to control the crowd and whether the arresting and immediate de-arresting of people was lawful.

"As people were released from the kettles, they have reported being arrested, their details recorded, including video footage taken by Forward Intelligence Teams, and then de-arrested,” she explains, before asking, “What was the purpose of this action and what legal basis was there for arresting all protesters?”

[Ekk/1]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.