‘Toothache, diarrhoea, cut fingers and possible bee stings’ – the injuries that Kingsnorth climate camp protestors were blamed for inflicting on police

by Stephen Tall on December 16, 2008

Kudos to Lib Dem MP David Howarth for his role in forcing an apology from a Labour home office minister who had blamed protestors who attended the Kingsnorth climate camp for hurting 70 police officers. The Guardian has the story today:

A minister apologised to parliament yesterday for telling MPs that 70 police officers were hurt during a climate change protest … The apology followed a freedom of information request from the Liberal Democrats, which showed that no officers in the £5.9m police operation at Kingsnorth power station in Kent during August had been injured by protesters. Instead, police records showed that their medical unit had dealt mostly with toothache, diarrhoea, cut fingers and “possible bee stings”.

And here’s the Hansard exchange:


David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op):
When people expressed concerns about the vigour shown, and resources devoted, by the police in relation to the Kingsnorth climate camp, we were told that it was justified because dozens of injuries were incurred. We have now found that those injuries were of a more prosaic origin—they were due to things such as insect stings and sunstroke. Unless the protesters are to be held responsible for wasps and the weather, are we not to conclude that the justification used at the time was wholly bogus and vacuous?

Mr. Coaker: I have written to the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) on the issue. I was informed that 70 police officers had been hurt, and naturally assumed that they had been hurt through direct contact, as a result of the protest. That clearly is not the case, and I apologise if that caused anybody to be misled. I can say to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) and other Members that the National Policing Improvement Agency is currently considering the lessons to be learned from the Kingsnorth climate camp protest. I will meet the public order lead of the Association of Chief Police Officers to discuss the report, so that we can share the lessons to be learned from Kingsnorth with police forces across the country.

[…]

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Returning to the issue of Kingsnorth policing, I thank the Minister both for what he has just said and for the letter that he wrote to me. However, in the light of the new information available to the House, would he care to revise his conclusion that the policing of Kingsnorth was proportionate and appropriate, especially as we also know that large numbers of protesters were injured at the hands of the police, especially by batons?

Mr. Coaker: I have apologised to the hon. Gentleman for that, and as he quite rightly said, I have written to him. I think it would be best for me to wait for the NPIA report on what happened at Kingsnorth, and to review it with the ACPO representative responsible for public order to see what lessons can be learned. I would then be happy to share those conclusions with the hon. Gentleman.