Lib Dems press on Kingsnorth climate camp policing

by Stephen Tall on July 7, 2009

Lib Dem Voice has covered before the allegations of that the policing at the climate camp at Kingsnorth in August 2008 was unacceptable – click here for the archive. Lib Dem MPs are continuing to press the Home Office to present an honest account of what happened, and to state what lessons have been learned for future policing of peaceful protests.

Yesterday in the Commons, both Greg Mulholland and Chris Huhne asked the questions of the Government’s minister for policing. Here are the exchanges from Hansard:

Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): What recent representations he has received on the policing of the Kingsnorth climate camp in August 2008. [283784]

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): The Home Office has received a number of items of parliamentary and public correspondence relating to the policing tactics employed at Kingsnorth climate camp in August 2008.

Greg Mulholland: My constituents, James Chan, Stephen Halpin and Sunil Bhopal, attended the Kingsnorth camp and report that the police played music between 5 and 6 am, and prevented water and food from getting into the camp. Does the Minister think that that is acceptable policing, and will he tell the House what lessons have been learned from that as we look forward to the climate change camps this summer?

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising those points. He will know that the National Policing Improvement Agency, Kent police and the inspectorate of constabulary have looked at these issues. I am shortly expecting some reports on how policing was undertaken at the camps. It is important to recognise that the Government and the police are committed to allowing peaceful protest, and that we take the concerns that have been raised about some issues at the climate camp extremely seriously. I will receive shortly, and will publish for the House, reports on those issues, and I will look at what lessons can be learned.


Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): There appears to be a repeating pattern at protests, including the Kingsnorth climate camp, of some police officers failing to wear their identifying numerals. We saw that at the Countryside Alliance protests in 2004, again at the G20 protests—despite the assurances of senior officers beforehand—and, astonishingly, again at the Tamil protest in Parliament square just a day after the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had made it clear that that practice was unacceptable. What are Ministers doing to ensure that some police officers do not tar the reputation of the vast majority who are disciplined, public-spirited and unashamed to be identified as citizens in uniform?

Mr. Hanson: I regard it as a matter of course that police officers should be able to be identified in whatever activity they undertake, and that will be one of the issues that we consider in relation to the policing of this protest and others. We are expecting a report shortly, as I have said, and I raised in a letter to Kent police of 24 June the need for me to see their report of the incidents at Kingsnorth. I have had an assurance from the chief constable, Michael Fuller, in a letter dated 3 July that he intends to publish the report on the incidents. I want to obtain the facts, look at the issues and ensure that the lessons are learned.

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The treatment of Val Swain and Emily Apple (where one of them was grabbed by the neck and they were put in stress positions just for asking to see a policeman’s identification and then trying to film him when he refused) was despicable. I blogged on it myself here including the Youtube footage and have had lots of response and hits.

It is frustrating to hear that the practise of obscuring or removing identification is still occurring despite all the assurances. Campaigners and MPs need to keep the pressure up for this. I am pleased to see our MPs taking a lead on this.

by Mark Reckons on July 7, 2009 at 10:22 am. Reply #

I would like to see our MPs raising the treatment of Val and Emily in the House and supporting pressure for these so-called police offers (a.k.a violent thugs) to be prosecuted for assault. I am boiling with rage at what they did.

by Robert C on July 7, 2009 at 11:10 am. Reply #

I would like the deliberate obscuring of identification by police officers to be a sacking offence (maybe even a criminal offence). It shows clear contempt of accountability and responsibility by the officer in question and therefore, in my mind, makes them unsuitable for that job.

The police, out of necessity, have more power than ordinary citizens and the only way to be sure that power isn’t abused is if every exercise of that power is open, transparent and its wielder fully accountable.

The reason I believe it seems to keep happening is that while senior officers might wax eloquently about their determination to ensure it doesn’t happen, nothing is actually done when it does.

I will admit that there is the difficulty of having to identify someone who has hidden their identify.

by Martin on July 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm. Reply #

I’d go one further and say that a police officer who has obscured or removed his identifying marks should be considered “out of uniform”, and hence his actions should be judged against the standard for an off-duty officer – so when he goes around beating people with a stick, that’s criminal assault & battery, not “acceptable behaviour in line with his orders”.

by Andrew Suffield on July 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm. Reply #

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