28/07/2009

Criticism Over G20 "Kettling" Tactics

Police have been criticised for their handling of protesters and members of the public, during the G20 demonstrations, a parliamentary committee has said.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said a decision to "kettle" some of the protesters - which saw some demonstrators contained within police cordons for several hours - had failed to recognise their rights.

The committee also set out a number of recommendations to improve police handling of future protests, warning: "There is a long way to go before promoting and protecting human rights is central to police policy, training and operations."

The JCHR report, called 'Demonstrating respect for rights', said containment should be used for as short a time as is needed and reviewed regularly.

The report said: "In our view it would be a disproportionate and unlawful response to cordon a group of people and operate a blanket ban on individuals leaving the contained area, as this fails to consider whether individual circumstances require a different response."

MPs and peers argued that "very poor" communication and "mutual distrust" between the Metropolitan Police and protesters may have resulted in a "more heavy handed approach" than would be expected.

"Both protesters and police must share information," the report said. "Whilst this happens in many cases it is clear that at least some aspects of communication at the G20 protests were poor.

"Mutual distrust was apparent and the police and protesters seemed to have different expectations of what the dialogue should be about and how it should proceed.

"This ineffective communication led to frustration on both sides and possibly, to the police taking a more heavy handed approach to the Climate Camp protest than would otherwise have been the case."

Labour MP and committee chairman Andrew Dismore said: "There were obvious problems with this policing operation. While kettling may be a helpful tactic, it can trap peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders for hours.

"There must be clear safeguards in place to make sure containment is used only when necessary and proportionate.

"It did not help that communication was so poor between police and protesters. Both sides must try to improve this in future."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating allegations police used excessive force, and also the circumstances surrounding the death of a newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson.

(JM/BMcC)

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