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Police set to get new dispersal powers

23 Jul

dispersal area crop

New laws being considered by parliament would allow police to disperse people taking part in a lawful assembly and arrest those that did not comply. There is no need for the demonstration to have been disorderly or violent – the only requirement would be that the dispersal was ‘necessary to reduce the likelihood of anti-social behaviour’. Continue reading

Political surveillance cannot be justified – Netpol statement on Police Spying.

12 Jul

Recent revelations about undercover policing have shown that a number of legal and political campaigns and organisations, including the Newham Monitoring Group, a partner organisation in Netpol, have been subject to covert surveillance operations.

While the police are keen to dismiss criticism as being merely an historic issue, applying to a bygone era, Netpol sees no reason to believe that things have improved in recent years. The covert policing of dissent still lacks any effective internal accountability mechanism or means of independent/public scrutiny. Continue reading

Protest law update – agg tres, domestic extremism and preventative arrests

21 Jun

Important as it is, this weeks judicial ruling on police demanding the personal details of kettled protesters is not the only development in protest law in recent months. The following briefing which covers four prominent cases has been prepared by members of the Netpol Lawyers Group, an independent forum for lawyers working in protest law, affiliated to Netpol. It is published here in the hope that it may be useful to campaign and protest groups.

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Aggravated Trespass.

Name of case: Nero v DPP [2012] EWHC 1238 (Admin)

This ruling on aggravated trespass in the Divisional Court makes it more difficult to defend cases on the basis that activity disrupted by trespassing was not “lawful activity”. Continue reading

Police powers finally kettled by High Court

18 Jun

FIT cop big camera crop

For years it has been common practice for protesters held in a kettle (police containment) to be forced to submit to police filming and/or provide their details as a condition of leaving. There have been countless incidents in which protesters who have tried (lawfully) to refuse these demands have been threatened with arrest, or told they could not leave the kettle.

This should now change, as the High Court has today ruled that the police have no powers to force people to give their details, or comply with police filming and photography, simply because they are held in a kettle.
Lord Justice Moses criticised police practice in no uncertain terms. He stated,

It is unacceptable that a civilian photographer on instruction from the police should be entitled to obtain photographs for investigation and crime investigation purposes…as the price for leaving a containment. Although the common law has sanctioned containment it has done so in only restricted circumstances.

It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or by filming. It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.

Continue reading

Netpol Lawyers Group – the attack on Legal Aid and why it matters to activists

4 Jun

LegalAidPlacard

The Network for Police Monitoring (“Netpol”) seeks to monitor public order, protest and street policing, and to challenge and resist policing which is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil rights. This article summarises the submission made by the Netpol Lawyers Group (“NLG”), a collective of solicitors and barristers who specialise in representing protesters, to Ministry of Justice (MOJ’s) consultation paper “Transforming Legal Aid.” Continue reading

Your rights and section 50 Police Reform Act

3 May

dboad 1If you are stop and searched or to held in a kettle, you DO NOT have to give police your name and address. The police will often ask for your details in these situations, but you DO NOT have to provide them.

However, under section 50 of the Police Reform Act the police DO have powers to take your name and address (but not date of birth) IF they reasonably believe you have engaged in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour (ASB)is defined as doing something likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others.

Section 50 powers are sometimes used by the police as a routine or blanket means of obtaining names and addresses, especially during stop and searches. But if the police do not have a genuine and reasonable belief that the person they are dealing with has been involved with ASB, the use of this power would be unlawful.

If you are told to give your details under ‘section 50’:

  • Clarify that they are using s50 Police Reform Act. If possible, record them saying this. In some circumstances the police have subsequently denied using s50 powers, claiming that people gave their details voluntarily.
  • Ask them to tell you exactly what they believe you have done that constitutes anti-social behaviour. They must have a reasonable belief that you did something likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
  • If possible film what they do, or record what they say on your mobile phone.
  • It is not enough for the police to say they believe you are ‘going to’ engage in anti-social behaviour. Section 50 powers do not apply to possible future actions – only if a person ‘has been acting, or is acting in an anti-social manner’.

Continue reading

Your Rights and Mobile Fingerprinting

28 Jan

met mobile fingerprinter
Last week, the Metropolitan police confirmed that its officers have started to use mobile fingerprint scanners, the 25th UK police force to do so. Initially the Met have 350 of these devices, linked to police Blackberry phones, which they claim can provide, in under two minutes, confirmation of personal details, warning markers and whether a person is wanted for a crime.

The police can use these devices to take a person’s fingerprints, with or without consent, if they ‘reasonably suspect’ they have committed a criminal offence.  The individual concerned does not need to be under arrest , nor does the offence they are suspected of need to be a serious offence.  Once fingerprints have been used to establish ID, the police may decide to arrest, summons, give a fixed penalty notice, give ‘words of advice’, or take no further action.

The police PR spin suggests that this measure is all about saving police time, providing a more cost-effective alternative to making arrests.  But, given the history of ‘function creep’ in police powers, the use of portable biometrics testing could pose a serious threat to civil rights. Continue reading

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