Police Admit Mass Human Rights Breaches

11/6/10

Kent police 'learns the lesson' of £5.3 million policing operation that resulted in mass human rights breaches

Bindmans Press Release

Climate Camp protestors have received an unqualified apology from Kent police for subjecting them to unlawful searches, together with a commitment to disseminate the lessons learned to every police force in the UK and a modest amount of compensation.

The settlement brings to an end test case litigation brought by veteran activist Dave Morris and 11 year old twins who were attending the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth in July 2008 as their first political event.

Some three thousand five hundred stop and searches were carried out at Kingsnorth pursuant to the unlawful policy. It was set out in a secret, 'Police eyes only' briefing document known as 'Slide 18', the existence of which was only revealed immediately before the final court hearing. Kent Police had previously argued that searching officers had the necessary individual suspicion to justify every search.

In January the Divisional Court held that there had been human rights breaches in each of the test cases but referred the question of what redress needed to be made to the County Court if it could not be agreed. A settlement has now been reached under which the new Chief Constable of Kent will write to every other force stating: "During the Operation. a briefing was issued which did not give reasonable grounds to stop and search the Claimants under section 1 PACE. The material part . headed Slide 18, is also attached to this letter. As the October 2008 review undertaken by the National Police Improvement Agency found, this was interpreted as an instruction to search everyone. This interpretation by Officers within these circumstances has led Kent Police to face what it is we face today. Many people were searched as a result of these briefings. That should not have happened.

I accept that the combination of the act of stopping and searching these individuals breached their rights under Articles 8, 10 and 11 ECHR and lessons must be learned."

The solicitor acting for Mr. Morris and the twins John Halford from Bindmans LLP commented:

"Kent Police has been forced to make a remarkable admission, thanks to this test case. It is that the outcome of one of the most expensive policing operations ever in the UK was the violation of the human rights to protest on a massive scale. That such an admission has now been made in a letter to be sent to every other force, coupled with Kent's avowed commitment to learn lessons from what happened, is welcomed. That human rights breaches occurred on this scale, were not identified by the two internal police investigations into the operation, and ultimately had to be exposed by the activist and two tenacious children and who brought this case says something very worrying about policing of peaceful protest about vital issues like climate change."

Dave Morris commented:

"The key issue in this case is the threat of catastrophic climate change hanging over us and future generations. Everyone therefore has a duty to take immediate and effective action, including collective direct action, to transform polluting industries into sustainable ones. This issue is far too important and urgent to let ourselves be intimidated or deterred by police violence, corporate greed or government propaganda. We are all climate activists now! Together, in every community and workplace, we must work together to ensure the fastest possible transition to a sustainable low-carbon society. We call for climate action everywhere."

The case was supported throughout by the Legal Services Commission but Kent Police will bear the cost of the litigation.

Please click http://www.bindmans.com/index.php?id=750 to view Slide 18; the full text of the agreed settlement order, apology and letter to other forces; and some related press coverage.

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© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk