Judges slams kettling of G20 climate protesters as ‘unlawful’
April 14, 2011
In a high-court ruling today Sir Anthony May, President of the Queens Bench Division, and Mr Justice Sweeney stated that containment of climate protesters on April 1st 2009 was “not lawful” (1).
At the G20 protest over 4,000 climate campers occupied a stretch of Bishopsgate outside the European Climate Exchange. At 7 pm the police ‘kettled’ the camp, and in the early hours of the morning violently evicted the protesters.
Footage of the police violent eviction went viral on the internet with footage on YouTube being viewed 500,000 times (2).
Frances Wright of the Camp for Climate Action Legal Team said, “This is a brilliant result and I hope will act as some restraint on the macho policing of protest. When, what the police call containment, is combined with forcible compression of a crowd, it is dangerous and injuries are almost inevitable.”
Josh Moos one of three protesters who brought the Judicial Review against the police said, “Their behaviour was completely disproportionate. Yet again the police have been shown to be acting illegally in relation to climate change protesters.”
In the verdict the judges said of kettling, ““The police may only take such preventive action as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence.”
In Court the police said the containment was done in order to prevent people from the protest at the Bank of England joining them and causing a breach of the peace. The protestors stated that the police’s approach was unnecessary and unlawful and that inadequate thought had been given to alterative options.
Climate Camp previously won a Judicial Review against illegal police behaviour in 2008.
Frances Wright said, “Effective protest, like the climate movement, seems to acquire disproportionate policing, as we can see by the recent arrests of UK Uncut activists at Fortnum and Masons recently. I urge other protest groups, like the students, who have also face political policing, to monitor the police and challenge them through the courts. Perhaps then we will see the right to protest being properly upheld.”
The climate campers challenged the kettling at 7pm, the use of force, and the subsequent dispersal of the protest under s14 of the Public Order Act 1996. They were represented in the judicial review proceedings in the High Court by Mike Fordham QC from Blackstones chambers and John Halford from Bindmans solicitors.
The Court’s final conclusion was
“In the result, the claimants succeed in establishing that (a) the containment of the Climate Camp, and (b) the pushing operation to move the crowd 30m. to the north at the southern end of the Climate Camp were not lawful police operations.”
The demonstrators were represented by John Halford of Bindmans solicitors. He said today:
“Kettling and the police aggression that accompanies it has become a common feature of demonstrations, especially in London. It seems that the larger and more unconventional the protest, the readier the police are to trample on the protestors involved and their rights to express themselves. But this was a lawful assembly by people committed to highlighting the grave dangers of Climate Change. The Court has roundly condemned the unlawful and oppressive police response, exposing it as unacceptable in a democratic society. To date, there have been few signs of a change in police attitudes and tactics since G20. This judgement could not give a clearer signal that must happen immediately.”
(1) The verdict is available from the court, and will be available online later.
(2) Reach your own view – “riot police attack peaceful protesters at G20 Climate Camp” (598,843 views) – 7.00pm, South end Bishopsgate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t244-zEENSs
Participants are available for interview.
Frances Wright – Climate Camp Legal Team: 07973 186549.