Imagine that you're out on a Saturday evening with a group of friends. All is going well, you've not had a drink as you're driving, and the mood is good. Someone bumps into you in a busy bar, you turn to apologise but the other party starts shouting and swearing at you, offering you outside. You politely decline. The other party, however, then raises his fist and brings it towards your face. Fearing an assault against your person, you deliver a pre-emptive strike, hitting the other squarely on the nose. The police arrive, and both you and the other party are arrested to be interviewed in order to ascertain the truth behind the counter-allegations you are both making.
Unbelievably, to you at least, you are charged with common assault and attend Magistrates Court. Although the CCTV in the bar only panned to you at the moment you struck the other party, you are confident that you will be found not guilty as you have numerous witness statements from your friends, all of whom corroborate your account. Not so. After the Crown has presented the case against you and as your solicitor stands to give the facts of your defence, the Magistrate interrupts, "Please sit down. There really isn't any point in you telling me anything. The CCTV clearly shows your client hitting the other fellow on his hooter." "But your worship," your solicitor protests, "there are mitigating cicrumstances. Also, the CCTV footage does not have any sound, you cannot hear the provocation or the threats the other party made towards my client." "Nonesense!" shouts the Magistrate. "He's clearly guilty. 6 month's imprisonment. Take him away gaoler." You might quite rightly feel somewhat aggreived that the magistrate, whose role is to listen to all of the facts impartially, and to make a finding of guilt or innocence based on those facts, has decided from the outset that you are guilty.
So, as if Mr Monbiot's article did not anger me enough (see my May 1st Posting), today I came across those of Mr Nick Hardwick, Chair of the INDEPENDENT Police Complaints Commission http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8006622.stm. The purpose of the IPCC is, as the name suggests, to INDEPENDENTLY and impartially investigate complaints made against police by examining all evidence; CCTV, officer's arrest notes etc, before arriving at a judgement and advising all parties of their findings. Well, that's what I thought at least...
Mr Hardwick, when interviewed on the 19th of April (and before the investigation has been concluded), felt it prudent to say that the police should recognise that they are "servants" and not "masters." He openly questions why officers were permitted to "remove" their shoulder numbers. "What does this say about the officer's state of mind", he wonders? Mr Hardwick also told the Observer: "What's been important with all these pictures is we have got such a wide picture of what happened. I think that is challenging the police. They have to respond to the fact that they are going to be watched, there is going to be this evidence of what they have done." I don't know about you, but already I'm beginning to feel that Mr Hardwick is not approaching this matter with any impartiality.
Mr Hardwick seems to be of the opinion that, because a large number of the complaints received were from Mr and Mrs Suburbia, who have traditionally supported the police, that there must be truth behind the allegations being made. This evidently has nothing to do with his personal view that police officers should have been gripping the rail at court as a result of their actions during the Pro-Hunt demonstrations. Officers who he believed were lucky not to do so, and how he wishes he could have found more evidence to support his independent and impartial findings. How embarrassing it must have been for Mr Hardwick, that a highly qualified and truly impartial Judge considered all of the evidence presented to him and found no case to answer on the part of the police officers involved on that day.
In any event, if you click on the link to the BBC website, and look at the CCTV footage from the BBC i-Player, who will notice one very interesting segment that has not been commented on by any section of the media. You'll see 30 or so police officers, completely surrounded by a crowd of hundreds. You can see that the officers are desperatley attempting to leave the area, and that sections of the crowd are surging towards them, throwing punches at the officers. You'll also see that these officers are wearing their beat helmets, not their public order uniform. You'll see that none of the officers have their batons drawn, and are merely raising their arms to protect their faces from the blows that are being directed towards them. They are most certainly not TSG officers, maybe not even Level 2 Public Order trained, and were probably new and inexperienced officers who have only received the most basic officer safety training.
So, Mr Hardwick, what does that say about the mentality of those officers? In what way will that CCTV footage be challenging to the MPS? Will it be used to justify the strategy of the public order trained officers to later 'kettle' the demonstrators? Will it give any indication that those officer's considered themselves to be the undoubted masters of the streets, or will it be used to show that they demonstrated remarkable constraint in the face of extreme provocation and violence? Finally, will Mr Hardwick examine the faces of those violent demonstrators, to see who amongst them have come forward to complain about the actions of the police, presenting themselves as Mr and Mrs Suburbia? I doubt it.