Monday, 28 March 2011

TUC March - Who is Responsible?

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens

Like many police officers, I felt angry and frustrated that a few hundred extremist idiots were allowed to run amok in London last Saturday almost with impunity. I live in hope that evidence gatherers will be able to identify at least some of these cretins and they may yet be brought to justice. That is of course justice as we now have it in this namby pamby, arty farty, airy fairy apology for a justice system. Remember the lad arrested following one of the student fees protests for throwing a petrol bomb? He got a 12 month referral order, a.k.a. a slap on the wrist and an occasional chat with a youth offending team worker. But, is it strategically acceptable to stand by and allow premises to be destroyed and people injured and then try and pick the offenders up later? I think not.

Having thought about the violence further, I thought surely the management could not have got it that wrong? The intelligence was there, the officers were there, we just didn't have the strategy and tactics in place to deal with a small minority of people intent on just causing trouble and injuring officers. Forget the latest offers from Theresa May about new policing powers. The powers are there. All these idiots could have been searched and photographed and even turned away from the area if that is what was needed. Forget also the talk about all the arrests made. The vast majority of arrests were made at Fortnum and Masons. The protesters there were pretty soft targets. Hardly any of the real violent thugs got arrested.

The person responsible for public order policing in the Met is Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens. Lynne is a high flyer and potentially the first female Met Commissioner. She is nobodies fool. So what was the plan that day? If Lynne is going to get that job then she cannot afford to mess up in a big way.

Was the plan to take a softly softly approach because of the criticisms over kettling and risk what took place? Or was the plan to let the extremists run riot and smash up business, banking premises etc. Perhaps that will wake a few people up to what will happen if the police are not there to protect them. Was Lynne thinking about our future pay and pensions?


  1. Gold command sounds like a very poisoned chalice and I doubt very much that cuts to front line strength and pensions intruded on her thinking at all. I suspect that what Lynne was thinking about was that hard edged interventions risks badly hurt anarchists and cops whilst standing by risks some shop frontages. It will never be called as a riot so there's no financial liability downside for the Met in allowing property damage. The rationale goes "is it really worth a human life to protect the Olympic clock?" The answer is never yes even if it should be.

    One cracked skull, heck even one televised and apparently unprovoked bloody nose later, she could find herself and her career overshadowed by multiple independent investigations and legal actions combined with calls for an enquiry that don't go away until a Lynne damaging result drops out of the bottom. It is bloody unpleasant to be that target.

  2. High flyer.... I'll bet the ONLY thing on her mind was not screwing up her next promotion!

  3. What was said to the protesters in Fortnum and Mason was an outright lie...
    Lynn is ex Surrey Police, full of outright lies and cover ups. Remember Bob Quick? Out of same mould and hopefully she will go the same way.

  4. I have always supported the police despite my differences with the political agendas of the government. However after seeing the behaviour of the police and reading various blogs.. I am saddened to say that I am increasingly beginning to believe the anarchists insistence that the force is riddled with power hungry snobs who forget that they are in place to serve the interests of the population, not the cosseted few in government.

    I was shown firsthand on Saturday how there is mindless violence and hatred from both sides. I was targeted by a group of riot police for looking at a tube map in Charing cross (I was the only person in the area) and was physically kicked away from the map (so I could not find out where to go) and repeatedly asked "where's your ticket" as they kicked my bag that I was trying to look through for the ticket that they were asking for along the ground. They continued to push me with their shields and kick me away. As a female travelling alone who had not even been involved with the protests I found it very intimidating and they ensured that I missed my last train and had to sleep rough with no bedding or food.

  5. nice bit of video here of cops steaming in with batons onto unarmed protestors:

  6. eventually the police must be held to account, here's the Netpol statement on policing of March 26 demonstrations:

  7. The Ian Tomlinson inquest explains why police are now hands off in these situations.Reap what you sow.

  8. >>Remember the lad arrested following one of the student fees protests for throwing a petrol bomb? He got a 12 month referral order, a.k.a. a slap on the wrist and an occasional chat with a youth offending team worker

    Ah yes, I remember that. He's lucky there. Remember the police officer who killed somebody at the G20 demo ? Remind me of his punishment ?

    As for the latest policing effort, if you were wondering why the 100 or so anarchists were able to run amok, it's because all of your officers were bravely tackling a small bunch of nerdy students.

    Once upon a time no doubt the police would refute that. These days of course, we have the film to prove it.

  9. The boy throwing a petrol bomb did it on purpose,he went to the demo armed with it,it wasn't on impulse.The PC pushed a drunk over who accidentally died,if you can't see the difference you are an idiot.

  10. Matt, does innocent until proven guilty not apply to the police? The, independent, Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute the officer that pushed over Ian Tomlinson. This was because there was insufficient evidence to show the officer was responsible for his death.
    The inquest into his death is currently being held and the jury have yet to decide if they feel the officer or anyone else was culbable for the death. Until then there is nothing to punish him for.
    You are correct that a number of protesters were arrested at Fortnum and Masons. I also question whether this should have been done. Most of them have been charged and we should let the Courts decide. There were plenty of other officers available to arrest the 200 or so anarchists but the strategy and leadership was not right. Part of the problem is that the police would need to go in hard to sort these idiots out. The senior management have no stomach for it, partly because of the adverse publicity around kettling and cases like Tomlinson.

  11. >> Matt, does innocent until proven guilty not apply to the police?

    Yes, it does, of course. But who decides guilt in this case ?

    As I understand it PC Harwood is 'not on trial' (remarkably he says he is 'here to help' in the transcripts) since the CPS cannot be bothered to charge him - am I mistaken here ? He's not likely to be proved guilty if he doesn't have to face any charges. Most people I speak to find it incredible.

    Video evidence suggests (quite clearly) that he is guilty. Perhaps not of murder but there is little doubt that his actions contributed directly to Tomlinson's death.

    Quite honestly, I think most of the public would support robust policing against the 200 anarchists since it could fairly be desribed as propotionate to their actions.

    Having failed to do that (and I can see why it would be extremely difficult to do in practice) - where is the sense in making up the numbers by arresting peaceful protestors instead ?

    Not only is it pointless but it's exactly the kind of action that will cause the public to lose respect for the Police. It comes across as not only unfair but weak.

  12. "The PC pushed a drunk over who accidentally died,if you can't see the difference you are an idiot"

    No, let's rephrase that, he attacked him and then he died. Sticky didn't mean to kill him, but he did.
    Why did he hit him? God knows, but if he hadn't, the bloke wouldn't have keeled over.

    Some silly student holding a "petrol bomb" isn't quite on the same level is it? Any reports of head to toe burns for Officers that day? No.

  13. Perhaps the 14 year old boy wasn't quite strong enough to throw it at a policeman,but that was his intent wasn't it? The PC did not mean to kill the drunk,it was an accident. If he hadn't been a drunk he would have survived a fall. It sickens me to see his family walking out of the inquest in mock dramatics.These are the people who didn't see him for years,now they sniff a bit of money he was "the best dad in the world".Perhaps they will donate any compensation to the hostel he lived in for the last 10 years.

  14. An accident would be, for instance, PC Harwood falling over and bundling into Tomlinson. Not stuffing him onto the pavement. Honestly

  15. @ Matt 7th April - in this case it is the independent Crown Prosecution Service who have decided not to prosecute PC Harper. Personally, I believe there may have been a good case for prosecuting the officer for manslaughter. The problem is that to prosecute for murder or manslaughter you would have to prove that Ian Tomlinson's death was caused by the officer. The first pathologist that examined Ian Tomlinson decided that he died of natural causes, so the case falls down. I fully understand that the second pathologist disagrees but no judge will let a jury make a decision on it after that initial report.

    PC Harwood is not on trial at the inquest but if the inquest jury decide that Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed the prosecution case against him will have to be reviewed although the decision is not likely to change. He will undoubtedly face action in a civil court in the near future.

    I agree that most of the public would like to have seen the violent protesters at the TUC march arrested but I am afraid police actions are largely controlled by vociferous minority's these days. The senior management are too concerned about their careers, minority groups and the press to risk firm action. A great shame.

    The protesters at Fortnum and Masons were not arrested instead or to make up any numbers, A senior officer getting it in the ear from management at Fortnum and Mason's decided the protesters were all committing public order offences and ordered the arrest of the whole lot. They were passive and static and so easily scooped up. As I have said, I question the arrests myself but most have been charged. The usual lawyers are crawling out of their cesspits to defend them. We will have to let the courts decide whether they were guilty of any offence.

  16. >> They were passive and static and so easily scooped up.

    This is what I find hard to accept, I suppose. Just because it's easy to do doesn't mean that's where the focus should be. Presumably most people, including the shoppers inside the store at the time, were largely unpeturbed by the actions of a few schoolkids.

    To arrest/charge them all seems heavy handed/disproportionate vs the light handed 'smash what you like' effort for the anarchists seems senseless to me.

  17. @Matt - the action at Fortnum and Mason's was not the focus of police response at all. It was actually just a small part of what was happening that day. A senior police officer decided that the invasion of the store and the action taken by the protesters put them in breach of the Public Order Act and ordered their arrest. The courts will have to decide if shoppers were peturbed or not. That will be the crux of the case. The protest was not entirely peaceful and significant damage was caused to the store, so there are bound to be people that were quite alarmed at what was going on.

    I think we would have all liked the thugs who were just out to cause damage and injury arrested and some of them are being scooped up.

    The two issues really need to be seperated though. It was not a case of the police arresting one or the other and choosing the softer option, they could have arrested both factions. In my opinion they could have dealt with the violent thugs more robustly but the management chose to monitor rather than act for the reasons outlined above. That is the disgrace and embarrassment to the police. Lex

  18. You blokes are a hoot! Just as I remember you all when it was my privilege to visit the UK in the 1970's while in an official capacity. I was hosted by the police in Leeds and Birmingham and finally New Scotland Yard in London. It was my honor to meet so many dedicated officers.
    Today I am a freelance writer contracted to write and post on the CSI Tech Blog here in North Carolina.
    Not much has changed over these years. In reading your posts and comments it is apparent that we will always be faced with an element that is determined to disrupt the peace and solitude we all seek.

    All the best,

    Don Penven

  19. In relation to the arrest of the protesters at F&M - it is interesting to look at the timeline and the statements made to camera, and subsequently, by AC Lynne Owens. The decision to arrest was made at the end of the march when increasing press pressure was being put on the senior management with respect to their performance on the day. Owens statement to the effect that over 200 arrests made it their best performance to date looks a bit weak when you consider that she had just ordered the arrest of 150 protesters that were being kept in F&M for their own safety according to CI Clark who was the senior officer on the scene. In subsequent questioning by the Home Affairs Select Committee, she stated that 'some' of those charged with offences at the demo were from F&M - according to the facts, 'some' equals 138 out of 149 or 93%...
    As a parent of one of those arrested, I would like to pay tribute to the officers in F&M and those at the police station where he was held - they were polite, helpful and considerate. My feelings about the senior management of the MPS and their self-serving and foolish behaviour are something else. Whether in public service, banking and industry or politics there seems to be a common pattern where the self-serving, self-satisfied and mediocre float to the top.

    The protesters have my full support - I abhor violence and criminal damage but civil disobedience must be allowed and we must take back our society - that is my vision of the Big Society.

  20. Simon - exactly. I am not naive enough to think that the two issues are separate.

    Lex - apart from the above we are more or less in agreement I think. Monitor the violence, give short shrift to the sitting down.. wrong way round !