Metropolitan police’s ‘kettling’ tactic challenged in European court

22Jul09

Riot police mistoriginally published: 19th July 2009

The Metropolitan police’s controversial tactic of containing large numbers of protesters against their will, known as “kettling”, will be challenged in a case lodged tomorrow with the European Court of Human Rights that claims the practice is a fundamental breach of liberty.

The case is being brought by Lois Austin, one of about 3,000 anti-globalisation demonstrators corralled by police at Oxford Circus in May 2001, the first major protest where the tactic was used. Protesters were held there for several hours without access to water or toilet facilities and Austin, a peaceful demonstrator, was prevented from collecting her 11-month old baby from a creche.

The Met used the tactic extensively at April’s G20 demonstrations in the City of London, placing tight cordons around protesters who gathered at the Bank of England and in nearby Bishopsgate.

Austin, 40, an administrator from London, has fought an eight-year legal battle against the Met, seeking compensation for what she claims was her unlawful imprisonment. In January, the law lords ruled that the Met had been acting lawfully in containing Austin and other peaceful protests because doing so was necessary to control some elements within the crowd who were committing violence.

The law lords said theirs was a “pragmatic approach” that took into account the reason police decided to contain the demonstrators. However, for containment to be lawful, they ruled police must use the tactic in good faith, proportionately and for no longer than is necessary.

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