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A major legal victory over Kent Police

Climate Camp Legal Team | 31.01.2010 11:46 | Climate Camp 2008 | Climate Chaos | Sheffield

A major legal victory by climate camp protestors may now pave the way
for a multi million pound compensation bill for Kent police after it
admitted for the first time today of operating an unlawful stop and
search operation at Kingsnorth power station in the summer of 2008.

Climate protestors win historic High Court victory against unlawful
police stop and search operation in Kingsnorth, Kent - the largest and
most expensive such operation in UK history involving 26 police forces

- The largest and most expensive policing operation ever used against
a single protest (costing £5.3m - including substantial funding from
the Home Office) involved 26 police forces for 2 weeks. For 7 days in
August 2008 those forces, led by Kent Police, carried out a
continuous, systematic and unlawful mass stop and search regime
against the public.

- The aim was to try to intimidate, disrupt and isolate those
attending the climate camp near Kingsnorth coal fired power station.
Despite police harassment and violence, 1,500-2,000 determined
activists managed to organise a highly successful week of public
events. They also monitored and challenged the police operation [See
background reports 1, 2 and 5, below]. The week-long camp involved
extensive discussions and workshops, collective sustainable living,
fun for all ages, protests and direct action against government plans
to expand coal-fired energy production in the light of its disastrous
contribution to greenhouse gases and climate change. The power
station's expansion plans have since been suspended.

- On 29th January 2010 the claimants, chosen as test cases, won their
case against the police in the High Court in London when Kent Police
admitted 'total surrender'. The three claimants, Dave Morris and 2
children (who can't be named as they are minors), were represented by
Bindmans Solicitors. The police accepted an Order that the searches of
the claimants had been 'unlawful', and constituted a violation of
their human rights to privacy (breach of Article 8 of the European
Convention on Human Rights), to freedom of expression (breach of
Article 10) and freedom of association (breach of Article 11).

- Over 3,500 Kingsnorth searches, carried out under 'PACE 1' laws in a
similar way at that time, would also have been unlawful. All those
searched under such laws can now sue the police and submit claims for
damages. [See details of how this can be done - background report 3,
below].

- The case was won despite police efforts to deny there was any
systematic stop and search policy. Their ludicrous position collapsed
after a key 'smoking gun' document came to light - 'Slide 18' of a
power point briefing. One of a number of documents which were applied
for and should have been disclosed in May 2009, the document finally
surfaced 4 days before the hearing, on 25th January 2010. It revealed
that the police 'bronze commanders' in charge of the operation at
Kingsnorth were systematically giving briefings for blanket stop and
searches.

At the Hight Court after the hearing, claimant Dave Morris stated:
“ 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. “
[See witness statement of Dave Morris - background report 5, below)


FOR MORE BACKGROUND DETAILS AND VIDEO REPORTS SEE BELOW:

1. Kent police - misuse of powers at Kingsnorth 2008 protest (ITV
report, broadcast 29.1.2010)
2. Kingsnorth stop and search defied and abandoned! (Footage from the
camp, August 2008, showing defiance of the stop and search operation).
3. Important information for all those who attended the Kingsnorth
Climate Camp, August 2008 (Info on getting help in suing the police)
4. Kent police admit 'unlawful' protest policy (Channel 4 website
article, 29.1.2010)
5. Challenging police stop and search in August 2008 (Witness
statement of Dave Morris explaining what went on at the camp, and the
challenges to the police operation)

For more information about the growing climate camp movement:
www.climatecamp.org.uk


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* *

1. Kent police - misuse of powers at Kingsnorth 2008 protest
ITV report, broadcast 29.1.2010
www.itv.com/meridian-east/misuse-of-powers37419/


2. Kingsnorth stop and search defied and abandoned!
Footage from the camp, August 2008, showing defiance of the stop and
search operation
 http://www.envirospeak.tv/group/video/40/87


3. Important information for all those who attended the Kingsnorth
Climate Camp, August 2008
Info on getting help in suing the police
www.climatecamp.org.uk/get-involved/working-groups/legal/kingsnorth-judicial-review

E&T, and Dave Morris have been victorious with their judicial review
against the Chief Constable of Kent Police. Their searches under
section 1 of PACE at Kingsnorth Climate Camp in 2008 were unlawful, a
breach of section 1 PACE and their human rights under articles 8, 10
and 11.

Kent Police finally disclosed the "smoking gun", a briefing document
to officers that revealed officers were told to search climate campers
because there were reasonable grounds to do so. This was stereotyping
and unlawful.

If you were searched under section 1 PACE between 30th July 2008 and
7th August at 9.30 AM, you may have a valid legal claim too. Rather
than contacting Bindmans or the Climate Camp legal team for what to do
next please provide your email address and answer a few questions and
we will contact you with details once we have them.

Please fill in the questionnaire [link above].


4. Kent police admit 'unlawful' protest policy
Channel 4 website article - 29 January 2010
 http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/kent+police+admit+aposunlawfulapos+protest+policy/3520162

A major legal victory by climate camp protestors may now pave the way
for a multi million pound compensation bill for Kent police after it
admitted for the first time today of operating an unlawful stop and
search operation at Kingsnorth power station in the summer of 2008.

A smoking gun document disclosed this week marked restricted for
police eyes revealed how officers briefed that there were reasonable
grounds to stop and search every protestor attending the week long
demonstration at the power station in Kent.

Lawyers for the chief constable Mike Fuller admitted to the unlawful
policy and told the high court "we entirely surrender" to three tests
cases brought two 11 year old children and veteran campaigner Dave
Morris.

Their lawyer, John Halford, said this was an unlawful policy given to
all searching officers. Three thousand five hundred stop and searches
were carried out.

Climate camp legal observer Frances Wright said: "this is what we have
been fighting for - an acknowledgement that what happened was
systematically unlawful."


5. Challenging police stop and search in August 2008
Extracts from the witness statement of David Morris, explaining what
went on at the camp, and the challenges to the police operation. [The
key section is bolded]


I believe passionately in the need for people to be able to influence
the decision-making which affects their lives, communities,
environment and society as a whole. This is in order to ensure that
these decisions will be in the best interest of all. Influencing
decision-making relies and depends on people being free to come
together, exchange views and ideas, and use protest to draw attention
to issues, concerns and problems facing us all. I believe strongly
that freedom of speech, assembly and protest are hard-won basic rights
that need to be treasured by everyone.

Events like the Climate Change Camp enable people to come together to
discuss environmental issues amongst themselves and practice living in
a way that does not harm the environment. There is a huge amount of
organised debate at the Camp over some of the key concerns facing the
future of humanity and our planet’s fragile ecosystems and climate.
But the Camp is about more than that. The fact that it physically
takes place near a site such as that at Kingsnorth, where the
Government plans to build a new coal-fired plant at the existing power
station focuses the attention of local residents and workers in the
area - the first who will be affected - on what is literally happening
on their doorstep and the fact that there are real and better
alternatives. It also draws national and international attention to
these things and to the fact that the growing opposition to the
destruction of our planet and the needless waste of its resources is
to be welcomed as something we can all take part in. I believe the
Government’s drive to start a new generation of coal-fired power
stations is irresponsible and criminal. It is a threat to the safety
and survival of future generations. It also breaches the Government’s
own commitment to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

The Camp is organised on a consensus basis but people decide for
themselves how they want to take part or manifest their views. For
some, physically being there and taking part in the discussions and
workshops is enough: camping in a field in the countryside for a few
days in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner obviously
calls for a commitment beyond signing a petition or attending a march
in central London. Others will want to be involved in leafleting and
protests too. Personally, I think leafleting is a very effective and
immediate form of communicating basic ideas - people can stop and have
a chat as one concerned human being to another. Some will want to
communicate with the workers at the power station site, or take direct
action, such as blocking the road leading to the power station, or by
putting banners up on the gates. But I know of nobody who attended the
Camp who aimed to protest in a way that would harm anyone else. On the
contrary, I witnessed enormous restraint despite the tension and
stress caused by aspects of the policing operation.

Far from facilitating peaceful protest, the policing of the Camp that
I witnessed for myself was very much geared towards suppressing
democratic activity of the kind I have described. Camping and cooking
equipment was seized, helicopters were flown low over the Camp at
night and amplified music was broadcast aggressively early in the
morning by the police. Many officers were confrontational: drawn
truncheons were much on display and unnecessary force was used.

However, one aspect of the policing operation affected all of us: this
was the practice of stopping with a view to searching all those
travelling towards the Camp.

I am hardly a novice campaigner, and yet I cannot recall any political
event, large or small, being policed in this way before. In effect,
everyone had to prove to the police that they should be permitted to
assemble.

Many people will be deterred from attending an event like this if they
know they will arbitrarily be treated as a suspect. Nobody wants to
have to submit to a search on the basis that their mere wish to attend
a political event makes them one. Organisations will be reluctant to
encourage their members to attend. Local communities in the area of
such events will be put off from attending to see what is happening
and to hear or debate the arguments of those involved. Most people
will think twice. Many, particularly those who are uncertain of their
rights and unwilling to run the risk of any sort of confrontation with
the police, will decide not to bother. That is not how healthy
societies should function. When this happens it is, I might add, an
inevitable consequence that the police will be perceived as closely
allied with the very interests that are the subject of the protest
rather than, as they claim, upholders of the rights and freedoms of
the public.

I shall now describe how the stop and search practice was applied to
me and to others in my presence. I should make clear that on each
occasion I was stopped, I appeared and behaved in exactly the same
way: I politely and calmly challenged what was happening because I
genuinely believed and continue to believe it was wrong. As discussed
below, what happened next varied between me ultimately being allowed
to proceed after a considerable delay and being roughly and forcibly
searched against my will.


Sunday 3rd August

On Sunday 3rd August 2008 myself and a friend, Helen, travelled from
London, to Rochester in Kent to take part in the one of the first
events associated with the Camp, an early afternoon march to
Kingsnorth Power Station. We are both involved with Sustainable
Haringey - a network of hundreds of Haringey residents and scores of
affiliated organisations (including the Haringey Federation of
Residents Associations) concerned with sustainability and climate
change. As a member of the Sustainable Haringey Communications Group I
had actively helped publicise the event to people in Haringey,
encouraging them to attend. During the march we both helped hand out
hundreds of leaflets to local people explaining about the Camp (which
by then had been set up nearby). We made a particular point of
inviting local residents we met along the way, whatever their views,
to come and join in the discussions and experience the sustainable
living practices to be conducted throughout the week. Many local
people expressed their interest or support and indicated they would
drop by to the Camp to see what it was all about for themselves. I was
also pleased to see some local people joining the march. It passed off
entirely peacefully as far as I know.

After the march, we walked to the Camp site. One of the local
residents we had seen on the march passed us and offered us a lift.
The police were stopping vehicles a quarter of a mile from the
entrance so Helen and I got out of the car with our camping gear. We
were shocked to see that everyone arriving seemed to be being stopped
and searched. We were told that the 'queue' was taking up to an hour
at this time.

It was raining and Helen was unwell so we decided to walk straight on.
We were stopped by police officers who formed part of a cordon
preventing anyone passing who had not been searched in an area which
became known as the ‘car park’. They asked for our pink search slips
and then, because we had none, whether we had actually been searched.
Helen explained to them that we had not, were doing nothing wrong,
were carrying nothing of interest to them and that we did not wish to
be stopped or searched. The officers insisted, stating we were not
going past them until we had been searched. Helen asked about the
legal basis for their actions and was told that this was “under
articles that may be used for criminal damage” and that “everybody”
was being searched. We asked why we were suspected and were simply
told “because this is what we’re doing”. We ultimately asked the
senior officer present what his name was. He seemed to be unsure of
himself. After some hesitation he simply stepped aside. We carried on
to and entered the Camp without having been searched and without any
further problems. We had been held up for about 5 to10 minutes, by my
reckoning. Others remained in the queue. Both of us were troubled by
what had happened, though. There had been no reason to suspect or
search us. The fact that everyone else was apparently being searched
was far from comforting.


Monday 4th August

We then spent the next two days at the Camp, which was very welcoming
and inspiring. I attended a couple of workshop discussions, and
learned how to bake vegan chocolate cake. However the heavy-handed
policing I have described unnerved everyone. Some of the local people
I met there told me that they were shocked. They said that other local
residents would be deterred from coming by the policing.


Tuesday 5th August

Helen was feeling so unwell she decided to return home. I decided to
stay on another day. I accompanied her to the gate of the Camp site,
carrying her larger rucksack for her. She carried a smaller bag. After
going through the gate we were stopped by police officers and told we
could not walk down the road away from the site without being
searched. We would then be given 'pink slips' without which we would
not be able to leave the area. This, the officers who stopped us said,
was what ‘senior officers’ had decided should happen. Helen made it
clear she objected strongly and so did I. Helen said that she wanted
to leave without being stopped or having her bags searched. She also
said she was unwell. I said that the bag I was carrying was hers so I
would not give my consent to it being searched. We were told we had no
choice and eventually the officers forcibly searched the bags. This
all took place on the public highway. We were handed 'pink slips'
each. Nothing of interest to the officers was found or seized.

We continued on our way, and as we passed the car park area we
witnessed everyone arriving being corralled by police officers into a
queue to await being searched. When we got to a roundabout we met the
Camp shuttle bus (which police had not allowed to enter the public
road leading to the ‘car park’ area) and Helen was given a lift to the
station.

I returned to go back to the Camp. On arrival at the 'car park' area I
spoke to a bemused newly arriving family (two women, one man and a
child) to explain what was happening and that I was upset that it was
going on. I’d already been searched on the way out, and now I didn’t
even have a bag. I felt it was being done to humiliate people. I said
I wanted to challenge the legality of the mass stop and search
operation. I asked whether they wanted to do so themselves as I felt
too intimidated to act alone. I had never met them before and they
were the first people I approached. I explained that I intended to
assert my rights even if threatened with arrest, and that I would be
determined but remain calm, polite and diplomatic. The man in the
group Dirk - agreed that we would do it together. We felt we needed
witnesses and a photographer so we asked two nearby Legal Observers
from the Camp (wearing fluorescent yellow jackets) who were monitoring
the police operation if they would observe. They called the Camp for a
photographer to come down and join us. Then Dirk (with all his camping
gear) and I both walked down the road towards the Camp.

As expected, we were stopped by the police making up the cordon and
told we would have to go into the car park and be searched, and then
be given a filled-in pink slip authorizing us to go along the road to
the Camp gate and that this applied to everyone coming to the Camp.
The officers volunteered that although they had no suspicion at all
against us personally as individuals, they believed that some people
at the Camp were planning criminal activities and that PACE applied
and allowed searches of this kind.

We said calmly that we had nothing on us for the purposes of criminal
activity, that the Camp was a public event with a wide range of
activities to which everyone had been invited to attend and take part.
We said we did not consent to being stopped or searched and were
challenging the lawfulness of this happening. We suggested that the
police themselves might well be committing an offence.

We then asked to speak to the most senior officer in the vicinity.
This person - an Inspector Butcher - was called over. We restated our
position. He said he would have to ask someone 'higher up' and asked
that we wait while he did so. We agreed: we wanted to give the police
a chance to clarify and deal with the situation in a responsible and
authoritative way at a senior level. After around 10 minutes waiting,
with no response, we indicated to the police that we would not be
happy to be kept waiting much longer and might exercise our right to
to walk up the road. We were asked to wait just a bit longer, which we
agreed to. Eventually, after about 20 minutes after we’d first been
stopped, Inspector Butcher said he'd spoken to a senior person and
that “as a result I am exercising my discretion to allow you through”.

We walked on to the Camp site gate. We were asked by the police for
'pink slips' showing we'd been searched, and were told that no-one
without one was being allowed in. We explained what had just happened
and that we stood by all our points challenging the legality of the
stop and search operation. We again asked for the most senior officer
available to give us an assurance that it would be called off as
unlawful. He was contacted, and we were told he himself was contacting
an even more senior officer by phone or radio. Eventually, we were
told we could go through unsearched.

All in all this process took about 45-60 minutes from when Dirk and I
were first stopped. Had we not been held up by the police, it would
have taken us no more than 10-15 minutes to reach the Camp from that
point.

Dirk left his camping equipment in a safe place in the camp and the
two of us then decided we would go back down to the car park area to
observe and speak to other people about what was happening. At the
camp entrance the police did not search either of us or some others
leaving the site around the same time. We were able to walk freely
down the public highway to the ‘car park’ area.

When we got there we saw that people arriving to attend the Camp were
still waiting in a long queue of about 80 people waiting to be
searched. We walked up to those in the queue and began explaining what
had just happened to us. Dirk read out extracts from the Kent Police’s
official leaflet being provided to people explaining the law on
section 1 of PACE. I said that if the police had grounds to suspect an
individual personally of carrying materials which could be used for
criminal damage or illegal drugs etc., then the police seemed to have
a legal right to stop and search that person - that was what the pink
slips also said. I added that without that sort of suspicion they
should not be searched without their consent.

There was a short discussion and then the queue spontaneously and
calmly dissolved as people decided not to wait any longer. The police
apparently decided to stand down and no arrests were made. Those who
had been queuing then walked at a normal pace up to the entrance and
into the Camp. None of this group were stopped or searched at the
gate.

I stayed around for a little more time to observe the situation, and
it was clear that people were now able to freely enter or leave. I
thought - in hindsight, naively that this would be the end of the
mass stop and searches.


Wednesday 6th August

Around lunchtime I was preparing to leave the Camp to return to London
as I had things to do. I planned to come back to the Camp on Friday to
volunteer to help out on site, maybe as a Legal Observer, during the
final weekend. I was told that the mass stop and search operation was
now back in place. I wondered whether another police force was
responsible for this. The events of the previous day had, I thought,
showed that the police could not insist on searching everyone, despite
what they had claimed.

However, at about 3pm that day around 15-20 people, including Dirk and
myself, left the Camp. We were met by a contingent of Welsh police
officers and told we would all be searched under section 1 of PACE. We
had a similar discussion with the officers to that which had taken
place the day before about whether this was right or lawful, with both
the police, Dirk and myself once again re-stating similar points to
those we’d made on previous days. As before I asked for a senior
police officer to be called, and was told that that would happen and
would I wait. I agreed to do so. Meanwhile the police forcibly stopped
others from leaving the Camp by walking down the road. I saw Dirk
trying to leave and being manhandled by a number of police. I was
later told he had been arrested. The police operation was completely
blocking the road. I continued waiting but was not informed of any
response from a senior officer. Then the police suddenly seemed to
stand back and let us all through and people began to walk down the
road towards the car park area. I hung back and waited till everyone
had gone and observed that no-one was being searched any longer.

Eventually I set off virtually on my own towards the car park area. As
I approached I could see that quite a few police were blocking the
road itself and the area to one side of it. They were insisting in an
aggressive manner that everyone be searched. These police all seemed
to be from London. There were possibly 20 people around me, and more
between the two police lines that had formed. I firmly but calmly
repeated many times to those present that the Camp was a public event
and that people should not be searched simply because they wanted to
attend or had attended it. The officers for their part all said that
everyone was to be searched on instructions. Eventually I said that
legal action would be taken against any officers involved in illegal
detention and search.

Shortly after this the police seemed to decide that some sort of show
of force was called for. Officers began violently grabbing the people
nearest to them who had been at the Camp and forcibly searching them,
including by pushing some of them to the ground and rummaging though
their bags and pockets while they were pinned down.

I was naturally alarmed at this turn of events. To try to defuse the
situation I said loudly and clearly a number of times that the police
behavior was of a kind likely to cause a breach of the peace and asked
for a senior officer to come and take personal responsibility for the
deteriorating situation. I also asked that the searches be called off.
But gradually, one by one, people were forced to acquiesce to being
searched and the numbers around me dwindled.

At around 4pm suddenly, without warning, two or three officers put
their hands on me and dragged me through the police lines against my
will in order to forcibly search me. I did not resist but refused to
consent or co-operate. A London officer, whose number was L11,
searched my bags whilst others stood around. He pulled out all the
contents onto the ground. I volunteered my name, and the fact that
there was nothing in the bags such as needles which could harm the
searcher. Apart from that I refused to answer any questions.
Eventually he finished. I had been held immobile throughout. All in
all the physical search through my belongings took about 10-15
minutes. Nothing was seized. I was then released. Throughout I felt
unnerved and vulnerable, having witnessed and been on the receiving
end of considerable police aggression.

Some local residents - two middle aged woman and one elderly woman who
had also just been searched - appeared to be in a state of shock. I
went over to speak to them to try and get some perspective on what had
happened. After chatting for a few minutes, they offered me a lift to
Strood Station. We walked to a nearby roundabout where their car was
parked.


Friday 8th August

I am a pretty stoic person but felt intimidated and was quite nervous
about returning to the Camp in the light of what I had experienced.
However, I did return to the Camp on the Friday as planned. On arrival
at Strood I was stopped and searched once again but told this time
that the Police were using section 60 Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act powers. As on every other occasion, nothing of interest to
the police was found on me or in my bags. I stayed at the Camp site
until the Sunday and then headed home.


The response to my solicitor’s letters

35. I asked a solicitor at Bindmans, John Halford, to write to the
police questioning the legal basis for the searches I had witnessed at
the Camp. The police replied several days later in general terms
denying they had acted illegally. More information was requested about
why the searches were justified and, after some delay on 21 October, a
list was produced of various items said to have been seized or found
during the course of the Camp. None of these items were seized from
me, but I have to say that most of them are the kind of things that a
thousand or so people might well have amongst them for camping in the
countryside. But whatever view is taken of any particular item in that
list, I fail to see how the fact any of these items were seized or
found could lead the officers who forcibly searched me on the 5th or
6th August to have reasonable grounds to suspect me personally of
carrying something for the purposes of a criminal activity. Frankly, I
do not believe for a second that the officers had that kind of
suspicion about me - their only statements were that they had no
suspicion against me personally and were searching everyone. I was
simply a suspect and treated as such because I went to the Camp. The
pink slips given to me effectively confirm this.

I am bringing this claim because I want to stand up for what I
understand my own and others’ democratic rights to be, and to defend
such rights. Being treated in the way I was at the Camp is
intimidating and just not acceptable to me. I also need to be
confident, as a representative of a community organisation, that when
I recommend attendance at this kind of important public event my
members and other members of the public will not be subjected to
arbitrary, unnecessary or aggressive policing on arrival and
subsequently. If someone like me cannot offer that sort of assurance,
there will be a suffocating effect on people exercising their rights
to attend assemblies and protests. Such rights will then be turned
into privileges, only exercisable with the police’s permission and
subject to their whims.


Dave Morris
August 2008









Climate Camp Legal Team

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