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Monday, June 28, 2010

Who polices the Police?

I have suggested on this blog on a number of occasions that the way that Dyfed Powys Police are dealing with the badger cull in North Pembrokeshire is unreasonable and disproportionate. The community itself is upset because they have never seen anything like it before. They are rightly resentful at the way that their right to peaceful and democratic protest is being undermined by paranoia and over-reaction on the part of the Labour-Plaid Cymru Welsh Government and other authorities.

However, in many ways, unacceptable as much of the police action is in North Pembrokeshire, it is nothing compared to what is going on elsewhere, where partially understood new powers are being abused, often in ignorance by police officers who are trying to get a job done, but doing it badly.

This article in today's Guardian is a case in point. They report that two journalists have won an out-of-court settlement after the Metropolitan police admitted failing to respect the freedom of the press when officers prevented them covering a protest. The details are shocking:

One of the journalists, film-maker Jason Parkinson, almost had his half-smoked cigarette swiped from his mouth and was called "scum" by an armed diplomatic officer during the incident at the Greek embassy in London in December 2008.

He and photojournalist Marc Vallée were covering an impromptu demonstration outside the Greek Embassy in Holland Park, west London. The demonstration echoed simultaneous disturbances in other parts of Europe and in Athens, where protesters were angered at the police shooting of a teenager.

The journalists, from London, had the lenses of their cameras either pointed away or covered by police when they arrived to document the protest. Footage caught on Parkinson's camera captured the incident, which occured after they were moved away from protesters trying to access the embassy.

The armed officer pulls the lens off a camera being held by Vallée, who snatches it back. The officer then places his hand over Parkinson's camera, while an argument ensues. "Take your hand away off my camera... you can't touch my camera," Parkinson said. "I can," replied the officer. As he walks away the officer can be heard saying "scum".

Moments later, the officer tried to remove the cigarette from Parkinson's mouth. The film-maker can be heard saying: "What – you're going to pull the cigarette out of my mouth now as well? What's the point of that?"

They are later frogmarched away from the scene.

The Metropolitan Police have now recognised that they failed to respect press freedom with regards to the two journalists and have paid them £3,500 each in compensation. But it took 18 months to get to that point.

Chez Cotton, who acted for the two is quite clear what she thinks happened. She said that her clients had been treated with "contempt and aggression" by the armed diplomatic officer. "That the officer has been content to be filmed whilst doing so is shocking and makes it even more worrying that my clients appeared to be moved away by the police, apparently because they did not wish to be filmed whilst carrying out what appeared to be extremely brutal arrests using force."

This is the State that Labour created with its suppression of civil liberties and its endless Acts of Parliament on law and order issues. Will the coalition government start to reverse that tendency? We will have to see.
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