Mass ‘human rights breaches’ admitted and regretted by UK police at end of historic case brought by campaigners

McLibel defendant Dave Morris reports, 11.6.2010:

Kingsnorth Climate Camp

Kingsnorth Climate Camp

The largest and most expensive policing operation ever used against a single UK 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 (including McLibel defendants Helen Steel and Dave Morris) 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. 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 at the site. Campaigners were calling for non-polluting energy sources to replace coal in the light of fossil fuel’s disastrous contribution to greenhouse gases and climate change. Mainly as a result of the protests, the power station’s expansion plans have since been suspended.

On 29th January 2010 in the High Court in London, 3 claimants chosen as test cases won their case against the police operation 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. Many of those searched under such laws are now sueing the police and submiting claims for damages.

On June 7th 2010, the case was finally concluded with a historic public admission by the Kent police, which they must circulate to all other UK police forces, regretting mass human rights breaches.

Now read on! ……

Kent police ‘learns the lesson’ of £5.3 million policing operation that resulted in mass human rights breaches

Bindmans press release: 9 June 2010

Climate Camp protestors have received an unqualified apology from Kent police for subjecting them to unlawful searches, together with a commitment to disseminate the lessons learned to every police force in the UK and a modest amount of compensation.

The settlement brings to an end test case litigation brought by veteran activist Dave Morris and 11 year old twins who were attending the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth in July 2008 as their first political event.

Some three thousand five hundred stop and searches were carried out at Kingsnorth pursuant to the unlawful policy. It was set out in a secret, ‘Police eyes only’ briefing document known as ‘Slide 18’, the existence of which was only revealed immediately before the final court hearing. Kent Police had previously argued that searching officers had the necessary individual suspicion to justify every search.

In January the Divisional Court held that there had been human rights breaches in each of the test cases but referred the question of what redress needed to be made to the County Court if it could not be agreed. A settlement has now been reached under which the new Chief Constable of Kent will write to every other force stating: “During the Operation… a briefing was issued which did not give reasonable grounds to stop and search the Claimants under section 1 PACE. The material part … headed Slide 18, is also attached to this letter. As the October 2008 review undertaken by the National Police Improvement Agency found, this was interpreted as an instruction to search everyone. This interpretation by Officers within these circumstances has led Kent Police to face what it is we face today. Many people were searched as a result of these briefings. That should not have happened.

I accept that the combination of the act of stopping and searching these individuals breached their rights under Articles 8, 10 and 11 ECHR and lessons must be learned.”

The solicitor acting for Mr. Morris and the twins John Halford from Bindmans LLP commented:

“Kent Police has been forced to make a remarkable admission, thanks to this test case. It is that the outcome of one of the most expensive policing operations ever in the UK was the violation of the human rights to protest on a massive scale. That such an admission has now been made in a letter to be sent to every other force, coupled with Kent’s avowed commitment to learn lessons from what happened, is welcomed. That human rights breaches occurred on this scale, were not identified by the two internal police investigations into the operation, and ultimately had to be exposed by the activist and two tenacious children and who brought this case says something very worrying about policing of peaceful protest about vital issues like climate change.”

Dave Morris commented:

“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.”

The case was supported throughout by the Legal Services Commission but Kent Police will bear the cost of the litigation.

Please click to view Slide 18; the full text of the agreed settlement order, apology and letter to other forces; and some related press coverage