Kingsnorth Climate Camp

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 27th October 2008.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 2:30 pm, 27th October 2008

If she will investigate the policing of the Kingsnorth climate camp; and if she will make a statement.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

Tactics and strategy on policing major events such as the Kingsnorth climate camp are operational matters for the local chief officer.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I regard myself as a supporter of the police, but I cannot condone what I witnessed when I arrived at Kingsnorth. I think that I was the first MP to do so. I witnessed unnecessarily aggressive policing, unprovoked violence against peaceful protestors, an extraordinary number of police on site and tactics such as confiscating toilet rolls, board games and clown costumes from what I saw to be peaceful demonstrators. In the light of what I saw, and of what other MPs witnessed, will the Minister arrange for an independent inquiry into the matter, conducted by either the Independent Police Complaints Commission or by a different police force?

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the IPCC is available, as an independent body, to look into any complaints that are made about the police and the way in which they have conducted themselves. I hope that he has made the comments that he has made here to Kent police so that they can be investigated. If he feels that that process is unsatisfactory, he knows that it can then be taken to the IPCC. I would have thought that that would be the appropriate way forward. Notwithstanding the points that he has just made, 70 police officers were also hurt—although none seriously—at that protest.

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N

I don't often accuse a minister of lying, but in this case, I'm making the accusation. I just don't believe that 70 police officers were hurt *by protesters*. I will be emailing Vernon Coaker to ask for clarification of what he has said. Having been at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp for the 8 days, and having left on the day of action, I really would like to know...

Submitted by Neale Upstone Continue reading

Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud

I hear what my hon. Friend the Minister says, but I had a constituent and friend who was arrested at Kingsnorth for so-called "aggressively picking up litter", which puts an interesting connotation on what he was trying to do. That case, clearly, is ongoing, but will my hon. Friend at least consider the way in which these major demonstrations are handled and the way in which people who want to demonstrate peacefully about an issue about which they feel strongly have their rights secured? Will he also consider how to ensure that the police who have to control these demonstrations are protected? That did not necessarily work at Kingsnorth.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

It is absolutely right that people should have the right to go out and protest peacefully, whether they do so through climate change camps or any of the other demonstrations that we can think of. People in this country have a right to do that. However, it is also right that that should be done in a peaceful and proportionate way, according to the law. If my hon. Friend's constituent wishes to make a complaint, he should, as I said to Norman Baker, go to the police force concerned in the first instance. If that is not satisfactory, he should go to the IPCC. It is a difficult balance to strike, but I believe that, in this case, the police struck the correct balance.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice, Shadow Minister (Shadow Solicitor General), Home Affairs

I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that despite what he said about injuries, no protestor has been convicted of any crime of violence at any of the climate camps. It is not just the IPCC that has jurisdiction over the matter, because the Government are offering to pay half the £5.9 million cost of policing. Given what the Minister has just said about peaceful protest, will he assure the House that every Government Department that has been in contact with the police over the policing of the climate camps has given absolute priority to the right of peaceful protest?

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A

The Government should not pay half the costs of the policing. Kent Constabulary must be made accountable for their decision to deploy aggressive and disproportionate policing tactics against the peaceful protesters. This will effectively provide a 'gold credit card' for any constabulary wishing to deploy similar tactics in future.

Submitted by Andy Parsons

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Crime & Security)

I can only repeat that the right of peaceful protest in this country is absolute. The hon. Gentleman mentioned people being charged and so on; 100 people were arrested and, of those, 46 were charged with offences ranging from obstruction and public order offences to possession of a bladed weapon. Of course, the Government will consider representations made to them, but as I say, I think that police have acted appropriately and proportionately in this case.

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If the following is appropriate and proportionate, then I'd say we're in a police state! 3am, Wed 6th August: I wake to the sound of racing engines and sirens, clearly vehicles approaching the camp down the road past the field. The vehicles stop, and one of them plays "Ride of...

Submitted by Neale Upstone Continue reading