When police struggled to arrest a protester at a demonstration against the Israeli Ambassador‘s visit to the Welsh Assembly last June, three of them alleged assault. One said he’d been given a kick in the balls, another that he’d had his wrist scratched, a third that someone had pulled on his arm. Three people were arrested.
But what came out of the court case, as the CCTV showed, was that it was the protesters who had been assaulted. They had behaved, according to the District Judge, entirely lawfully. Yet the three defendants had been pushed and shoved across the road, one had been swung around by her arm, another thrown to the floor.
Why? There were ‘concerns’ the officers said, but none of them could explain further. PC Cook said he ‘feared a breach of the peace’. But he could not tell us why he feared such a thing. “I had reasons,” he said, “but I don’t think I can tell you what they were”.
It was not enough to convince the District Judge and he found all three defendants not guilty, as the police had not proved they were acting lawfully.
PC Cook’s ‘reasons’ had been based on an ‘intelligence briefing’ received by all officers that day. But despite repeated requests from the defence, the contents of this briefing were never revealed.
This is further evidence that the police keep ‘secret’ files on protesters, and that they use this ‘intelligence’ (that even defence lawyers are not allowed to see) to justify assault and arrest. Other material that was disclosed shows that at least half a dozen others were identified at the protest and placed under surveillance, one of them having the movements of his car monitored even after he left the protest.
Protesters are not criminals or terrorists, and should not be treated as though they are. It’s about time the police came clean about what information they keep on their files and how they use it.