Kettling in court

IssueMay 2011
News by David Polden

On 14 April, the high court ruled that police acted illegally when they cordoned (“kettled”) Climate Camp protesters in Bishopsgate, London, at the G20 protest on 1 April 2009. The case was brought by two people who were among 5,000 kettled by police for five hours.

The judgment does not rule the tactic of kettling illegal, but places limits on its use, concluding that: “The police may only take such preventive action as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence.”

In its judgment, the high court also says that a police operation to push back Climate Camp protesters after 7pm was “not necessary or proportionate”. The police’s defence that there were groups within Climate Camp “intent on disorder or criminal damage” was “largely unsupported by the evidence”.

The court criticised the police’s use of force after seeing evidence that officers used shields, punches to the face and slaps against demonstrators. Video shot on the day showed demonstrators raising their hands in the air and chanting “this is not a riot”.

A case against kettling is also being brought to the European court of human rights by Lois Austin, one of 3000 anti-globalisation protesters kettled by police at Oxford Circus in May 2001.