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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 15:07 GMT
Sir John Stevens

DAVID FROST: Well now two months ago Britain pretty much came to a standstill, no petrol, schools closing, operations cancelled. The fuel protestors, or some of them are planning to ratchet up the pressure again this week, a convoy of lorries is heading south and with plans to bring the demonstration to the centre of London on Tuesday. The head of the Metropolitan Police is here, Sir John Stevens, Sir John welcome, we're delighted to have you here.

JOHN STEVENS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: What are you going to do as they approach London, are you going to allow them right into the centre of London?

JOHN STEVENS: Well first of all we're speaking to the protestors, we spoke to them yesterday, we're speaking to them this morning, what we are determined to do is allow them to protest, they have a right to protest but we are determined also to ensure that London is not brought to a halt and just as importantly that both Houses of Parliament can get on with their normal business.

DAVID FROST: And that's, at the moment, a subject of discussion, but you obviously have contingency plans if the discussions break down?

JOHN STEVENS: That's right, we do, the contingency plans are that there'll be checkpoints round about the M25, just not on the north because it will, may well be that other people join the protestors from the south or the west of England. And then we'll route them into lorry parks near the centre of London and then we'll see where they go from there, but they're not coming into the centre where the Houses of Parliament are, we cannot allow them to do that, we have a duty to make sure there's free passage for Members of Parliament to get in.

DAVID FROST: So they'll be stopped at a point and then they will have to walk or take a bus to their┐

JOHN STEVENS: Yes.

DAVID FROST: To their campaign meeting.

JOHN STEVENS: That's right.

DAVID FROST: Now you're approaching this particular second time around with really more strength, more vigour, more determination than last time when people sort of felt that the police stood back and let it happen?

JOHN STEVENS: Well in London we, we had a demonstration at the end of September and that went well, we had a good relationship with the demonstrators and that went without any problem. But what we have to remember is of course these protestors were talking about 20,000 vehicles coming to London with over half a million demonstrators. Well we realised that was very optimistic from their point of view but we had to take that into account.

DAVID FROST: How big do you think, do you have any idea how big it'll be on Tuesday?

JOHN STEVENS: No David we don't, we know that the convoy as it's coming down from the north is small but we still do not know the amount of demonstrators that might turn up on Tuesday and we've got to take that into account as well.

DAVID FROST: Do you fear that other people may take similar direct action, I mean they seem have to got concessions from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he may use a different word a little later on but, but is there a danger that you're going to be confronted with more and more direct action?

JOHN STEVENS: Oh I think that is a possibility, we in the Metropolitan Police deal with over 2,000 demonstrations a year and it's a part of our business to deal with them in a way that's peaceful and we, the main priority is to ensure public safety.

DAVID FROST: And you've had talks obviously with the Home Office, with Jack Straw and so on, did that affect your approach?

JOHN STEVENS: Not at all, I mean it's business as usual for us at the Metropolitan Police and there's been no pressure at all from central government on the Metropolitan Police in terms of our tactics.

DAVID FROST: What about the future things, what about New Year's Eve, everyone's bewildered by that?

JOHN STEVENS: Yes what we're asking the Mayor to do and there was a meeting at the end of last week is for a decision to be made as soon as possible in relation to New Year's celebrations. We have a principle whereby if we're cancelling police officers leave we've got to give them a month's notice and I would be asking, and I think it's going to happen, for some certainty about what is happening at New Year's Eve.

DAVID FROST: What did you think about the Police Complaints Authority's report, Sir John, I mean 140 per cent rise in deaths involving police chases, reduction of deaths in British custody and so on, an increase in complaints of racial discrimination, in general did you feel the report was disturbing or reassuring?

JOHN STEVENS: Well I think it was a mixture of both in terms of deaths in police custody of course they'd halved. In relation to the complaints, racist complaints that's real cause for concern because it more or less doubled, they went up 75 per cent so there's a lot more work that's got to be done. For us in London we've got to look at those figures in detail and see what we can do in relation to them.

DAVID FROST: And the Mirror has a story today saying the Metropolitan Police is taking on criminals to aid the battle against crime, is that true?

JOHN STEVENS: Well as you know we've got a massive problem with recruiting in London, we're 3,000 police officers short, we're 800 support civilian staff short but what we're looking at, we are not taking criminals on in the Metropolitan Police, we're looking to see if people have got convictions for speeding or for not having a TV licence for instance and that type of offence or an offence that might have taken place 15 years ago, I think people like that are entitled to join the police, providing of course they've got the right references at the time they want to join.

DAVID FROST: And what about that one of your fellow chief constables was saying that if he goes to a party and sees someone smoking cannabis he'll tend to just look the other way and let the moment pass, what would you do in that circumstance?

JOHN STEVENS: I'd do something about it, that's a matter for him.

DAVID FROST: You'd something about it?

JOHN STEVENS: Oh absolutely, yes.

DAVID FROST: Because it's still┐

JOHN STEVENS: It's still, it's still part of the criminal law and until Parliament say that it's no longer a criminal offence I can't turn a blind eye to that.

DAVID FROST: You can't┐

JOHN STEVENS: No.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much, we hope you have a peaceful week this week┐I hope that London does too. Thank you very much indeed, that was Sir John Stevens of course.

END

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