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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Met pressured for May Day 'apology'
May Day 2000
Police took a 'zero tolerance' stance
Civil rights group Liberty has warned it will sue the Metropolitan Police over its handling of hundreds of people during last month's May Day protests if it fails to apologise for its actions.

The group has written to the Met on behalf of 150 people who it claims were "unlawfully detained" in Oxford Circus and at Euston during the 1 May protest.

The action was proportionate in relation to the likely occurrence of violence and criminal damage

Metropolitan Police

The organisation, which has joined forces with solicitors who represent an even larger group of people held for seven hours by riot police, is threatening legal action if an apology is not forthcoming.

Director of Liberty, John Wadham, said they may demand a judicial review of police tactics used on the day, or sue for false imprisonment and breaches of the Human Rights Act.

He said: "Liberty is very concerned about the legality of this operation and we are currently considering whether legal action is appropriate.

"In the absence of an adequate explanation of the legal basis of these actions and an apology we will have to advise our own clients and those of all the other solicitors instructed to seek their remedies in the courts."

Liberty's letter was sent to the Met and to the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

'Breach of the peace'

A spokesman for the Met confirmed it had received the letter, but maintained that the police action "was taken against the background of human rights principles."

He added: "The protesters were detained under powers available to police under common law to prevent breach of the peace.

"The action was proportionate in relation to the likely occurrence of violence and criminal damage."

Schools and a library in Westminster were closed and dozens of businesses lost an estimated £20m after being forced to shut during the protests.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tory leader William Hague united in praising the police response to the protests at the time.

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