Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 16:40 UK

'Mediators' proposed for protests

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Police in riot gear
The report says safeguards are needed for police tactics

Independent Northern Ireland-style go-betweens could ease tensions between police and protesters, say MPs.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights said poor communications lay at the heart of problems at the G20 protests on 1 April.

Its report says a decision to "kettle" some of the London demonstrators had failed to recognise their rights.

The Metropolitan Police said it learned lessons from G20 and was committed to working with all protest groups.

One man died after the London protests and investigators are looking at other formal complaints about police actions.

'Share information'

The committee said there was a "long way to go" before police put human rights at the core of their planning and live operations.

In its review of the G20 protests, the MPs and peers argued that the Metropolitan Police became heavy-handed after a lack of communication between the two sides.

"Both protesters and police must share information," said the report. "Whilst this happens in many cases it is clear that at least some aspects of communication at the G20 protests were poor.

"Mutual distrust was apparent and the police and protesters seemed to have different expectations of what the dialogue should be about and how it should proceed.

"This ineffective communication led to frustration on both sides and, possibly, to the police taking a more heavy handed approach to the Climate Camp protest than would otherwise have been the case."

Supporters of the eco-activist Climate Camp, which occupied a main road in London, are among the 270 to have complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

There is a long way to go before promoting and protecting human rights is central to police policy, training and operations
Joint Human Rights Committee

But the committee said the Climate Camp itself had also been "extremely unhelpful" because leaders had not provided the police with proper information about their plans.

"There is a case for considering the use of independent negotiators to facilitate dialogue between police and protests to overcome distrust and tensions," said the committee.

"Bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary may be able to assist in identifying and assisting such negotiators and there may be scope to draw on good practice in this area in Northern Ireland."

The committee added that while "kettling" tactics used to contain crowds were lawful, a blanket ban on individuals leaving an area was disproportionate.

Legal duty

Andrew Dismore MP, the committee's chairman, said: "While kettling may be a helpful tactic, it can trap peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders for hours.

"There must be clear safeguards in place to make sure containment is used only when necessary and proportionate."

The committee also said officers should be legally obliged to wear their identifying numbers, after a number of complaints during the G20 that officers did not have them on display.

Why would you trap passers-by with part-time protesters and the hardcore?
Sabina Frediani
Liberty

Commander Bob Broadhurst, who is in charge of the Met's public order policing said, "thousands of protests pass off without notice due to planning with the organisers".

"This report, along with other reviews, provides us with a valuable framework to move forward our approach to public order policing," he said

"We are committed to working towards achieving constructive dialogue with protest groups, who traditionally haven't wished to talk with us. We seek that same commitment from them."

Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator at Liberty, said the police should "think again" about using "kettling" tactics.

She said: "Why would you trap passers-by with part-time protesters and the hardcore? This is a recipe for anxiety, anger and disaster."

The report comes as Sir Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland's former chief constable, takes over as the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). He has already called for human rights to be at the heart of modern policing.

Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes of Acpo said guidance on public order policing was being reviewed.

"Facilitating protest can be a difficult task for the police when balanced against the need to protect life and ensure that disorder does not break out," he said.

"It is clear that there are areas that can be improved and addressed as we review that guidance and we will study this report carefully as part of that process."

CONTAINING PROTESTERS

Protesters begin to gather from roads to the north and east, and are guided towards a central location by police.
The graphic above shows how the police contain crowds of protesters, using London's Bank of England as an example. Protesters begin to gather from roads to the north and east, and are guided towards a central location by police.
Police wearing high-visibility jackets begin to form a cordon around the crowd
A crowd of protesters forms outside the bank, as more join the demonstration from the surrounding roads. Police wearing high-visibility jackets begin to form a cordon around the crowd.
The police cordon has now entirely contained the crowd, but protesters can still enter if they so wish
The police cordon has now entirely contained the crowd, but protesters can still enter if they so wish. Equally, people may leave the "kettle" through an exit point to the south or west, away from the main protest.
As the crowd grows, the police cordon expands
As the crowd grows and police perceive a threat, the cordon becomes a permanent "kettle" strengthened by riot police waiting in nearby vans. Nobody can enter or leave - possibly for hours.
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