Report 4 of the 24 November 2011 meeting of the MPA Full Authority, is a question received from a member of the public; Samantha Rigg-David, who submits the question on behalf of the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) and which is relates to the policing of the recent Deaths in Custody March in central London on Saturday. 29 October 2011.
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Question from member of the public
Date: 24 November 2011
By: Chief Executive
Members are requested, in accordance with the Authority’s Standing Orders, to hear questions from member of the public. The Chief Executive’s response on behalf of the Authority will be given at the meeting.
That the Authority hears the questions set out below and responds in accordance with Standing Order 2.7
B. Supporting information
1. The following question has been received from a member of the public; Samantha Rigg-David, who submits the question on behalf of the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) and which is relates to the policing of the recent Deaths in Custody March in central London on Saturday. 29 October 2011.
‘The UFFC, a coalition of bereaved families, has been hosting an annual procession for 13 years in remembrance of loved ones who have died in custody or state care. The stewarded march, led by family members, entails a silent procession from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. Following this, family members share experiences of the loss of their loved ones and then deliver a letter to Downing Street containing a list of recommendations for consideration by the Prime Minister. Traffic is often temporarily blocked in the process for a short time. Although it is an emotional event, the march has always passed peacefully and typically disperses around 4pm. The march provides a rare opportunity for grieving families to come together to highlight concerns to those in authority and also provide mutual support. Policing of the march in the past has appeared to be proportionate both in response to the sensitive nature of the event and also in recognition that it does not pose a threat to public order.
This year, at about 3pm, after delivering the letter to Downing Street family members and friends found themselves subject to aggressive and degrading treatment at the hands of a large deployment of what we believe were TSG officers. In addition to this a helicopter was flying overhead and we also noticed a FIT team had been deployed. The sudden deployment of around 100 officers, in addition to the large number of uniformed officers already present, and the ensuing treatment caused panic, physical injury and distress to the remaining marchers. Attempts were made by stewards, legal observers and marchers to talk to the police, informing them this move was provocative and appealing for restraint, but this was ignored. The officers performed a ‘sweep’ of the road, as if clearing it of rubbish, pushing aside and trampling on anybody in their way. We believe there was only a small crowd of marchers in the road at this point with around half the march on the opposite side of the road. The actions of the police caused marchers on the opposite side of the road to move forward to join those being swept in an attempt to provide some sort of safety in numbers against this attack.
Many of those that the police ‘swept’ were vulnerable bereaved relatives including parents, grandparents and children. At one point officers picked up the mother of someone who had died in custody by her arms and legs and deposited her on the road like a ‘sack of potatoes’. Children were screaming in fear. After this the police began to form a kettle, which caused widespread intimidation and forced marchers to disperse in an undignified and cajoled manner without any proper closure to the march. Those who attended the march have told me they feel traumatised by the experience. We understand it is not the role of the MPA to investigate the actions of individual officers on the march however it does hold responsibility for holding the police to account over operational and tactical matters.
We believe it was both entirely unwarranted and unnecessarily confrontational to deploy these officers and wish the MPA to fulfil its public duty by assisting us in scrutinising how and why this decision was taken. I wish to attend the full authority meeting to raise this question in person.
We are fully cognisant of the climate of the times, in terms of heightened public interest around deaths in custody and levels of tension around public order policing. However, we believe this calls for intelligent and sensitive policing. We do not accept that the response of the police was justifiable, proportionate or in accordance with ACPO guidance around keeping the peace’.
2. Standing Order 2.7 sets out the process for receiving questions at Authority meetings; this is given at Appendix 1
3. The Chief Executive’s responses to these questions will be given at the meeting.
C. Other organisational and community implications
Equality and Diversity Impact
1. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
2. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
3. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
4. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
5. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
6. No direct implications in relation to the process of asking questions at authority meetings.
D. Background papers
E. Contact details
For more information contact:
MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18
Extract from MPA Standing Orders – 2.7 Questions from the public at full Authority meetings
2.7 Questions from the public at Authority meetings
2.7.1 Members of the public, who live or work in the Metropolitan Police District may ask questions of the Authority, which are relevant to its business, functions or responsibilities. The Chief Executive must receive the question in writing not less than ten working days before a meeting of the Authority.
2.7.2 A person may not ask more than two questions in a rolling 12 month period.
2.7.3 The Chief Executive of the Authority will, in discussion with the Chairman of the Authority or in his or her absence the Vice Chairman of the Authority, have the discretion to refuse a question. In this event, the Chief Executive shall respond in writing to the questioner outlining the reason(s) for this decision. This letter will be copied to all members, before the Authority meeting. Without fettering that discretion, reasons why a question may not be accepted include the following:
- The reasons set out in 2.6.3 above;
- The question cannot be answered satisfactorily without the disclosure of exempt information (as defined in the Access to Information or Freedom of Information legislation);
- In the Chief Executive's opinion, the question has already been answered by another means and contains no issues of wider public interest that require a public answer;
- The question actually contains a number of different questions, in which case the Chief Executive will ask for an amended question to be submitted; and
- The question is similar to, or on a similar theme to, a question asked by someone else in the preceding three months.
2.7.4 Any question(s) shall be included on the agenda for the meeting, in the order of receipt and must be addressed to the Chairman. The Chairman will then invite the Chief Executive to respond, orally or in writing, on behalf of the Authority. Following the Chief Executive’s response, the person asking the question may speak further for no more than three minutes. Members may also comment on or discuss the issues raised by the question and answer.
2.7.5 The person asking the question can attend the meeting to put the question. If they are not present, the answer as reported to the Authority shall be sent to them following the meeting. If the person asking the question needs some clarification in relation to the answer, this will be given by the Chief Executive or appropriate officer, in person or in writing, within ten working days of clarification being sought.
2.7.6 The Chairman may use discretion to limit the number of questions asked by members of the public in order to avoid the business of the Authority being disrupted. In any event, no more than 30 minutes will be allowed for public questions and answers. Any questions that remain unanswered within the timescale shall receive written responses only.
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