Thursday, 26 November 2009

'We Will Come For You', Police Warned

This is a excellent guest post by Jamie Potter, reproduced with the author's permission. You can find the original here.

There will be less of this

Police officers across London are quaking in their steel toed boots following an ominous message from a senior member of the Met.

If they are hanging around with colleagues and one turns violent and someone else gets hurt, they too could be facing a criminal prosecution.

If someone dies, they too could be charged with murder, even if they did not so much as shove an innocent man in a protest on the capital's streets.

"Standing by is not a defence," said the Metropolitan Police's Detective Superintendent Simon Morgan on situations where a gang of anonymously clad riot cops leads to trouble.

Employing a centuries old custom called "Monopoly on Violence", police in London have been aggressively pursuing young and old alike who are present for protests and demonstrations in the beating heart of capitalism.

Now, this anachronistic romp in the concrete and steel-lined avenues of exploitation is in jeopardy following a surprising clampdown from upon high.

"Anybody and everybody that is involved in an incident of violence, we will look to identify them and if the evidence is there, we will look to prosecute them," Det Supt Morgan told BBC's Panorama.

A law based on the idea of 'Joint Enterprise' will finally be applied to the police who have faced stinging criticism for their brutal treatment of political protesters.

Joint Enterprise is about sharing the responsibility of a crime and it ensures that police officers who egg on a colleague to violence or who issue a rallying order to others face the same charges as the person who lands the fatal blow.

Ian Tomlinson was only in his forties when he was set upon and beaten in the City of London during the G20 protests in April.

Several police officers dressed in black and armed with batons and shields were present when Mr Tomlinson, a non-protester on his way home from work, was shoved violently to the ground in an unprovoked attack.

Mr Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage soon after the incident. The officer who delivered the possibly fatal shove has been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter.

The Met are keen to impress that it's not just individuals who could be held responsible for such attacks though.

It is a theme they are taking directly to London bobbies via a speaking tour and a video presentation at police stations across the city.

In the video, Det Supt Morgan says: "If you are involved in a murder in any way, shape or form, we will come to you. We will find you. We will come at a time when you don't expect us and we will enter your life.

"We will invade your home. Invariably your front door will be removed. We will enter, this will be in front of your parents and your family, possibly your friends, and we will change your life."

The application of the joint enterprise law has drawn criticism from some officers who worry that it is being too widely applied, a concern backed by some in legal circles.

Professor Jeremy Horder of the Law Commission said joint enterprise is being used as a blanket power to prosecute those simply present during a crime, not just those who are culpable.

"It may be that only some members of the gang endorsed or encouraged or helped the killing, others did nothing of the sort. But they're all being scooped up in with it."

This worries many in the force who have stood and continue to stand idly by whilst protesters face the frightening brutality of the strong arm of the state.

Despite Ian Tomlinson posing no threat to heavily armoured riot cops - he even had his back turned and his hands in his pockets - none of the officers present were inclined to stop the severe treatment meted out to him by the few bullies in the gang, a blatant contradiction of the police ethic "to serve and protect".

Time will only tell if the videos and lectures will have any effect on the behaviour of riot police on the streets of London or if more systematic changes are required to bring the police in line with basic human rights.

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