THERE are three things to say immediately about yesterday's report on the Metropolitan Police's handling of crowds and protests during the G20 summit meeting in London in early April. The first is to congratulate Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary for producing his comprehensive report so quickly -- a welcome change from the usual snail's pace of such inquiries. The second and third points are linked: to recognise that the report represents a serious criticism of the police performance and to welcome the fact that the Met has accepted the recommendations made in it for the future. In the past, most UK police forces have had a good record in handling large demonstrations without resorting to the tactics seen in some other countries where baton charges and the use of water cannons are routinely used.

However, as Inspector O'Connor's report makes clear, on 1 April matters got out of hand. Training was inadequate, confusing instructions were issued about the degree of force to be used and the extensive use of “kettling” - whereby crowds are surrounded by police and prevented from moving in any direction - did not take account of the human rights of those caught and detained in the circle. The report's wisest words are probably these: “Officers involved in demonstrations should begin with a presumption in favour of peaceful assembly...We live in an age were public consent of policing cannot be assumed and public order policing should be designed to win the consent of the public.”


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