Police officers’ notebooks lodged at the high court tell how they punched people in the face and beat others with riot shields during the G20 demonstrations in April.
The notebooks, which have been lodged as evidence in an action brought by three protesters, also disclose how Metropolitan police were given no restrictions on the use of force when they were ordered to move protesters attending the Climate Change camp in the City of London on 1 April. The accounts were written up the day after the demonstrations.
In one notebook, a police constable recounts how when he saw a protester pushing against officers’ shields: “I punched him in the jaw and he moved backwards.”
Another officer describes how he hit people with “shield strikes both flat and angled. I also delivered open palm strikes to a number of individuals and fist strikes as well.”
A third constable logged: “To get the protesters who would not move, I needed to hit the flat part of my shield to get them to move back. I also used open-handed palm strikes. Once the protesters were moved back to the required distance, we remained in a closed cordon until relieved.”
During the demonstration a newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, died after a confrontation with police.
The logbook revelations are included in court documents lodged in a legal challenge by solicitors Bindmans against the Met brought on behalf of three Climate Camp protesters, criticising the use of “kettling”, the controversial police tactic of forcibly containing a potentially disruptive crowd, as “unlawful” and unjustified.
Other Scotland Yard documents include the logbook of the officer in charge of policing the Climate Camp. It reveals that the decision to “kettle” was taken just moments after Chief Superintendent Michael Johnson, the “Bronze” commander responsible for the day’s tactical decisions, was informed there was a “party atmosphere” among the crowd.
The police logs state that, at 6.12pm, Bronze command received information, possibly from an undercover informant in the Climate Camp, that there was a “party atmosphere. No issues.”
Five minutes later – at 6.17pm – the log suggests that a decision to “kettle” was taken, with actual containment commencing at 7.07pm.
Moments before the kettle was brought into operation – at 7.04pm – lines of police officers begin advancing into Bishopsgate, where the Climate Camp was sited, and shields were used to push back protesters. The police log, however, does not comment on the levels of force that were to be used by officers to force back the demonstrators.
An account in a police constable’s notebook states: “We were directed to push back the Climate Change protesters approximately 20-30 metres beyond two alleyways … I used my round shield to push back the crowd, which was 15 people deep.”
Frances Wright, a member of the Climate Camp’s legal team, said: “Having read all the documents that the police have disclosed so far, I still don’t know who ordered force to be used at 7pm or why it was needed.
“The violence that Ian Tomlinson experienced was not an isolated example and the result of a few bad apples, as the police would like us to believe. An attitudinal change is needed.”
Christopher Abbot, 30, from Reading, who described how his girlfriend was injured after being dragged by officers outside the police cordon during the Climate Camp and then shoved back into the crowd, is one of the complainants.
Despite his girlfriend “requiring urgent medication”, it is claimed that officers refused to let her leave to receive treatment. It was not until after 11.15pm that she was allowed to leave the cordon, by which time she had “collapsed”.
The disclosure of such sensitive material comes as Climate Camp organisers are set to unveil a new protest site at an undisclosed location in London this week.
In an attempt to counter unease over heavy-handed policing, Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison will unveil a new “softly, softly” strategy on Thursday for dealing with public protests following widespread criticism in the wake of the G20 protests.
A report by the police inspectorate recently condemned Scotland Yard’s operation during the G20 rally as “inadequate” and belonging to a “different era”.
Earlier this month, the Independent Police Complaints Commission criticised officers for pushing a 23-year-old woman with riot shields. She was already bleeding heavily and may have suffered a miscarriage as a result. The woman was also detained in the Climate Camp “kettle” and prevented from receiving medical attention for up to five hours.
John Halford, a human rights specialist at Bindmans, said it was telling that none of the constables’ logbooks mentioned any early release arrangements for protesters who were ill or injured.
The other two claimants are Hannah McClure, 21, who claims that riot officers pushed her with shields, and Joshua Moos, 21, who says he was hit by police despite holding his hands behind his back to demonstrate that he was a peaceful protester.
Halford said: “Most chilling of all is the absence of a single recorded instruction to those officers about when they could use force and what would be reasonable, given this was a peaceful demonstration.
“In the absence of such instructions, many officers apparently behaved as if they had been unleashed on a rioting mob. If they were instructed to use violence in the way they did, that was unlawful. But the failure to prevent this from happening was an equally serious dereliction of their senior officers’ duties.”
A Met spokesman said: “Every officer is accountable under law and fully aware of the scrutiny that his action can be held open to. The decision to use force is made by the individual police officer, and he must account for that.”
He added that the use of “kettling” was a “recognised tactic in public order policing”.