Kent Police have finally conceded that their stop and search procedures at the 2008 Kingsnorth power station demo were illegal, and have agreed to pay a (so far undisclosed) sum of money to the three.
In a way, this is a victory – it’s pretty unusual for the police to ever admit they’ve done something wrong. But thousands of protesters were dealt with in a similar fashion, and I doubt very much that any of them will see a single penny of compensation. Protester Sarah Horne told the Guardian:
‘Hundreds of people’s possessions were seized, from walking sticks to crayons to health and safety supplies. ‘Riot police burst onto the site on a number of occasions and started beating people with batons, without warning or provocation.
‘Kent police have offered compensation to three people – but thousands of members of the public were searched, attacked or otherwise harassed at the 2008 Camp. Are Kent Police going to compensate and apologise to them all?’
It was only the tenacity of the “Kingsnorth Three” that ensured the police didn’t get away with their gung-ho approach. And two of those three protesters were children – twins just 11 years old!
The law used by the police to justify the use of stop and search powers requires police officers to have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an individual is carrying prohibited weapons or articles that could be used to cause criminal damage.
However, during the case, brought against the police by the three protesters, it emerged that police had been conducting a blanket stop and search policy. Kent police now admit that search policy was ‘unlawful’ and ‘should not have happened’. Of course, what they mean is that this policy should never have come to light. The police, and many of their friends in government, would love to make it illegal to demonstrate.
So thousands of protestors were unlawfully detained, searched and physically abused; but only three are to receive compensation. Also, the police conduct at the demo has been characterised as “unlawful”; so police officers broke the law while on duty. It is very probable that these unlawful actions were authorised, even ordered, by senior officers. This needs to be investigated by an impartial commission, and any officers found to have broken the law should be sacked and possibly sent to prison.
There’s an oft-quoted question: “Who watches the watchers?” The answer, of course, is us. The police are entrusted with great power. When they are found to have abused that power, they need to be stamped on. Hard.