Right to reply – Bluewashing

Just window dressing

I didn’t really want this to be my first post, but perhaps it is appropriate. On 4th December 2010 I went on my first UKuncut action in Brighton. I was kettled outside Topshop for nearly four hours and then threatened with arrest if I did not give my details. I complained that this was a breach of the Data Protection Act, and that the policing on the day was wholly disproportionate to events. Caroline Lucas MP was extremely supportive and instrumental in progressing this complaint on my behalf.

Here is the response I received from Sussex Police:

Dear XXXXX,

I am writing in reply to your email to Caroline Lucas MP regarding the policing of the “Top Shop” demonstration in Brighton  on Saturday 4th December. Your e-mail has been recorded as a complaint against police, direction and control matter; reference number BHD/323/10.

All parts of the policing operation have been considered and reviewed by Detective Chief Inspector Jason Taylor, of Brighton & Hove division.

The senior officer at the scene believed serious disruption to the community was taking place, and also suspected a further breach of the peace was imminent, and accordingly used powers under 14 of the Public Order Act 1996 and Common Law to move the protestors to designated point adjacent to Top Shop (Marlborough Street) in order to both facilitate  the protest and allow Top Shop to re-open for business.

Your e-mail refers to your details being taken under Section 50, and being filmed by the Police Evidence Gathering Team.  Deployment of the EGT had been authorised by the senior officer at the scene, and their use at this stage was to evidence police making the requirement to demonstrators to supply their details under section 50,  particularly as the behaviour of some was non – compliant at that point. There is no specific requirement for officers to issue any notice to persons who provide their details under section 50, however
notwithstanding this, the same details would have been recorded by other means such as
pocket note book. The information obtained under section 50 is subsequently recorded
electronically and weeded after seven years. The fact that your details have been recorded in such a way does not constitute any form of formal police record, and would not be disclosed externally.

This video footage and your personal details are not cross-referenced, and the database
which you allude to does not exist. Sussex Police currently store such video footage for a
period of seven years, however this process will be reviewed in light of recent judgements regarding retention of footage by the Metropolitan police service, and your complaint.

Having reviewed the notes of the senior officer at the scene and officers involved, we are satisfied that police actions were both lawful and proportionate.  Unfortunately, no protestors had  engaged police to discuss their plans, which required a more robust and cautious approach for the policing operation, which was unfortunate, but necessary. We do believe appropriate measures were put in place to facilitate peaceful, lawful protest, balancing that with the rights and freedoms of the wider community.

We value your feedback, and all correspondence we have received, positive and negative, is
noted and considered for the planning of such operations in the future; specifically in your
case regarding the retention of EGT footage, and the issuing of notices under section 50.

Yours Sincerely,
Inspector L. Essex,
Strategic Support Unit,
Police Station,
John St,
Brighton,
BN2 2LA.

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3 Responses to Right to reply – Bluewashing

  1. I was outraged by this comment – “particularly as the behaviour of some was non – compliant at that point.”
    We are not sheep. The public do not have to be “compliant” with the police. The fact that a senior policeman thinks that they can boss people around just shows the contempt that some of them hold for the public.

    “The fact that your details have been recorded in such a way does not constitute any form of formal police record”
    The only kind of records that the police should be using are formal ones. If it is not formal, does that not imply that the police have no mandate to hold your information?
    “This video footage and your personal details are not cross-referenced, and the database which you allude to does not exist”
    I have two problems with that statement. The first is that he has taken a very narrow (and wrong) sense of the word database which excludes their informal records. The second is that there is no reason to believe that the information will not be cross-referenced and made widely available at a later date.

    I wonder if the police have any official documentation about the complaints procedure and any more possible stages.

  2. Pingback: Do we live in a police state? | Latentexistence

  3. Pingback: Do we live in a police state? (Short version) | Latentexistence

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