Anticipation, assessment, prevention, preparation, response and recovery

Reflect

1.     If a protest were to take place outside your premises what action would you take?

2.     Do your staff have an awareness of the tactics used by protest groups to mark buildings?

3.     Have you considered alternate exit plans from your building?

Dealing with demonstrations and protest 

A primary object of policing is the maintenance of public order. However, police also have an obligation to uphold the freedoms and rights granted by the Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). At times, particularly when dealing with protest, these two demands can conflict, causing a dilemma for the police commander.

Peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society. 

It is a long-standing tradition in this country that people are free to gather together to demonstrate their views (even if some people may be uncomfortable with these views), as long as they do so within the law.

This tradition has been ‘formalised’ through the Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly:

• Article: 10 – A right to freedom of expression and 
• Article 11 – A right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

Together these rights form the basis for what is considered to be the ‘rights to peaceful protest’.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck: The rights of those protesting need to be balanced with the rights of others to go about their business without fear of intimidation or having serious disruption to their community. 
The rights of assembly and expression do not extend to a right to use violent or threatening behaviour and the police have powers to deal with these acts.

Location of Protests and demonstrations

The Articles of the ECHR do not provide a freedom of “forum” (i.e. choice of venue) or right to enter and remain in a shop or private premises for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. A shop owner is presumed to have extended an implied invitation to members of the public to come into his shop for lawful purposes. This implied invitation/permission may be revoked by the shop owner at any time and the shop owner or their employee should take the first step in the ejection by asking the person(s) to leave. If they do not leave, they immediately become trespassers.

Being on someone else’s property in this circumstance is not a criminal offence, it is a civil matter, one for which the police do not have specific powers to deal (police obtain their powers through criminal law). However, shop staff have the right to use reasonable force to eject trespasser(s) from premises. Police may assist, if there is threat of an imminent breach of the peace or if criminal offences have or are being committed or where police action is necessary to prevent offences being committed.

Individuals protesting on private land without the permission of the occupier are likely to be trespassing.

If criminal offences are committed or threatened (assaults, criminal damage), it is for police to take action to deal with these.

However, if a person trespasses on land and does something that is intended to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt a lawful activity carried out by others on the premises, a criminal offence of aggravated trespass may be committed and police have power to intervene (s68 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). Sec 69 of the act gives the senior police officer present power to direct those committing or intending to commit aggravated trespass to leave the premises, if they fail to do so, they commit a further offence.

Police Action

Clearly, police must always act within the law. Their use of force is governed by section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, which allows the use of reasonable force by a person to prevent crime, or to arrest or help to arrest suspects.

Conditions on demonstrations.
 
The Public Order Act 1986 provides powers for police to place conditions on assemblies and public processions to: prevent serious public disorder; serious damage to property; or serious disruption to the life of the community. However, the use must be considered within the context of the articles of the ECHR and will necessarily involve the balancing the competing rights of demonstrators and those affected.

If the Commissioner or Chief Constable of police assesses that a public procession will cause serious public disorder despite conditions being set, he may seek the consent of the Secretary of State to ban the procession under section 13 of the Act. Static demonstrations (Assemblies) cannot be banned, although in the above circumstances conditions may be imposed.

What can the police do about extremist groups?

People are free to gather together and to demonstrate their views, as long as they do so within the law. Equally, people have a right to be free to carry out their lawful business without fear of intimidation and violence. Violent activity is not a legitimate form of protest. The police and the courts have the powers to deal with people who take part in these activities.

Business Planning and Preparation

Organisational resilience should be a strategic objective of all sectors of society.  It is defined as 'the ability of an organisation to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper.' (British Standard BS65000). 

To help organisations achieve this, Roger Gomm Limited utilises the Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) cycle. The aim of IEM is to develop flexible and adaptable arrangements for dealing with crisis and emergencies, whether foreseen or unforeseen. This wider approach to the concept of resilience will ensure that organisations make use of all talents and resources at their disposal and will play a central role in working towards the desired outcome of having strong, resilient and supportive business.

The following six activities of IEM are fundamental to an integrated approach:

Anticipation – Assessment – Prevention – Preparation – Response - Recovery 

By using the IEM process, I believe it assist businesses and organizations to react the changing hazards and security threats, whether safety and security of staff and customers or physical security of their premises or key assets and ultimately reputation.  

Further information
Follow the Met Police public order twitter account at @MetPoliceevents and City Police @citypolice 
Follow www.met.police.uk and http://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/citypolice/ for latest updates and www.tfl.gov.uk for road closures in London.

Roger Gomm QPM 

Training and awareness briefings available contact: info@rogergomm.com