As we reported in our blog at the end of last year, the student protests against the raising of tuition fees to £9000 were dogged by angry outbreaks of violence and clashes between protesters and police. What was unclear at the time was exactly to what extent students were being violent and disruptive and to what extent some police officers were acting with inappropriate and unprovoked force.
There were many first-hand accounts of the problems at the rallies, with protesters ‘kettled’ for hours in small spaces, some being taken to hospital with injuries, some beaten on the head with truncheons, some charged down by enormous police horses, and all claiming to have been wrongfully abused whilst attempting to carry out a peaceful protest.
Now the Independent Police Complaints Commission has confirmed it is investigating allegations that one protester was wrongfully arrested after a conspiracy between three officers to falsely detain him was recorded on an audio device.
Little more information has been released at this time, except to say that the protester in question had breached a police line or barrier and was running away from officers. If this was to refer to a situation in which the man had been held in a ‘kettle’ then the investigation will be extremely complex, due to claims made last year by human rights groups and activists that the police activity of holding vast numbers of people without charge or misconduct was a violation of their human right to freedom and protest.
The investigation is also likely to explore claims of undue force and brutality on the part of police officers, as the 20 year old man in question suffered a broken tooth at some point in the course of his detention and arrest. During the protests, police were accused of attacking students in the crowd with their batons regardless of whether they were being violent or not, and of indiscriminately using huge police horses to charge into crowds of peaceful protesters who were merely milling around after being prevented from leaving the area.
The IPCC Commissioner, Rachel Cerfontyne, confirmed: “we are investigating a serious allegation that an officer colluded with colleagues to abuse his position by arresting a young man on false grounds. We will also be looking at the circumstances of how the man suffered a broken tooth during his detention.”
The IPCC involvement comes after a prominent member of the complaints commission last year publically denounced the violence of police at the protests and encouraged protesters to come forward and report police misconduct. Yet given that 111 complaints were made to the IPCC during the first few protests alone, and that these included claims of a student being dragged from his wheelchair, a fifteen year old girl having her foot broken, a student requiring brain surgery after a blow from a baton, and police preventing hospital staff from treating an injured protester, one rather wonders why this somewhat less emotive and high profile case is the one we are seeing being investigated.
One cannot help but wonder whether these other investigations are going ahead at the same time, and whether the results are perhaps being rather more carefully kept away from the public eye?