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Kettling judgement does not end questions on police methods

March 15, 2012 1:48 PM

The European Court of Human Rights has today ruled that police 'kettling' during a demonstration a decade ago did not constitute a deprivation of liberty and breach of human rights.

The case was brought to the Strasbourg court by a demonstrator and some London passers-by who were kettled at an anti-globalisation demo at Oxford Circus in May 2001 which became known as the May Day riots. They claimed they were deprived of liberty in breach of Article 5, the right to liberty, of the European Convention of Human Rights. Such a claim was rejected in British courts up to and including the House of Lords.

Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford commented:

"While this important judgement has decided that kettling does not breach human rights, it does not end the debate. No-one doubts the major headache the police can face at a demo, especially one where there is violent behaviour. But freedom to protest or be in the vicinity without gross discomfort and fear must be safeguarded."

"This judgement is not an endorsement of kettling. Such a technique of crowd control should only be used when absolutely necessary to prevent injury or damage. Depriving people going about their legitmate business of access to food, water or toilet facilities for several hours is an unacceptable practice in the absence of very strong justification."

"The police need to think of better ways to manage protests so the freedoms of innocent people are not subject to unnecessary interference. Otherwise distrust of the police, already at a dangerous level, will increase."

Notes to Editors

Sarah Ludford's press release on the case being taken to the ECtHR can be seen here: