Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Bit sharp

I used to be a sort of policeman and the ethos stuck. However, things have changed since "my days" and some police tactics in use today have me perturbed. The Met police following upon their investigations into the (student) riots leaned on a hosting organisation to close down a web-site that supported the march.

Anyone even slightly experienced in the internet would know that quite a bit of stuff is mirrored elsewhere. The closure "request" only added to the aggro - another thing with which to bash officialdom. Spending 30 minutes or so on YouTube searching 'interesting' keywords will dig up the most extreme video - sex in all it's varieties, agitprop and extreme political views - you name it, it is there.

The advice given is relatively innocent. Anyone who has viewed the the real Police TV series or CSI/NCIS shows will have a good idea as to what constitutes evidence. Not one of the advised precautions is itself a criminal offence. The adage that ignorance of the law is no excuse is widely used - so, what harm in advising people of their rights?

If you want to see what was published post the demo, it is in the block below.
Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken–contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn't mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to 'come forward'. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. 'That isn't me' has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their 'wanted' list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn't a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts/photos on your phone. Don't make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage/disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal.

Otherwise you'll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested."
I was an 18 year old in the '50s but did not attend the demos or silent majority initiatives. The 6th form common room was always well stocked with leaflets advising much of the above if arrests were likely.

I most certainly do not support, advocate or encourage violent demonstrations. But, we would be a very servile nation if no one were able to vent their disagreement with government actions. It may be that we all know a bit more as government spokespersons responded to the points raised by the marchers.