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the four points when officers got it wrong – a policing expert explains

Creator : Ian Palmer, Principal Lecturer, College of Central Lancashire

The arrest of LBC radio reporter Charlotte Lynch on November 8, whereas overlaying a narrative about environmental protests is contributing to a debate about declining belief and confidence within the police.

A assessment by Cambridgeshire Police has now said the arrest was “not justified”.

Lynch was overlaying a Simply Cease Oil protest from a street bridge above the M25 motorway, close to London when she was approached by cops from Hertfordshire Constabulary.

She recognized herself as a journalist, displaying them her press card which had a hotline quantity for verification functions, endorsed by the Nationwide Police Chiefs Council. Regardless of making it clear she was there doing her job, she was arrested, handcuffed, pushed to a police custody suite and her detention was authorised by a custody sergeant. Her possessions had been taken from her and her fingerprints and DNA had been taken. Lynch says she was in a police cell for 5 hours earlier than being launched with no additional motion being taken.

After UK prime minister Rishi Sunak spoke about his considerations concerning the erosion of press freedom over this case, a assessment was ordered. Cambridgeshire Police have now launched the assessment’s conclusion stating that the M25 arrests of Lynch and different journalists weren’t justified and that there shall be modifications within the coaching of officers and the way protests are policed.

In keeping with the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights Dunja Mijatović: “Making the info recognized to the general public is usually the primary, important step to begin redressing human rights violations and maintain governments accountable.”

My expertise of 30 years in policing tells me that there ought to have been 4 factors when Lynch’s arrest ought to have been questioned, prevented or stopped.

Lynch, who says she was not blocking the general public pathway and was overlaying a protest that had been publicly introduced, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to trigger a public nuisance below the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Most related to Lynch’s case are the 2 situations that want to use to make an arrest lawful, that are: the arresting officer should have cheap grounds to suspect that the individual is committing an offence and that their arrest is critical.

Charlotte Lynch talks about her arrest.

The journalist’s presence close to to the protest may justify the primary situation, had it not been for the truth that she was doing her job as a member of the press.

Learn extra:
Emergencies Act inquiry: Methods to stability protest rights with the rule of regulation?

Nonetheless, much more crucially, the opposite situation requires that there is no such thing as a different much less intrusive means to realize the goals of the arrest, which on this case was to research the offence. To fail in both of those standards dangers an unjustified breach of Lynch’s proper to safety and liberty protected by the Human Rights Act’s Article 5.

Two days after Lynch’s arrest, the chief constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary, Charlie Corridor, acknowledged that “looking back an arrest wouldn’t have been mandatory”. He additionally “recognised the considerations over freedom of the press”.

Whereas it’s reassuring that Corridor recognises and publicly acknowledges the error on this case, the harm had already been achieved.

Safeguards ignored

There have been 4 factors when officers ought to have questioned whether or not Lynch wanted to be arrested:

  1. The arresting officer ought to have achieved every part doable to keep away from the necessity for arrest. A telephone name to the quantity listed on the again of the journalist’s press card would have confirmed her as a member of the media. Every officer has an obligation to train their powers with discretion, justifying their causes and being personally accountable below the regulation, in keeping with the codes of observe and the police code of ethics.

  2. A colleague on the opposite finish of the radio working command-and-control duties ought to have been in contact with the arresting officer. She or he may have additionally checked that Lynch was a member of the media (she says she made this clear) and will have additionally made the verification checks.

  3. Even when arresting officers had not handled a member of the press earlier than, their supervisor ought to have a minimum of been conscious that that is an occupation which embodies freedom of speech. An arrest mustn’t intervene with a mandatory and central perform of a liberal democracy – a free press.

  4. The custody sergeant would have been notified of the incoming arrest and within the hour it took the officers to drive Lynch to Stevenage police station ought to have been contemplating whether or not there was a have to detain her.

Neil Basu, who beforehand served as assistant commissioner for specialist operations within the Metropolitan Police, argues that “political and societal strain” can lead to an over-reaction in using “onerous police” ways.

The strain on cops to behave swiftly to restrict the disruption attributable to protests creates circumstances the place incorrect choices are being made.

The ability to constrain the freedom of a fellow citizen must be used properly and punctiliously. Officers can really feel below strain from politicians and commentators to make arrests when they don’t seem to be wanted. However doing so may danger shedding public belief.


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