Parliament launches inquiry into policing of G20 protests
Demonstrators and senior officers face MPs' questions
Tuesday 21 April 2009
A full parliamentary inquiry is set to begin into the policing of the G20 protests after a string of complaints over the way protesters were treated.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee will confirm today whether it is to begin an inquiry into the policing operation. But members of the committee from all three parties are said to be keen on launching the probe.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is conducting three investigations into reports of police brutality at the protests.
Controversy over police methods began after it emerged that the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died soon after a police officer pushed him to the ground. The officer has been suspended. A second post mortem found that Mr Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding.
Hugh Orde, the head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, is expected to be called to give evidence to the inquiry. The committee also want to hear evidence from protesters, including Nicola Fisher, who was slapped around the face and hit with a baton by an officer who has also been suspended. Committee members want to compare the tactics police used with those deployed in other countries.
A senior committee source said they needed to produce a public report because Scotland Yard is keeping secret a report from an investigation into the policing of the protests which was carried out by Ian Johnston, the head of British Transport Police.
"There is a sense of urgency about this among the public," the source said. "We want to make a public report as soon as possible to find out exactly what happened here."
Today, the committee will hear evidence from Nick Hardwick, the head of the IPCC, on the handling of the protests. Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee, said MPs will ask him about the controversial "kettling" tactic used to contain demonstrators.
A dossier of complaints from some of those at the protest, containing hundreds of eyewitness accounts, is to be delivered to the IPCC. Activists who set up a Climate Camp in the City of London during the G20 summit claim they were attacked by police. They say police used shields and truncheons against their group.
Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, blocked an attempt yesterday to force an emergency parliamentary statement on allegations of police brutality. His stance looks likely to increase the prospect of a full-blown select committee inquiry into the policing of the G20 protests.
David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall North, applied for the brief debate after a succession of films showed demonstrators being hit and manhandled by police.
Intervening in a statement by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, on anti-terror raids in north-west England, he said police had been praised for their work in combating terrorism.
But he added: "Would you also bear in mind there is much concern about one or two individual police officers who have acted in a totally incompatible way with policing? We have seen outright police brutality, shown to some of the demonstrators, and will you take the opportunity to make a statement as early as possible?"
The Speaker intervened before the Home Secretary could reply, rebuking Mr Winnick: "It's totally out of order and you know it."
Ms Smith was thrown on the defensive as she was criticised by both Labour and Conservative MPs over the arrest of the Tory frontbencher Damian Green over leaks from the Home Office. Opposition MPs demanded her resignation over the episode.
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