August 6 2008
Dear Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police,
Illegality of Indiscriminate Police Searches under Section 1 PACE
I am writing to you on behalf of the legal support team at the Camp for Climate Action.
It is our view that your policy of attempting to search without exception every person attending the camp is unlawful and contrary to the guidance in paragraph 2.2 and 2.4 of the PACE Code of Practice.
1.Up until a number of people challenged this policy yesterday evening at around 7.30 PM last night, it appears to have been the policy of the police to stop every single person attending the Camp, to request that they queue in a car park adjacent to the road leaving to the camp and to conduct a thorough search of their property. Individuals have been given a search form, referred to colloquially by police officers conducting the operations as a 'ticket'. This 'ticket' is then checked by police at the gate, and provided it has been issued no more than 15 minutes previously, individuals are admitted to the camp. At busy periods, for instance yesterday afternoon between 4-7PM, waiting times at this 'checkpoint' were very long, estimated as between 1-2 hours for women, for whom there were fewer officers conducting searches, and around 1 hour for men. People seeking to use police portaloos have been refused access. If you dispute this account of the facts please state this.
2.In a press release on August 6 entitled 'Knives and weapons found near Climate Camp protest site,' Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge is quoted as having stated that 'we do recognise that most of the people attending [Climate Camp] are responsible and law abiding.'
PACE Code of Practice A
Paragraph 2.2 states:
Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors alone without reliable supporting intelligence or information or some specific behaviour by the person concerned. For example, a person’s race, age, appearance, or the fact that the person is known to have a previous conviction, cannot be used alone or in combination with each other as the reason for searching that person. Reasonable suspicion cannot be based on generalisations or stereotypical images of certain groups or categories of people as more likely to be involved in criminal activity. A person’s religion cannot be considered as reasonable grounds for suspicion and should never be considered as a reason to stop or stop and search an individual.
Paragraph 2.4 states:
Reasonable suspicion should normally be linked to accurate and current intelligence or information, such as information describing an article being carried, a suspected offender, or a person who has been seen carrying a type of article known to have been stolen recently from premises in the area.
The fact that Assistant Chief Constable Beautridge acknowledges that the majority of protestors are law abiding demonstrates conclusively that officers' suspicion is not based on accurate intelligence but on generalisations or stereotypical images and personal factors, namely political concerns about Climate Change and a willingness to attend a protest camp about the matter.
This intrusive and oppressive regime of searches which follows from failure to have regard to the Code of Practice stigmatises citizens engaged in legitimate political protest. Its chilling effect is likely to discourage at least some members of the public from attending the event. Prima facie it constitutes an unnecessary interference with participants' rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We are seeking legal advice in relation to this matter and will take whatever measures we need to protect the human rights of those attending the Camp for Climate Action, including Judicial Review.
Camp for Climate Action Legal Support
Climate camp legal support