The four points when the officers made a mistake – explains the police expert | Pro IQRA News

Pro IQRA News Updates.

The arrest on 8 November of LBC radio reporter Charlotte Lynch while covering a story about environmental protests contributes to a debate about declining trust in the police.

A review by Cambridgeshire Police has now stated that the arrest was “not justified”.

Lynch was covering the Just Stop Oil protest from a road bridge over the M25 motorway near London when she was approached by police officers from Hertfordshire Police.

She identified herself as a journalist, and showed them her press card which had a hotline number for verification purposes, which had been endorsed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Although she explained that she was there doing her job, she was arrested, handcuffed, taken to the police custody ward and the Custody Sergeant authorized her detention. Her belongings were taken from her and her fingerprints and DNA were taken. Lynch says she was in a police cell for five hours before being released without further action.

After British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke of his concerns about the erosion of press freedom over the issue, a review was ordered. Cambridgeshire Police have now released the conclusion of the review that the M25’s arrests of Lynch and other journalists were not justified and that there would be changes to the training of officers and how they monitor protests.

According to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović: “Making facts public is often the first and essential step to begin to address human rights violations and to hold governments to account.”

My experience in policing for 30 years tells me there should have been four points when Lynch’s arrest should have been questioned, prevented or suspended.

Lynch, who says she was not obstructing a public way and was covering a publicly announced protest, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Most relevant to Lynch’s case are the two conditions that must be applied to make the arrest lawful, namely: the arresting officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is committing a crime and that his arrest is necessary.

Charlotte Lynch talks about her arrest.

The presence of the female journalist near the protest justified the first condition, had it not been for the fact that she was performing her job as a member of the press.

Read more: Investigating Emergency Law: How do you balance protest rights and the rule of law?

However, and more importantly, the other condition required that there be no other, less intrusive means of achieving the aims of the arrest, which in this case was the investigation of the wrongdoing. Failure to meet either of these criteria would result in an unwarranted violation of Lynch’s right to security and liberty protected under Section 5 of the Human Rights Act.

Two days after Lynch’s arrest, the Chief Constable of Hertfordshire, Charlie Hall, acknowledged that “in retrospect, an arrest was not necessary”. He also “acknowledged concerns about freedom of the press”.

While it’s reassuring that Hall publicly acknowledges and acknowledges wrongdoing in this case, the damage has already been done.

Guarantees ignored

There were four points when officers should have asked if Lynch needed to be arrested:

  1. The arresting officer had to do everything he could to avoid the need for an arrest. A phone call to the number listed on the back of a journalist’s press card would have confirmed that she was a member of the media. It is the duty of every officer to exercise their powers prudently, justify their reasons, and be personally responsible under the law, in accordance with the Code of Practice and Police Code of Conduct.

  2. The associate on the other end of the radio command and control duties must be in contact with the arresting officer. He could also verify that Lynch was a member of the media (she says she made that clear) and he could also do verification checks.

  3. Even if the arresting officers have never dealt with a member of the press before, their supervisor should at least be aware that this is a profession that embodies freedom of speech. Internment must not interfere with the necessary and central function of liberal democracy – a free press.

  4. The Custody Sergeant had been advised of the upcoming arrest and in the hour it took the officers to take Lynch to Stevenage Police Station they should have considered whether there was a need to take her into custody.

Neil Basu, who previously served as Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police, argues that “political and societal pressure” can lead to an overreaction in the use of “hard policing” tactics.

The pressure on police officers to act quickly to reduce the disruption caused by protests creates conditions in which wrong decisions are made.

Force to restrict the freedom of a citizen must be used wisely and carefully. Officers can feel pressure from politicians and commentators to make arrests when they are not needed. But doing so risks losing the public’s trust.


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