Fighting the Cull Part 3 – Dealing with the Police

Posted: April 23, 2014 in Environmental
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So if you’ve been keeping up to date with my blog you should by now have a good idea of what you’ll need and how to make the best of your presence in the field. Of course the Government aren’t just going to let you go wandering around the countryside either by day or night and putting a big chunky spanner in the works of their cruel wildlife eradication policy. You will of course, at some point come into contact with the boys in blue and how you deal with these situations can have a huge impact in both your effectiveness in operations against the cull and your personal situation. Clearly getting arrested is to be avoided at all cost however even if you are it’s certainly not the end of the story. What I’m going to do here is going over a few laws and what that means with regards to your rights and how to get your point across when challenged.

The Basics

In spite of their claims the police are not likely to be impartial and they’re certainly unlikely to care about your rights. During my time last year fighting the cull and in my activities with the Hunt Saboteurs I’ve met a fair cross section of characters within the force, some clearly uneasy with what they’ve been asked to do while others have been openly hostile and only too willing to lie and cheat as a means to their ends. Personally it’s advisable to treat anyone in uniform with suspicion and any conversations you have with them (regardless of how friendly they seem) must be carefully thought through. Give nothing away no matter how irrelevant you think it may be and if you’re concerned then it’s simply best to say nothing, be polite, smile and say you’re sorry but you don’t wish to converse with them and move on. Just remember most action taken against protestors by the police is unlawful and the intelligence gained dishonestly, complete non-cooperation is often the best course of action, do not do anything the police tell you unless you absolutely have to. They will of course try and instruct you to do all sorts of things including threats of arrest but they will be just bluffing 99% of the time so stand up to them politely and tell them you do not have to comply and you’re within your lawful rights to refuse their directions. Last year during the cull the police were very keen to serve protestors with the injunction gained by the NFU in the courts. This action itself was totally unlawful, the police should not have been acting on behalf of a non-elected corporate entity so never accept any written document or sign anything similar.

Offences they’re likely to threaten you with

The main one regarding the badger cull will be trespass or aggravated trespass. The single most important thing to remember here is that trespass is a civil offence. Landowners or official agents of the landowners can use reasonable force to remove you however you cannot be arrested for it. The police have the power to assist in your removal and if you resist you could be arrested for obstructing a police officer or they may arrest you for a breach of the peace if you refuse to leave the land. But any threats of arrest by the police under trespass laws cannot be acted upon. Should they then arrest you and remove you to the police station the chances are you’ll be out swiftly after a phone call and then have the option to sue for wrongful arrest.

However aggrevated tresspass is committed when a person trespasses on land when a lawful activity is taking place on that land or land nearby and he or she does anything intending to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt that activity.

The offence, under Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, goes hand-in-hand with powers to direct trespassers away from the land, under Section 69. Failure to comply with such a direction or to return to the land within 3 months of being given such a direction is an offence.

Clearly if you’re wandering around at night in a suspicious manner and also carrying anything which could be used for obvious criminal activity (bolt croppers etc.) then the police will have rights to arrest you for going equipped to cause criminal damage so be smart with your actions. Get rid of anything which can be judged in this manner sharpish if you suspect you’re going to get searched or better still don’t carry it at all. Badger cages can be neutralised without any tools (see my previous blog here).

The ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) is often used to gain peoples details although I suspect it won’t be quite as relevant during the cull as it was when this tactic was used on myself whilst sabbing. Whilst you cannot be arrested for anti-social behaviour failure to give your details when asked does give the police the power of arrest in which case they’ll end up getting your details anyway.

Giving your Details

The police will always want to know who they are dealing with however you are under no obligation to give them your name and address except under a few specific circumstances.

– If you are the driver of a vehicle and you have been stopped.

– If they reasonable suspect you of committing an offence and want to report you for summons or issue a fixed penalty notice.

–  If they reasonably suspect you of antisocial behaviour which is behaviour likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress.

So if you’re out at night on foot and get stopped by the police you are perfectly within your rights to not give them any of your details and remember, try not to say something like “Don’t give them your detail Dave” when advising any friends or associates.

A BBC journalist chats to Gloucesrshire plod last year in the zone

Stop and Search

Under normal circumstances the police have no power to stop and search you. For the purpose of the badger cull the most likely reason will be if they reasonably suspect you of carry stolen or prohibited articles with a sharp point or blade. Prohibited articles will be any offensive weapons (this includes articles made or adapted to cause physical injury) and anything made or otherwise which can be used in the process of committing theft or criminal damage. It’s highly unlikely any section 45 or 60 orders (which relates to terrorism and severe violence) will be in place so unless you have a pipe bomb down your trousers and have been sending threatening letters to Owen Paterson then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Should the police search you under the section 1 of PACE (listed previously) ask what they suspect you of carrying and their grounds for suspicion. Remember you still do not have to give your details when they ask but the searching officer must give you a record of the search with his or her details and the reason for suspicion however if you wish to make an official complaint regarding the search it may be wise to submit your details willingly if you know the search was unlawful and you can prove it. When you’re out in the fields it’s always best not to carry any wallets or any other form of identification. When searched they will of course find these and gain intelligence from them. If they try to arrest you for non-compliance then the arrest is unlawful and you can sue them later.

Video Cameras

The video camera is your friend. Record every interaction with the police. This has the benefit of both restricting any heavy handed policing and providing evidence if required later in court. Do not talk to police unless there is a camera rolling. They may try and tell you you’re not allowed to film them for a variety of bogus reasons but you are perfectly within your rights to do so. If they try and physically stop you from filming then this is an assault. They can only seize the camera if they suspect it contains evidence of an illegal activity and they should have no grounds to do so. Keep the cameras or memory cards away from the police. It’s important that the person filming an arrest does not get arrested as the police will seize any evidence of their wrong doing and you’ll have nothing to back up your claims against them. Should you suspect foul play get the memory card or camera away from the scene with someone else as soon as possible.

Being stopped in a vehicle

If you are driving a vehicle on a highway and a police officer signals you to stop, you must do so. The driver must give his or her details if the police ask for them. It is also sensible to answer questions related to the legality of your driving, e.g. whether you’re insured or not, etc., but do not answer other questions. However, no passengers are required to give their details (unless the police suspect them of an offence or anti-social behaviour) or speak to the police. The driver does not have to get out of the vehicle, or open their door or window more than is necessary to speak to the officer. Typically what happens when an activist’s vehicle is stopped is that the police will try to open the driver’s door and remove the key from the ignition. They may also try to open other doors. This is unlawful unless they are arresting someone or have power to stop and search the vehicle or people in it. Whenever you are stopped in a vehicle by the police, it is best therefore to lock all doors and remove the key from the ignition. Someone should video the incident from inside the vehicle. The driver should wind his or her window down about a couple of inches. If the window is opened any more, the police will reach inside and unlock the door. Let the driver do the talking; everyone else should stay quiet. The police may ask the driver for ID or driving documents, but you are not required to carry any. They will probably ask who owns the vehicle so if it is not yours, you must know who it’s registered to (it is sensible to answer this question). They may give you a ticket (known as a producer) that requires you to produce your licence, insurance certificate and MOT certificate at a police station within 7 days. Needless to say, any vehicle used for activism must be 100% legal and roadworthy.

Getting arrested

So we’re assuming you’ve had your collar felt, stay calm it’s really no big deal and you’ll probably be back in the pub in under 6 hours with a good story to tell your friends or like me something to write about in a blog. When you are arrested the police should inform you of what you are being arrested for and read you your rights. You may be handcuffed and then put in the police van and taken to the nearest station. You will be then placed in a holding cell until the custody sergeant is ready to book you in. This is when you will be asked your details. You do not have to answer any other questions regardless of any threats they issue, just answer anything else with “no comment”.  You will be told of your rights, which are 1) the right to contact a solicitor, 2) the right to have someone informed of where you are, 3) access to their rule book, The Codes of Practice. You can also request writing materials. Any property you have will be taken from you and recorded. They may also take any clothing from you that can be used to harm yourself, such as belts, cords, and shoes with laces. You can only be searched by an officer of the same sex. You will be asked to sign various things, but you do not have to do so. If you have been injured by the police during your arrest you must ask to speak to a doctor who will photograph your injuries. You should also inform the custody sergeant if you need any medication, and if you have dietary requirements (such as being vegan). It is also likely they will fingerprint you and take your picture but they are not lawfully obliged to gain any other personal data.

Once in the cell they have to supply water to drink and meals at meal time. Just remember to chill out and relax. They have to pay £300 per hour of detention should you successfully sue them afterwards.

Being interviewed

If you are interviewed you will be moved to another room with 1 or more officers and a tape recorder but remember, apart from giving your name and address you don’t have to answer any more questions. Ignore any advice from the police stating this will be your chance to put your side of things. Anything you say is likely to be used against you so it’s back to the complete non-compliance again. How you do this is up to you, feel free to stay silent or just answer no comment.

Release

You should be released within 6 hours. Your property will be returned so make sure it’s all there and ask for a receipt for anything that’s kept as evidence. You can request a copy of your custody record; this may come in handy later should you wish to sure for false imprisonment. If they offer you a caution DO NOT ACCEPT. This means you have won and they have no evidence, signing this is an admittance of guilt and they’re just pushing their luck.

There are several options that they can take when you are released:

1 – You are released with no further action taken (NFA’d).

2 – You are charged with the offence and given a date when you must appear at court. You may or may not be given bail conditions, and if you are you will be asked to sign a bail sheet about them.

3 – You are released on bail, pending further investigation. This is known as ‘Delay-charge bail’ (DCB).  They do not have enough evidence to charge you and want more time to “investigate”. You will be given a date when you must reappear at the police station to find out if you are going to be charged.

4 – You are reported for a summons – they want to charge you, but know they don’t have enough evidence, so they send the case to the bods at the Crown Prosecution Service to see if they can come up with anything on you. Generally speaking you do not receive a summons.  If you do, you should normally plead not guilty.  The chances are you really are not guilty and haven’t really committed an offence in which case they don’t have enough evidence to convict you, and you will be found not guilty.  Many cases are dropped just before the trial for lack of evidence.

It seems there is an unwritten rule that someone will be there to meet you (bring food) so make sure you have everything agreed with friends or colleagues involved with fighting the cull beforehand.

That covers most of the basics but hopefully it won’t come to this and we can all remain in the fields saving badgers. Just remember to be polite, but be smart. The police aren’t used to dealing with people who know their rights so use this to your advantage.

Comments
  1. Clued-Up says:

    Please always take the number, name and name of the police service to which he / she belongs when you come into contact with the police. You’ll need these details if you want to mount a formal complaint or want to establish individual officers’ patterns of behaviour (which may help others win their cases against any malefactors).

    Ask for the details of any legislation under which the police are acting (the title and date of the law concerned and the relevant powers under the legal paragraphs).

    Wildlife and aggravated trespass legislation is complex and not part of ordinary policing work. Many officers policing last year’s cull didn’t seem to know what the law says nor to be properly briefed. If you ask for detailed information about the legislation under which the police are acting, you could well be building up grounds for a formal complaint and you will also be encouraging individual officers and police services to become better informed about the limits on what they can do.

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