Chief constable apologises to journalists arrested during Just Stop Oil protests

The chief constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary has apologised to the journalists arrested during the policing response to the M25 ‘Just Stop Oil’ protests earlier this month.

Nov 23, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Picture: Just Stop Oil

Charlie Hall said officers “made mistakes” after an independent review concluded that the arrests “were not justified”.

He had commissioned the independent review, carried out by Chief Superintendent Jon Hutchinson from Cambridgeshire Constabulary, to “capture organisational learning relating to the arrest and detention of four individuals who identified as being members of the press”.

Just Stop Oil activists had scaled the signage gantries over the M25 at different locations but were swiftly removed by police.

Members of the press on a public footpath overlooking the gantries and reporting on the activity were subsequently arrested.

The review said the “opportunity for police officers to encounter journalists was likely” and the “unlawful interference undermines confidence in police legitimacy”.

“It was believed that officers had a lack of understanding as to the role of the media and how they operate,” the review said.

“The Just Stop Oil activity spanned at least four other police forces, none of whom arrested members of the press.”

Chief Constable Charlie Hall

 

Mr Hall said: “I fully appreciate the legitimate concerns raised by the arrests of the journalists, which was why I commissioned the review.

“I also rang and apologised to the accredited journalists who we arrested on November 11.

“Whilst the review has correctly concluded that the arrests of the journalists were not justified, and that changes in training and command need to be made, it found no evidence to indicate that officers acted maliciously or were deliberately disproportionate.

“They made mistakes and I now reiterate my apologies.

“The review also affords some valuable learning, which we are acting on immediately, so that it can be used when policing future protests, and we will also be sharing the learning nationally.”

The independent review has made five recommendations, all of which Hertfordshire Constabulary said it “welcomes”. The constabulary has immediately made changes in line with these recommendations.

These changes include:

  • A further review to ensure that any public order public safety officers and commanders who have not yet carried out the College of Policing National Union of Journalists (NUJ) awareness training are identified and do so within 30 days;
  • Directions to ensure that all commanders have immediate access to co-located mentors, loggists, and public order public safety tactical advisers throughout operations; and
  • An immediate operational assessment of the number and experience of the constabulary’s cadre of public order public safety commanders.

The full recommendations are:

  1. Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider selecting commanders with commensurate skills and experience when balanced against the nature of the operation;
  2. Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider ensuring that mentors collate with commanders for the duration of the operation;
  3. Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider ensuring that all commanders have access to public order safety (POPS) advisers;
  4. Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider affording commanders with the ability and capacity to maintain accurate decision logs; and
  5. Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider ensuring that all officers engaged with public order activity complete the NUJ package and identified learning is shared.

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