The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ignorantia Legis Excusat

The chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor, has reported on the violence at the remarkable success in April. Apparently some senior officers in the best police force in the world felt no particular urge to find out the legal ramifications of kettling before they used it, and not all officers on the ground had been apprised of the possibility that whacking people on the side of the head with a riot shield might do someone a mischief. O'Connor also made the rather baffling observation that the tactic of confining large numbers of people in small areas without food, water, toilet facilities or exit belongs to a "different era". Perhaps it was more effective during the good old days of warm beer, village cricket and the bobby on the beat. Now times have changed, and "we live in an age where public consent of policing cannot be assumed"; hence "policing, including public order policing, should be designed to win the consent of the public". As a matter of fact, the best police force in the world did quite a bit to win the consent of the public to its belligerent tactics during the remarkable success: they hyped the threats beforehand and lied about the casualties afterwards. However, given that officers are now working with the possibility of an "instant visual record of police conduct", O'Connor sensibly recommends "a presumption in favour of facilitating peaceful assembly", at least until the law against photographing policemen in the course of beating up a terrorist suspect can be enforced with sufficient instantaneity and utterness.


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