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Stop New Nuclear police liaison team debrief with Avon & Somerset police, 23 November 2011

Present

Sergeant Craig Kirk, Avon & Somerset police, Inspector Bruce Turnbull, Avon & Somerset police, Andreas Speck, Stop New Nuclear, Zoe Smith, Stop New Nuclear.

The meeting took place in the Tobacco factory in Bristol. Both Andreas and Zoe took notes.

Prior to the meeting, the police did receive the Stop New Nuclear police liaison report, written Angie.

The report outlined seven points to raise during the de-briefing meeting:

1. Friday 30th September visit to camp-site by Ch. Insp. Paul Richards was on private land, without any warning and with no communication from police to our liaison team. This was not a good start!
2. The police communicators/liaisons wore plain clothes and sandals with just a yellow police liaison jacket. This was reported back to us as being confusing to blockaders who did not recognise that they were police officers, especially problematic was that they did not wear any police numbers or have any other identification. We would prefer, in future, that the police communicators/liaisons wear uniforms with their numbers showing easily.
3. The car park was too far away from the main gate – was this in fact the agreed place? The toilets that EDF had provided were much closer to the main gate – was this in fact meant to be the site of the car park too? We suggest the place where the toilets were positioned this time should be the car park, tea stall and toilet area next time.
4. In future can it be clear from the start that banners can be placed on the fence and that protesters can freely walk on public footpaths without being harassed. In other words can the 'line' be the fence rather than the police?
5. More clarity on access by car to the protest site needs to be arranged so that water, heavy music equipment and disabled people can more easily access the protest area.
6. A spill-over area into one of the neighbouring fields would make the area a little less congested and therefore help to ease any tensions that do arise.
7. Clearer communications to all police officers not to intrude on the privacy of camps on private property without due process (ie. search warrants and notification to the owners).

We began the meeting asking Bruce and Craig about their evaluation of the police/protester liaison work.

Craig said that the early communication between Stop New Nuclear was a good start. This had been the first time they used a dedicated protester liaison team, and for them it was a good experience. But they also value our feedback.

Bruce said that he thought it went generally well, and he thought that the work of the Stop New Nuclear police liaison team was very professional. He pointed to two examples, where he thought they - the police's protester liaison team - helped to diffuse potential problems:

  • dealing with the one arrested person. Here they could in co-operation with the Stop New Nuclear police liaison team make sure that the person did not have to be kept inside Hinkley Point until the end of the action, but could be brought to a police station and be processed via another exit.
  • the lock-ons: a group of protesters had brought lock-ons, which they did not use on the day. When approached by the Stop New Nuclear police liaison team, they could arrange that the protesters could carry their unused lock-ons out of the area without any problems

Craig agreed that overall the experience was positive, but he raised some minor issues. He thought that Stop New Nuclear should have notified the police earlier of the desired route for the demonstration in Bridgwater on 1 October, and referred to Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986, which requires notice to be given at least six clear days in advance.

We replied that this was mainly because we hadn't decided on the route ourselves, and that we emailed them the route as soon as we had it decided, but they couldn't open the attachment.

We commented that people felt that the number of police available on the day of the blockade was over-policing. They replied that they had horses available because of the terrain, and also that the protest was a big unknown, and they didn't know what to expect. The wanted to build trust for the future.

We raised the issue that the two protester liaison officers did not wear a uniform, which confused many people, who did not know that they were indeed police.

They replied that they did not wear a uniform mainly to avoid confusion among the police about who was in charge of the operation, as both protester liaison officers were higher in rank than the commanding officers on the ground. However, they acknowledged that a clearer identification might make sense, and that they might also wear name badges in future. They also told us that they will have an enlarged protester liaison team in the future, so it will not always be Bruce and Dave.

We raised the issue of the problem with putting banners on the fence. They pointed out that the fence is on private land, and that it us up to the owner of the land to decide if they allow people to put up banners.

On the issue of the public footpath, they told us that people shouldn't have been prevented from using the footpaths.However, they also pointed out that as part of the planning consent the footpaths will be closed in the future.

On the issue of car access, we got into a discussion what constitutes parking. We raised the problem that not everyone who would need transport would necessarily like to be transported in a police vehicle, and that we would rather prefer to organise a shuttle ourselves. They replied that the road wasn't closed on the day, but that there were no parking cones everywhere, so that it would have been impossible for a car to stop anywhere.... They also said that they don't think the police will facilitate the transport of heavy music equipment...

They asked us about future actions, and our reply was that this wasn't yet public, and that we did not have a mandate yet to talk about the plans.

First point of contact on the side of the police will be Sergeant Craig Kirk.

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