The Metropolitan police was facing fresh criticism over its handling of the G20 protests in London after a new video emerged yesterday of an officer with a concealed shoulder number striking a woman with a baton.
A selection of video material and still photographs circulated yesterday appeared to show an officer hitting a woman with the back of his hand, telling her to “get back now”, before drawing his baton and striking her on the legs. The woman, who is originally heard to be swearing at the police officers, falls to the ground amidst horrified cries from bystanders.
Unlike his colleagues in the pictures, the officer appears to have his shoulder number hidden, with the epaulettes on his jacket concealed by strips of grey material.
The incident is believed to have taken place at 3.30pm on April 1 near the Bank of England, where around 5,000 people had been penned into the area by police |cordons. Before the attack, the video shows protesters attempting to leave the cordon and finding themselves blocked by police in the controversial method of crowd control known as “kettling”.
Yesterday, as the film was posted on YouTube, activists posted an appeal on the internet for witnesses to come forward with a view to making a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The footage prompted a wave of criticism. David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, called for a “full-scale inquiry”, adding: “The fact that this video shows another example of an officer with his number obscured assaulting a member of the public indicates that there is a systematic problem here, not just a series of individual acts of misconduct.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “It is very difficult to understand what justifies a gargantuan police officer assaulting a smaller woman for having the audacity to complain.”
The Labour MP David Winnick called the incident “outright police brutality” and said the latest footage strengthened his demand for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to make a statement about police tactics at the G20 when parliament returns next week.
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The video intensifies pressure on the IPCC, which is already facing criticism over its speed and handling of the criminal inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson, the 42-year-old newspaper seller who died of a heart attack minutes after being pushed to the ground by a police officer near the Bank of England.
It also raises further questions about the transparency of the police and their |intentions at the G20 protests after new pictures of the officer who attacked Ian Tomlinson that emerged last week suggested he had removed his shoulder number and covered his face with a balaclava before hitting him with a baton and pushing him to the ground. The officer has been suspended.
As the new video came to light yesterday, the police watchdog was already facing criticism over original claims of the use of CCTV cameras during the protests. The IPCC had originally said that “no CCTV footage” had been used in the area around Royal Exchange Passage, where the video showed Tomlinson was assaulted. Interviewed on Channel 4 News on Thursday, Hardwick IPCC chair Nick Hardwick said there was no CCTV evidence of alleged police assaults.
“We don't have CCTV footage of the incident,” he said. “There is no CCTV footage — there were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted.”
But at 10.30am yesterday — after pictures were published clearly showing cameras in the area — the IPCC was forced to change its stance, saying that Hardwick was mistaken in his original claim.
“At this point, Mr Hardwick believed that he was correct in this assertion — we know now this may not be accurate,” it said in a statement. “There are cameras in the surrounding area.”
The retraction adds further embarrassment to the IPCC, which has already |reversed its original decision to allow City of London police officers to investigate the death.
Speaking in the wake of the new video yesterday, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “Every officer is accountable under law, and fully aware of the scrutiny that their actions can be held open to. The |decision to use force is made by the individual police officer, and they must account for that.”