Court rejects 'kettled' youths case
The High Court has rejected claims by three teenagers that the police unlawfully corralled, or "kettled", them during tuition fee demonstrations.
Judges dismissed their claim for damages for alleged human rights violations the three said occurred when they were detained in the kettle in Whitehall, central London, for several hours in freezing temperatures without food and with very little water.
Adam Castle, 16, his sister Rosie, 15, and Sam Eaton, 16, all from north London, were among 10 friends who gathered with thousands of other students, lecturers and teachers in Trafalgar Square on November 24 last year during the National Student Walkout anti-fees protests.
Lord Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting at London's High Court, ruled the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had acted within his powers and did not breach any of his public law duties, and the containment action taken by the police was "necessary, proportionate and lawful".
The court had heard the teenagers were in a mass of demonstrators who set off to march towards the Houses of Parliament from Trafalgar Square, but as they moved down Whitehall, Met officers used the tactic of kettling to contain them. Rosie, a pupil at Camden School for Girls, was trapped for about six hours and the boys, from Acland Burghley school, for about seven-and-a-half hours.
Martin Westgate QC, appearing for the teenagers, said children were consistently asking the police to be released but not being permitted to leave the kettle. Mr Westgate said: "One 11-year-old was told to get back at a fairly late stage of the containment." Another 11-year-old boy was certainly not released until after it had got dark.
Mr Westgate said he accepted the decision to impose the kettle was lawful because of police fears that breaches of the peace were imminent. But he argued the police operation became unlawful because of the failure to have a release plan communicated to the frontline officers.
Dismissing the application for judicial review, the judges observed that Ivan Hare, appearing for the commissioner, had pointed out "there was a plan for the release of the vulnerable, including schoolchildren".
It was a standing instruction issued according to the police Manual for Keeping the Peace and was a specific instruction given to police operational commanders. The judges ruled: "Children were, as a matter of fact, being released through the police cordon throughout the afternoon and evening."
The judges also rejected the argument that the duration of the containment made it unlawful. They said it had been necessary and reasonable to search those leaving for arms, and arrest those suspected of committing offences.