Annual Report: United Kingdom 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: United Kingdom 2010

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Police and security forces

In April, the policing of demonstrations at the G-20 Summit in London gave rise to concern. There were reports of disproportionate use of force; the use of weapons such as batons and shields during charges against demonstrators; and the intentional removal of police identification numbers.

  • Publicly available video footage appeared to show that on 1 April a police officer wearing a helmet and balaclava struck Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper seller, with a baton on the back of his leg, and pushed him over. At the time of contact, Ian Tomlinson had his back to a line of riot police, his hands in his pockets, and was walking away from them. Ian Tomlinson collapsed and died shortly afterwards. The police only admitted that contact had occurred following publication of the footage. By the end of the year, one police officer was being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter.
  • In February, the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales announced that there was insufficient evidence that any offence had been committed by any individual police officers in relation to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian national shot dead by police officers in London in 2005. The decision appeared to sanction impunity for the killing. In November, the Metropolitan police agreed to pay compensation to Jean Charles de Menezes' family.
  • In March, the Chief Commissioner of London police agreed to pay Babar Ahmad compensation and exemplary damages after admitting that in December 2003 police officers had subjected him to a violent, sustained and unprovoked assault, including by twice placing him in a life-threatening neck-hold.

Northern Ireland

Dissident republican groups claimed responsibility for the killings in March of two soldiers, Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, and of police constable Stephen Paul Carroll.

In June, journalist Suzanne Breen won her fight against the application by the Police Service of Northern Ireland for her to hand over materials relating to the killings of the two soldiers. The Recorder of Belfast ruled that to give the material to the police would endanger her life and acknowledged that the protection of the confidentiality of sources for journalists was part of the right to freedom of expression.

Collusion and political killings

In January, the Consultative Group on the Past set up by the government in 2007 recommended establishing an independent commission to deal with the legacy of the past by combining processes of reconciliation, justice and information recovery.

  • Twenty years after the killing of prominent human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane, the government continued to renege on its commitment to establish an independent inquiry into state collusion in his death.

Three public inquiries into allegations of state collusion in the killings of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson, a human rights lawyer, and Billy Wright finished taking evidence. Final reports were expected in 2010. The exclusion from a number of sessions of each inquiry of family members and their lawyers gave rise to concern.