Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pre-crime arrests challenge UK police

Source: Press TV

British police are using an anti-terror legislation as a pretext to crack down on dissent on one hand, and to fight for funding on the other, warn pro-democracy activists.

The warning comes after local police forces launched a widespread arrest campaign in the run-up to last week's royal wedding in London, British media reported.

Police arrested dozens of people before heir to the throne Prince William prepared to wed Kate Middleton, but they were forced to release them without charges shortly afterwards.

A legal watchdog has advised victims of a wave of recent activists' arrest to “sue and try and force a judicial review” of cases, where police failed to charge the nabbed activists.

The Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (LDMG) said the arrests could have been made as part of a police fight for funding in the wake of the coalition government's spending review program, which enforces big budget cuts on the police forces.

"Usually police only arrest people if they have a reason to charge them, but at recent protests the arrest-to-charge rate has been really low”, said LDMG member Andy Meinke.

"We've been seeing very, very high numbers for minor public order offences and it has been happening since the police started pushing to protect their funding - it smacks of them trying to make the situation worse to protect their own", he said.

The arrest by plain-clothes officers of a man in Soho Square taking part in a republican "zombie wedding" on April 29 and of three event organisers including activist Chris Knight the previous day was a matter of particular concern, Meinke added.

"They've been talking about preventing a breach of the peace with some of these arrests, but legally it's very clear that it has to be in response to an imminent and directed threat of violence."

"We would encourage anyone who has been arrested and released without charge to look at challenging actions they believe to have been unwarranted, either through suing or forcing a judicial review", said the legal adviser.

The activists' arrest puts a big question mark before the claims that the UK is an advocate of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights.

The UK, if it was a democracy, has lost its credibility to be a democratic state, said the activists.

There have never taken place so many democratic activists' arrests, anywhere in the world, not only on suspicion of thought-crime, speech-crime, or political assembly crime, but now on offences defined by the British police as pre-crime.

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