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Smellie verdict shows shocking lack of accountability in British policing

In the aftermath of the G20 protests many predicted that no sort of justice could be expected from either the Independent Police Complaints commission (IPCC), the courts or the Met when it comes to holding the police force to account. The recent ruling that Sergeat Delroy Smellie is not guilty of assault for his attack on Nicola Fisher is yet another indication that there is no accountability within British policing.
Andy May
2 April 2010

In the aftermath of the G20 protests many predicted that no sort of justice could be expected from either the Independent Police Complaints commission (IPCC), the courts or the Met when it comes to holding the police force to account.  The recent ruling that Sergeat Delroy Smellie is not guilty of assault for his attack on Nicola Fisher is yet another indication that there is no accountability within British policing.

Last year the group I set up Defend Peaceful Protest engaged in the political process to seek justice on public order policing reform.  We spent many hours compiling evidence and asking questions of the Metropolitan Police Authority.  We're pleased to see that in principle public order policing tactics have improved the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration. For now.  But the lack of accountability for senior offices and for officers accused of assault and violence against protestors is unforgivable.

This is just part of a catalogue of disgraceful failures around policing accountability:
 
- A Freedom of Information request I carried out on the IPCC found that as of March this year not a single police officer has been convicted despite the dozens of assaults and over 200 complaints.  60 were referred to the Metropolitan Police for internal investigation and I await the outcome of a further FOI on this, but I’m not holding my breath.

- Chris Allison, one of the officers deeply involved in the planning and implementation of the G20 strategy and for defending it in the aftermath is still in post along with Bob Broadhurst.  Neither have been investigated as the IPCC does not have a proper complaints procedure when it comes to operational decisions.  

- The Metropolitan Police Authority has turned out to be a toothless body with little real willingness or power to hold police to account.  It acts as little more than a talking shop for elected politicians and self appointed community leaders.  Along with other police authorities it fails to use the few powers it does have to hold senior officers account. Their token consultation of the public and protest groups was never followed up and only given passing mention in their final report on the G20.

To add insult to injury, Delroy Smellie, the police sergeant who assaulted Nicola Fisher has been acquitted as the judge deemed it was reasonable for him to assume she had a weapon.  It was clear from the footage quite how absurd this statement is and had Ms Fisher bothered to submit evidence he might well have been convicted.  However the broader point for me is that there were many other cases like this which should have gone to court but didn’t.  Perhaps along with Nicola Fisher others should have employed Max Clifford rather than relying on the IPCC.
 
Ian Tomlinson’s family have also recently complained of the ‘intolerable delays’ to the complaints procedure and investigation.   I see Shami Chakrabati of Liberty has finally got her act together and got behind the family's campaign after the initial silence on the G20 from Liberty and other established human rights groups.

This is just the latest in a long litany of failures by both the IPCC, the Metropolitan Police and the justice system in general to come to terms with the need to hold law enforcement officers to the very laws they are supposed to enforce.

One rule for citizens and another for law enforcers does not make for a healthy democracy.

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