The daughter of a high-profile Birmingham human rights lawyer is leading the challenge against the controversial police tactic of kettling to confine protesters at demonstrations.
Bethany Shiner, 23, daughter of a human rights specialist Phil Shiner, was kettled during tuition fee protests last week. She is launching proceedings against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after being detained in Trafalgar Square during last week’s controversial demonstration.
Ms Shiner, who has a masters degree in art and politics, and four sixth-form students are seeking a ruling that the use of kettling “as a standard response to protests” is unlawful.
They complained they were detained for hours in sub-zero temperatures during the protest and not released until 7pm.
Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers is applying for judicial review on their behalf, saying their treatment was “a matter of serious concern.”
A former pupil of St Thomas’s school in Kings Norton, Ms Shiner called the police process ‘ineffective’ and spoke of her terror at being trapped by the police operation.
“No-one can condone the violence, but it went both ways. Kettling is totally ineffective and it ignites panic and anger among the people detained by the police operation,” she said.
“We were kept against our will in freezing temperatures. I only managed to leave when I protested to police about a young boy who had been hit on the head by a police baton.
"His wound was bleeding and he needed emergency treatment. Otherwise the police would not have allowed me to leave."
“It is outrageous that the police should resort to such tactics against all protesters, most of whom were acting peacefully,” she added.
Mr Shiner said he had to offer advice to his daughter so she could eventually escape the cordon.
He said: “Because I was in London I was able to advise Bethany and get her sorted so that she could eventually get out of the kettle.”
He said his concern was that the Metropolitan Police “are now using kettling as a stock response to all public protests and appear to have authorised kettling in advance of this particular protest.”
He commented: “The police are required to have a range of lawful responses to different scenarios and not just resort to the most coercive tactics at the first sign of trouble.
“The policy on kettling needs to be stuck down.”
PIL has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson warning it will argue in court that the police are using kettling in a way that involves multiple breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights.
These include a breach of Article 5 - the right not to be unlawfully detained; Article 10 - the right to freedom of expression; and Article 11 - the right to freedom of assembly.
At the heart of the challenge are allegations that the police knew in advance about the protest.
They had previously used kettling on other recent occasions, including against student protesters in London on November 24, and appeared now to be using it as a standard response to public order problems.
Mr Shiner said police containment should only be used as a last resort.
“It would not be practised at a football match because people would not stand for it. Police should have a range of strategies to deal with the protests and not rely totally on containment. The majority of people were executing a peaceful right to protest, but the mindless acts of a few idiots influenced police action,” claimed Mr Shiner.
Mr Shiner said he was expecting a police response to his request by January 4 and he hoped to be lodging papers with the court soon after.
Public Interest Lawyers is also acting for a group of Iraqis who claim they or family members were killed, assaulted and ill-treated by UK forces.
The firm also represents Katia Zatuliveter, the parliamentary researcher of Lib Dem Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock MP, who is currently detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre pending deportation to Russia on allegations of spying.