Letter to the Lothian & Borders Police
Climate Camp wishes to file a formal complaint against the Lothian & Borders Gold Command of Operation Octave.
We believe that the Lothian & Borders Police have acted in contravention of the committment in their Policing Charter (1) to ‘treat each member of our community with courtesy, fairness and impartiality whether you are a victim of crime, accused of a crime or seeking our assistance’ with regards to the press strategy around the environmental protests at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, 19-25 August. Moreover, we believe they did not act with integrity and impartiality, as recommended by the Scottish Police Service’s Code of Ethical Practice (2). The Code of Ethical Practice states that the interactions between the police and the media shall be guided by protocols and procedures- we question the effectiveness of these procedures, and therefore request that they be publicly disclosed and reviewed.
This complaint is brought with particular reference to the allegation that ‘substance similar to diesel or vegetable oil was poured’ by ‘protesters’ onto the A8 and A720 on 23 August 2010.
On Monday 23 August, the Lothian & Borders Police Press Office at Fettes issued two press releases (3) which accused the ‘protesters’ of spilling an oil-like substance on the A720 and the A8. A descriptive account of the alleged oil slick was followed by a condemnation of protesters for this ‘extremely reckless and dangerous act’ in a quotation from a police spokesperson. This condemnation was echoed in verbal statements to the press.(4)
No evidence was given in either of the press releases to justify this link and the Lothian & Borders Police have still not demonstrated that this incident was related to the activities of protesters. However, the Lothian & Borders Police saw fit to publically condemn ‘protesters’ without evidence, suspects, arrests or a trial.
This press strategy has both criminalised people attending the Climate Camp at Gogarburn based on conjecture, and irresponsibly publicised these allegations to the press. This has amounted to a smear campaign against Climate Camp on the grounds of an unsubstantiated implication that ‘many members of the public (were put) at risk’ by ‘protesters’. The lack of due process and evidence behind these public accusations represents a violation of the responsibility of the police to behave with fairness, integrity and impartiality toward the public.
The inappropriate conduct of Lothian & Border Police in these press releases and in statements to the press has caused reputation damage and distress to both the Climate Camp and to those attending the camp by implicating the organisation in activity which endangers the public. This has been further amplified by the press coverage generated by the Lothian & Borders Police’s press releases. A selection of press stories which reported on the police’s association of the alleged oil spill with climate activists can be found below (5).
Climate Camp therefore demands an apology from the Lothian and Borders Police Gold Command of Operation Octave regarding the public condemnation of ‘protesters’ linked with the Camp for Climate Action for the alleged incident on the A8 and A720 in press releases and press statements on the 23 August 2010, pre-empting any arrest, charge or conviction.
We further are requesting full disclosure of any information regarding this incident and its connection with protesters, including draft police press releases, gold command logs, silver command logs, bronze command logs, police notebooks/PDAs of officers at the scene, communication between Lothian and Borders Police (including the police press office) and City of Edinburgh council, communication between Lothian and Borders Police (including the police press office) and Lothian buses and any lab reports conducted on the oil-like substance. We will be submitting a Freedom of Information request to this effect under the Freedom of Information Act.
We look forward to your response,
(3) Climate Camp Update, Lothian and Borders Police 1200hrs, 23/08/10
Climate Camp – round up of today’s activity, Lothian and Borders Police, 23/08/10
(4) ‘Worrying escalation’ in activities of RBS climate protesters
Scotsman, 24 August 2010, Police face picking up the tab for protests
Daily Record, 23 August 2010, Climate change protesters slammed for pouring oil
Herald, 24 August 2010, Police boss hits out as bill for RBS protests set to top £100,000
Herald, 25 August 2010, Charges against nine of 14 climate change protesters are droppedThe Sun, 24 August 2010, RBS Rioters Battle Cops
STV, 24 August 2010, RBS staff stay away as Gogarburn clear up begins
Evening Standard, 24 August 2010, 12 arrested after bank climate demo