Police use of “kettling” tactics to contain crowds during violent demonstrations in London in 2001 did not breach human rights, European judges ruled today.
The first ruling by the European Court of Human Rights about the legality of corralling people to maintain public order said: “The case concerned a complaint by a demonstrator and some passers-by that they were not allowed to exit a police cordon for almost seven hours during a protest against globalisation.
“The court notably found that the people within the cordon had not been deprived of their liberty within the meaning of the (Human Rights) Convention.”
In the first major use of the controversial tactic, police blocked off an area of Oxford Circus on May Day 2001 and held everyone inside it.
Among them were Lois Austin, who was part of the demonstration, and three passers-by – George Black, who was trying to walk to a local book shop, Bronwyn Lowenthal and Peter O’Shea, who were both taking lunch breaks from work.
The four turned to Strasbourg after losing their damages claims in UK courts.
Today’s majority 14-3 ruling from Strasbourg backs a House of Lords verdict in 2009 that “kettling” as a crowd control measure was “necessary, proportionate and lawful”.
The human rights judges said the use of “kettling” on that occasion did not breach Article 5 of the Human Rights Convention, which safeguards the “right to liberty and security”.
Kettling is not a breach of human rights, rule European judges