Kingsnorth report: more cover ups?
Chris Ames wonders if a new report on the power station protest will come clean on police tactics
22 Jul 09

Kent Police are to publish a report on the controversial police tactics at last summer’s climate camp at Kingsnorth power station, following pressure from the Home Office. But an earlier, buried report, which I wrote about here, will still not be published, in spite of an apparent pledge by policing minister David Hanson to publish both reports.

Liberal Democrat shadow justice secretary David Howarth has criticised Hanson for making an announcement as Parliament went into recess and for failing to honour a promise by his predecessor, Vernon Coaker, to share the findings of the first report, which was undertaken by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

In a written parliamentary statement released on Tuesday 21 July, Hanson announced that Kent Police would publish the second report, which he said was “overseen” by the NPIA and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), (on Wednesday). As Index revealed in May, the force commissioned this report from South Yorkshire police in March, because it did not like the findings of the original report.

I understand that both reports are likely to be critical of Kent Police. But if the report published on Wednesday is seen to pull its punches, it will provoke suspicions that the earlier report was buried because it did not.

Two weeks ago, Hanson, who replaced Coaker in the recent reshuffle, told MPs that the NPIA, Kent Police and the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) had looked at police tactics at Kingsnorth. Hanson said: “I will receive shortly, and will publish for the House, reports on those issues, and I will look at what lessons can be learned.”

It is clear that the reference to Kent Police related to the South Yorkshire police report. HMIC is conducting a major review of the policing of protest, which will look at Kingsnorth but will be published towards the end of the year. This suggests that Hanson promised, perhaps inadvertently, to publish the NPIA original report.

But the Home Office will still not say whether it has obtained a copy of the NPIA report or plans to get hold of it. Hanson has ignored two requests from Howarth to discuss the issue. Last month he replied to a written parliamentary question from Howarth by reference to the second report, which he said was “due to report in June”.

Howarth told Index: “It is highly suspicious that the second report is coming out during the parliamentary recess, when it cannot be properly scrutinised.

“It is also deeply puzzling that the Minister made no reference to the original report, and disappointing that he has not agreed to a meeting to discuss these unresolved issues.”

Hanson also told MPs two weeks ago that he had “raised in a letter to Kent police of 24 June the need for me to see their report of the incidents at Kingsnorth”. He added that Kent’s chief constable, Michael Fuller, had assured him that he intended to publish the report.

As I write this, I am waiting for the NPIA to decide whether to release its original report under the freedom of information act. The NPIA has made clear that it will take close account of the views of Kent Police. The idea that it is a matter for Kent police if they want to bury the original report on Kingsnorth seems to echo the Home Office position, which clearly does not apply to the second report. We may find out soon why that is.

Update: Kent police actually published both the South Yorkshire Police report and the original NPIA report last week. Both are critical of the policing operation and in particular the blanket use of stop and search tactics. In spite of claims that it was being amended, the NPIA report was last updated on 5 March. Although the final version has now been published, my freedom of information request covers all drafts of the NPIA report.