Met Police Chief defends Coronation enforcement that saw 62 arrestedMay 13, 2023
Met Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley defends aggressive Coronation enforcement that saw 62 arrested as it prevented ‘much more serious questions’
- Met Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley sent public letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan
- Alice Chambers was locked up for 13 hours after being mistaken for a protestor
Met Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley has defended the aggressive Coronation enforcement that saw 62 people arrested – as it prevented ‘much more serious questions’.
In a public letter written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Sir Mark said he did not see the coronation as an operation where he needed to ‘call out our shortcomings’ – adding ‘no major operation is ever perfect’.
His words came as the force said it ‘regrets’ that a monarchist was unable to watch proceedings following her arrest and 13-hour detention, after she stood near protesters on the Mall in central London on Saturday.
Alice Chambers called on police to put new processes in place to prevent a repeat of the incident.
In a short statement issued on Friday, the Met said: ‘Officers involved in the safety and security operation acted on information available to them.
Met Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley has defended the aggressive Coronation enforcement that saw 62 people arrested – as it prevented ‘much more serious questions’
In a public letter written to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Sir Mark Rowley (pictured) said he did not see the coronation as an operation where he needed to ‘call out our shortcomings’ – adding that ‘no major operation is ever perfect’.
‘We regret that she was not able to watch the coronation.
‘Officers have spoken with her to explain our decisions and the next steps.’
But in his letter to Mr Khan, Sir Mark highlighted the force’s concerns over the ‘rapidly developing intelligence’, which suggested the potential for paint to be thrown at the procession, damage to be done to historic monuments and the use of high sound devices which could have panicked horses.
The Commissioner said: ‘Had our officers not acted on reasonable grounds, based on the evidence in front of them in the moment and the potential risk to the event, there would now be much more serious questions to answer about the event.
‘Protest was not banned. While we said that our tolerance for disruption of the coronation celebrations was low, it was not zero.
‘There were hundreds of undisturbed protesters along the route including a large number of ‘Not My King’ supporters in Trafalgar Square.
Alice Chambers, 36, said she had no idea she was sitting beside the eco activists as they had not yet begun their planned protest as police swarmed on the group on The Mall at 9am last Saturday. She was locked up for 13 hours after being mistaken for a protestor
Despite her repeated protestations, she was mistaken for a member of the group and handcuffed before being led away from the scene by officers
‘Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real.’
Sir Mark said that of the 62 arrests made during the coronation celebrations, 53 suspects had been bailed – with most of the investigations likely to be ‘lengthy’.
His letter to the London Mayor said the policing operation involved 11,500 officers from across the Met, with 1,270 further officers joining from other forces and overseas.
Sir Mark added the force took around 24,000 emergency calls over the coronation weekend.
In his initial letter to the Commissioner, Mr Khan asked him to provide ‘urgent’ information over the arrest of six anti-monarchy protesters – including Republic chief executive Graham Smith.
READ MORE: Angry royal fans drown out Just Stop Oil protesters by singing ‘God Save the King’
The six were the first arrests to be made under the sweeping Public Order Act, under suspicion of going equipped to ‘lock-on’ – a measure protesters use to make it harder for police to move them.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the new powers, which came into force last week, saying it was right for officers to have the power to tackle ‘serious disruption’.
In response, Sir Mark said: ‘While it is unfortunate that the six people affected by this were not able to join the hundreds of peaceful protesters, I support the officers’ actions in this unique fast-moving operational context.’
The Commissioner also defended the length of time suspects spent in custody – saying witness statements, officer accounts and the need to secure evidence will have all added to delays.
Mr Khan also asked for further information on the arrest of volunteers for Westminster City Council’s charity Night Star which hands out rape alarms.
The leader of the council has requested an apology from the Met after all three Night Star volunteers were released without charge.
But the Commissioner told Mr Khan the deployment of Night Star volunteers had not been ‘brought to our attention during partnership meetings’.
Concluding the letter, Sir Mark said: ‘You know I have been more challenging of our need to improve than any Commissioner for decades and will always call out our shortcomings.
‘I do not see this as one of those occasions, but of course, that does not obviate the need for debrief and learning that will follow any big operation.
Ms Chambers is a keen Royalist who has attended a number of Royal events over the years
‘No major operation is ever perfect and we will always seek to learn and improve.’
The Commissioner said the force would be conducting an operational review following the coronation and that any lessons coming out of it would be ‘reflected in future planning’.
The Met Police earlier broke its silence around the arrest of Royal superfan Ms Chambers, who was locked up for 13 hours after standing next to Just Stop Oil protesters ahead of the King’s coronation.
Ms Chambers said she had no idea she was sitting beside the eco activists as they had not yet begun their planned protest as police swarmed on the group on The Mall at 9am last Saturday.
Despite her repeated protestations, she was mistaken for a member of the group and handcuffed before being led away from the scene by officers.
But according to the Met, Ms Chambers was not arrested by a member of their force, but by an officer from Lincolnshire Police.
In a statement, the force said: ‘We understand public concern around the arrest of a woman in The Mall on Saturday, May 6.
‘Police arrested a group of people in The Mall who we believe had the intention of disrupting the Coronation. There is an ongoing investigation following those arrests.
Anti-monarchy protestors were out in force before and during the Coronation celebrations
‘Unfortunately, the woman was among those arrested. She was released subsequently with no further action.
‘Officers involved in the safety and security operation acted on information available to them.
‘The officer who made the arrest was on mutual aid from Lincolnshire Police, which is why we remain in close contact with Lincolnshire Police regarding a complaint.
‘We regret that she was not able to watch the Coronation.
‘Officers have spoken with her to explain our decisions and the next steps.’
Earlier this week, Ms Chambers appeared on BBC Newsnight to recount her ordeal.
‘The next minute I just realised that the police had swooped in and started grabbing a whole heap of people, and unfortunately I was one of the people they grabbed,’ she said.
‘They handcuffed me straight away and then pulled me out of the crowd and put me against a barrier with a whole heap of other protesters.
‘I tried to say anything I could to say I wasn’t part of that group… nothing seemed to be able to be said that made a difference really.’
Her finger prints were taken and she was initially charged with ‘potential to the disturb the peace’ and then later received a follow-up charge on conspiracy to commit public nuisance.
She was repeatedly quizzed, physically searched, locked in a cell and officers took her mugshot, fingerprints and DNA, before being interviewed at around 7pm.
She said that she explained why she was there and the officers ‘looked at me in shock’. They then apologised to her and tried to ‘process me as quickly as I could’, but it still took another couple of hours before she could go home.
It comes after the police faced a huge backlash over the arrests and treatment of various protesters during the Coronation celebrations.
Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley said his officers had to target a ‘criminal network’ aiming to disrupt the Coronation, with people posing as stewards caught with bottles of paint they intended to throw at the parade.
The Commissioner said police received ‘serious and reliable’ intelligence that activists planned to use rape alarms and loud hailers to disrupt the event, ‘extensively vandalise monuments’ and ‘throw paint at the procession’.
In total 64 people were arrested over the weekend, 52 over concerns that the coronation may be disrupted.
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