Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests


by Guest    
10:30 am - October 21st 2009

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contribution by Kevin Blowe

A week ago, I said on my blog that Home Office had received a Freedom of Information request asking for documents it held or produced between 1st and 8th April of this year that were either “briefings, notes, minutes, emails or letters prepared for ministers and senior officials concerning the 1 April 2009 G20 ‘financial fools day’ demonstration” or “memos, papers, emails, minutes or documents relating to either the 1st April 2009 demonstration at the Bank of England or Ian Tomlinson’s death”.

The Home Office website indicated that these were available “in hard copy only” so I requested them last Monday and, with surprising speed, they turned up in the post this week.

There are some 80-odd pages and they have been zealously redacted – in fact in one instance, a civil servant has decided to block out the name and contact details of Charlotte Philips, Head of News at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, even though this information is publicly available on the IPCC website.

Whilst names have been removed and I can therefore only speculate, it is possible that at least some of the following were part of the e-mail correspondence:

Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism: Charles Farr
The then Acting Director of Policing Policy and Operations Directorate: Stephen Webb
Head of Policing Powers and Protection Unit: Peter Edmundson
Head of Public Order Unit, Sarah Severn
Special Advisor to the Home Secretary: Mario Dunn
Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Authority: Nick Hardwick

Where names have been redacted but I have been able to identify them from other sources, I have included them in the narrative that follows.

Despite these difficulties, what is interesting is seeing how the government’s news machine operates.

Back in February, the Public Order Unit internally circulated by e-mail this link from the Evening Standard, a typically incendiary piece about anarchists wreaking havoc in the city, which prompted one response about the need for an extensive briefing from the Metropolitan Police, who must be “aware of the huge potential for violence this event could bring”. It’s interesting to note that the press appeared to be driving discussions within the Home Office from the beginning.

On 4 March, Sarah Severn replied in an e-mail that the Public Order Unit (POU) would coordinate briefings for Home Office Ministers and liaise with Bob Broadhurst, the Met Police’s Commander for Public Order and Pan London Operational Support. The following day, a Permanent Secretaries meeting chaired by Gus O’Donnell, the head of the Civil Service, was held to discuss arrangements for the G20 summit.

On 26 March a Ministerial briefing was prepared and circulated but there seemed to be some difficulties during March in preparing a government-wide media pack, so the Home Office instead produced a ‘top lines’ and Question and Answer briefing. In seeking to highlight within this document the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s wish to highlight how much planning had gone into the summit, they were warned (presumably by the Met) against “overstepping the mark in terms of improper political influence/operational independence issues”.

The Home Secretary’s Rapid Reaction Team was then asked to put together a briefing on policing and security at the G20 Summit for Prime Minister’s Questions, which would take place on the day of the protests.

On the morning of 2 April, the day after the protests, the Independent Police Complaints Commission sent an e-mail to the Home Office saying that a man “had collapse in an alley way during the protests” but that the IPCC did “not know yet whether he was a demonstrator”. That afternoon, Jacqui Smith’s private secretary circulated an e-mail with suggested comments for a statement by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, expressing the government’s “thanks and appreciation to the police for their professionalism”, along with a briefing for the Chancellor.

On 3 April, the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism circulated draft letters to Sir Paul Stephenson, praising Commander Bob Broadhurst who led police operations on 1 April, and to Bob Quick (the Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, who within a week would resign over a security leak)

Six days after Ian Tomlinson died, on Tuesday 7 April, the POU were trying to find out how quickly the IPCC investigations into his death would be concluded, as well as complaining about “speculative and inappropriate reporting” over the weekend. It seemed particularly annoyed and ‘depressed’ about comments by the Green Party’s Jenny Jones on Newsnight. It would seem, therefore, from the absence of released material, that the Home Office was completely unaware that on the previous Friday, independent witnesses told the IPCC that police had clashed with Ian Tomlinson before his death or that the Guardian had told investigators it had photographs of Mr Tomlinson on the pavement at the feet of riot officers. As a result of this ignorance, on Tuesday letters of thanks from the Home Secretary were also sent to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and to the Chief Constables of the City of London Police and the British Transport Police.

That evening, the Guardian posted, on its website, the video of Ian Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by a police officer.

On 8 April, an e-mail from Stephen Webb was sent to the IPCC asking if they would now take over direct control of the investigation rather than supervise the City of London police. The response (presumably from Nick Hardwick, the IPCC’s chair) is far from firm or decisive: “on what I know now, I can’t imagine that we won’t do this an an independent – but we need to make a proper decision. And there are v significant resource issues – city have a huge team on the case which we cannot match.”

That afternoon, an e-mail from Anna O’Rourke, the Commission Secretary, confirms that the IPCC intends to resolve the problem of lack of resources by paying the City of London police.

During the morning of 8 April, the Press Office for Policing and Counter Terrorism is busy working on a line in defence of the use of kettling (see also here) but by the afternoon, it is panicked because the Home Secretary has told the BBC that “there needs to be a managed investigation from the IPCC, overseen by police officers”. The Policing Powers and Protection Unit, meanwhile, was starting to wonder whether it was altogether sensible for the Home Secretary to tell Sir Paul Stephenson in her letter on the policing of the summit that the Met had shown “admirable leadership and clarity of purpose”, when someone had died. Once the IPCC has finally confirmed it is taking over the investigation, a new form of words is agreed for the Home Secretary to push (see also here).

At just after 5.30pm, the deputy private secretary to Stephen Rimmer, Director of the Home Office’s Crime and Policing Group, sent out another bombshell: the Home Secretary’s Rapid Reaction Team have discovered that Channel 4 has more footage showing that Ian Tomlinson was struck with a baton…

The scan documents are now available in five LARGE Zip files:

FOI-01 [9.4Mb] FOI-02 [16.2Mb] FOI-03 [13.1Mb] FOI-04 [14.7Mb] FOI-05 [9.4Mb]

The following briefings and letters that have been made public can be viewed and downloaded as PDF files:

Home Secretary’s letter to Paul Stephenson (Met police) 7 April 09
Home Secretary’s letter to Ian Johnston (British Transport Police) 7 April 09
Home Secretary’s letter to Mike Bowron (City of London Police) 7 April 09
Draft letter of thanks from Office for Security and Counter Terrorism to Bob Quick 3 April 2009
Draft letter of thanks from Office for Security and Counter Terrorism to Met Commissioner 3 April 2009
Briefing to the Chancellor on 2 April
Home Office ‘top lines’ and a Question and Answer briefing on 1 April
Prime Minister’s Questions Briefing 27 March 2009
Public Order Unit Ministerial Briefing 26 March
Permanent Secretaries Meeting 5 March 2009

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Reader comments


interesting insight, i feel that getting the inside scoop of the pr machine in the met would be more revealing, and probably less predictable than the home office’s actions

2. Solomon Hughes

I was the person who did the FOIA request for the Home Office memos, notes etc – I haven’t got round to reading them through yet (they are in a bundle on my office floor) – so v quick work by yourself here. Solomon Hughes

Inspired by Solomon’s example, I have followed this up with another FoI request, this time to the Metropolitan Police as suggested by Lee Griffin.

The wording is at http://www.blowe.org.uk/2009/10/foi-request-on-g20-protests-now-for-met.html

Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests

Thanks for sharing


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Chris Hyland

    FOI request on G20 protests: http://bit.ly/4tRtDj

  2. Gareth Winchester

    RT @libcon Revealed: Home Office communication on #G20 Protests http://bit.ly/2ZwhM5

  3. Lianne de Mello

    @GreenJennyJones Your int. re: G20 policing was 'really depressing' to some unknown police bigwig http://tinyurl.com/yjbfxuc

  4. Chris Hyland

    FOI request on G20 protests: http://bit.ly/4tRtDj

  5. Gareth Winchester

    RT @libcon Revealed: Home Office communication on #G20 Protests http://bit.ly/2ZwhM5

  6. Lianne de Mello

    @GreenJennyJones Your int. re: G20 policing was 'really depressing' to some unknown police bigwig http://tinyurl.com/yjbfxuc

  7. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gareth Winchester and Lianne de Mello, Chris Hyland. Chris Hyland said: FOI request on G20 protests: http://bit.ly/4tRtDj [...]

  8. Simon Collister

    Liberal Conspiracy » Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://ff.im/-ai1KI

  9. hamish campbell

    interesting look inside the official sources, corridors of power about what happened at #g20 http://bit.ly/3VBQ7R

  10. dan mcquillan

    RT @simoncollister Liberal Conspiracy » Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://ff.im/-ai1KI

  11. vacuumcleaner

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  12. Simon Collister

    Liberal Conspiracy » Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://ff.im/-ai1KI

  13. hamish campbell

    interesting look inside the official sources, corridors of power about what happened at #g20 http://bit.ly/3VBQ7R

  14. dan mcquillan

    RT @simoncollister Liberal Conspiracy » Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://ff.im/-ai1KI

  15. vacuumcleaner

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  16. Rooftop Jaxx

    RT @libcon Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://bit.ly/2ZwhM5 ( #ff @copwatcher )

  17. Claire Butler

    RT @RooftopJaxx RT @libcon Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://bit.ly/2ZwhM5

  18. Rooftop Jaxx

    RT @libcon Revealed: Home Office communication on G20 Protests http://bit.ly/2ZwhM5 ( #ff @copwatcher )





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