On 30 May, I had my FREE BRADLEY MANNING and TRUTH ON TRIAL banners damaged and seized by Bristol police. I was arrested, not interviewed, released and – two months after I lodged the complaint below – summoned to answer the following allegation: “causing danger to road users” under s.22(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 at Bristol Magistrates Court, Marlborough St, Bristol, 9.15am on Tuesday 8 October.
Below is the letter I wrote on 9 July. My complaint has not been dealt with and I’ve now been told that the investigations will only be concluded once the court case is over.
Letter of complaint
Avon & Somerset Constabulary
Complaints and Discipline
PO Box 37
North Somerset BS20 8QJ 9 July 2013
Dear Sir or Madam
I am writing to register a formal complaint about the actions of two of your police officers on the afternoon of 30 May 2013. I do not wish this complaint to be investigated through the ‘local resolution’ process.
The officers in question were PC 3153 Richard Hignett (arresting officer) and PC 2051 Russ Tucker. I was arrested at 16:46 hrs and taken to Trinity Road police station in Bristol, custody record number 52SZ 1611 13. I have a copy of the custody record. I was released without charge but with a threat of a summons.
I enclose an account of the events of 30 May that I started to write on the evening of 30 May while the incident was still fresh in my mind and published the next day.
I understand that police officers are under a duty to treat members of the public with respect. I was not treated with respect by these two officers and neither did they show any respect for my property which they continued to damage by cutting and in Russ Tucker’s case wantonly rip after I had made it clear that it was mine and that I was happy to comply with their objection to its display over the motorway by removing it. They didn’t justify their decision to confiscate (and threaten to destroy) the banners and did not offer me any account of the legal authority they were exercising when they refused to return the banners but did return the peace flag to me.
They seized the banners in a completely unaccountable manner. They showed no interest in finding out who I was until I persisted in asking for the banners back, when they threatened arrest for obstruction and asked for my name and address so they could report me to the council in case the council wished to prosecute me for putting up the banners without permission. This was clearly my punishment for not letting them just walk off unaccountably with my property that they had damaged. At the point that they seized the banners they were certainly not considering them as potential ‘evidence’ since they told me in no uncertain terms that they were going to be destroyed. I don’t believe they had any lawful authority to do this.
I believe that the threatened summons for what they described as an ‘arrestable and recordable offence’ under the 1988 Road Traffic Act (and for which they apparently quoted the wrong section to me) was only thought up post arrest, since they didn’t mention anything about this at the time of my arrest.
When I was arrested, I wasn’t told on what authority they were arresting me, except that it was because I was refusing to give them my name and address, and neither officer cautioned me. They continued to tell me in the car on the way to the station that I would be free to go if I gave them my details but they continued to refuse to return my banners.
I believe it is an abuse of police powers to behave in this way. In addition, there are limits to police powers in respect of interfering with the right to freedom of expression and I don’t believe the officers considered these limits when dealing with the situation.
The incident could have been easily and amicably resolved had the officers been minded to enter into dialogue and behave reasonably rather than in a bullying and unaccountable manner. As well as wasting my time, causing me unnecessary stress and depriving me of my property, this incident represents an extremely poor use of police time and resources and a waste of public money which we are endlessly told is in short supply.
To date no summons has been issued. I presume the section of the 1988 RTA the officers were referring to was s.22(A) rather than the s.23 they quoted. If a prosecution is still being considered under this Act, then the banners will clearly need to be presented as evidence at trial. If a prosecution is not going to be pursued, which would seem the more sensible and prudent course of action in the circumstances, then I would like my banners back please.
enc. My account of events of 30 May 2013