madaxeman

July 13, 2011

The Daft Story of #DaftArrest

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 11:35 pm

So, today’s post all began with a girl, a phone, and a mission. Our heroine is one Jacqui Thompson, who runs a blog which is highly critical of the planning decisions of Carmarthenshire County Council… On 8th June, 2011, she attended a public meeting of the Council, because she wished to scrutinise their handling of a petition against the closure of a local Day Club for the elderly. Whilst it is undeniably true that Jacqui has something of a reputation for her efforts to bring this council to account, we should keep foremost in our minds the fact that there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever. Indeed, it could be argued to be “public spirited” – and we could use more people like her.

Anyway, Jacqui chose to film a section of the meeting using her mobile phone,and it seems the chairman, Ivor Jackson, took exception. He asked Jacqui to stop filming, and she refused. Mr. Jackson is alleged to have claimed that filming from the public gallery is prohibited. This is an interesting claim, as filming such meetings in not prohibited to my understanding either by Law or by this Council’s “standing orders” – effectively the rules under which meetings are to be conducted. When Jacqui refused to stop filming, and having failed to explain why or under which regulation filming of a public meeting might be prohibited, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Mark James (The Council’s Chief Executive) called for the police to attend.

Not having broken any law, and presuming a competent police officer would be able to recognise this fact, Jacqui continued to refuse to leave. The police arrive, and arrest Jacqui for “Breaching The Peace”. This takes place despite the fact that nobody was harmed, threatened with harm, or had their property damaged in their presence – and therefore seems to constitute a wrongful arrest. As a law abiding citizen, Jacqui of course cooperated with the arrest process.

Next, she was driven 30 miles to the Llanelli police station. She spends an hour in handcuffs, despite offering no violence, or indeed theat of violence, whatsoever – and is then left in a police cell for a couple of hours. Now – let’s recap – this is for the heinous crime of actually caring what her council are doing to the most vulnerable people in society. She must be relieved that we abolished hanging… After a couple of hours in the cell, three police officers (well, remember they had to tame the fearsome beast…) spoke with her and claimed that if she did not sign an undertaking not to film further Council meetings, then she would be kept in police custody overnight. You’ll note that this isn’t “Sign or we’ll put you before the magistrate in the morning…” – this is a simple statement that if she does not bend to the will of the officers then she will be deprived of her liberty for no substantive purpose other than to punish her for non-compliance.  A clearer case of abuse of power you will be hard pushed to find…

Unfortunately, she chose to sign the undertaking, and was released. I would like to think I would, in her position, have told them to get stuffed and waited for the superintendent to realise what was going on when he was called upon to justify her further detention – but I don’t think ill of her for giving in – she has a young daughter to care for, and you have to have priorities…

Now – here’s the thing…

It is not against the law to film a public meeting. Anyone who wants to argue that one, you’ll find the comments section at the bottom of the page. Furthermore, it is not against the Council’s standing orders either – I know, because I have checked here. Have a look yourselves, you’ll find nothing in their concerning filming or recording, Mr Jackson (the Chairman) does not have the authority to simply enact new clauses at will for his convenience – he is bound by the rules the same as everyone else.

Since Mr. Jackson and Mr. James are alleged to be so keen to ensure that the rules are followed, perhaps their attention should be drawn to CPR 20 EXCLUSION OF PUBLIC – which states that in it’s entirety that :

Members of the public and press may only be excluded either in accordance with the Access to Information Rules in Part 4 of this Constitution or Rule 22 (Disturbance by Public).

which leads us nicely into :

CPR 22 DISTURBANCE BY PUBLIC

22.1 Removal of member of the public

If a member of the public interrupts proceedings, the Chair will warn the person concerned. If they continue to interrupt, the Chair will order their removal from the meeting room.

22.2 Clearance of part of meeting room

If there is a general disturbance in any part of the meeting room open to the public, the Chair may call for that part to be cleared.

In summary therefore, the only way Jacqui could be removed under the terms of the standing orders would be if she had interrupted proceedings, or found herself to be amidst a general disturbance in a specific part of the meeting room. Now, since Jacqui was quietly filming, not shouting, not protesting – crucially NOT DISTURBING the proceedings, then I think it fair to say :

  • She was thrown out of a public meeting, the substance of which she wanted to hear given her keen interest in holding the Council to account, for the act of attempting to film the supposedly public meeting.
  • That having committed no offence, including “Breach Of The Peace”, and there being no evidence to suggest that she had committed such an offence, her subsequent arrest and detention were both unlawful.
  • In light of the above, common decency demands that she be provided with an apology on behalf of both the Police and the Council for their actions in this affair.

Astonishingly, neither the Police nor the Council have gotten around to that apology yet…

Anyway – fast forward to 11th July 2011…

The next meeting of the Council was due to take place on 13th July 2011, and Jacqui, true to form, planned to be there. Imagine her surprise therefore to receive a call from Chief Inspector Mark Bleasdale. Presumably he’s calling to offer that woefully overdue apology then? Erm, no.

In fact, the good Chief Inspector wants to know what Jacqui’s plans are as regards the next meeting. Well, she plans to attend, and therefore tells him this – to be told that it’s likely that the police will be called. He also mentions that the matter of the original #DaftArrest is an ongoing matter under the consideration of their legal department – doubtless failing to realise that since Jacqui hadn’t submitted a complaint at this stage, this could only really mean that the police were unsure (we’re a month on) of their legal position as to the original #DaftArrest.

I’ve not spoken to Jacqui, and I am relying on her own posts as a single source here, so let’s not go ascribing a sinister motive to the Chief Inspector just yet – it could be that he just thought he could ask what her intentions were so as to allow him to allocate resources appropriately – who is to say? It’s clearly a careless call to make though, and easily interpreted as an attempt to dissuade her from exercising her rights…

Anyway – along comes the 13th, and the next meeting of the Council. Jacqui turns up as expected, signs in to get a pass (for a public meeting), and is then given a card containing that the council would have us believe are the rules – in short, no filming you naughty Twitter types! She is then presented with a written undertaking that she will not record the meeting, and told that she has to sign it if she wants to get into the public gallery. Naturally, she refused – and was unable to get in.

Remembering the good Chief Inspector, she decided to call the police and invited them to escort her into the gallery. They correctly responded that this was not a police matter. Odd really – they were being invited to merely protect the right of a law abiding person to attend a meeting she was legally entitled to attend, despite the wishes of the council. Were I in her position, I don’t think I would be able to resist the irony of informing them that their presence was needed to prevent a likely breach of the peace…

Oh – and these new “rules” on filming the council meetings? Erm, from the standing orders:

CPR 23 SUSPENSION AND AMENDMENT OF COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULES

23.1 Suspension

All of these Council Rules of Procedure except Rule 17.6 and 18.2 may be suspended by motion on notice or without notice if at least one half of the whole number of members of the Council are present. Suspension can only be for the duration of the meeting.

23.2 Amendment

Any motion to add to, vary or revoke these Council Rules of Procedure will, when proposed and seconded, stand adjourned without discussion to the next ordinary meeting of the Council.

What that means is – should the council wish to make amendments to the rules, they have to have been proposed and seconded at a meeting of the Council. I do hope Jacqui will be asking for the minutes of said meeting! And minutes bring us to another matter – the minutes for the 8th June 2011 meeting are not are fair and accurate reflection of what happened. Look at the footage that is available on youtube – see if you feel the minutes reflect what you have seen. Did Jacqui interrupt the meeting, or did the Chairman?
In the current times, Councils are going to be forced to implement a massive cutback in the services they provide, and clearly at times the decisions they take will be controversial. The correct thing to do in such circumstances is to open yourselves to scrutiny, to make sure all the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s crossed. The absolute worse thing you could possibly conceive of would be to show the public that when they do take an interest in some of the decisions being taken such as the closure of the old folk’s day club that started all this off, they will be treated with such contempt.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s actions in this affair are an affront to democracy. I look forward to seeing what happens when Jacqui is forced to put this before the ombudsman. Maybe then we will see certain people getting the ass kicking they deserve, and certain people getting the praise. An IPCC inquiry into the police conduct would be helpful as well. Some prompt, sincere and well meant apologies might do away with the need for either – just a thought lads…

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5 Comments »

  1. I completely agree with the viewpoint presented here. What the council and the police did was (and is) inexcusable. This is simple bullying by someone in power, against someone with little power.

    As soon as something like this is brought to light, someone higher up should be giving a right good kicking to those who made the error of judgement. But that’s not what’s happened here. Again, a month later than the original incident, the council are acting like bullies: Calling their friend the Chief Constable to help them keep their meetings ‘secret’.

    Awful, awful and I hope all involved on the sides of the council and the police are subject to disciplinary action. But I bet they won’t be. It’s this kind of thing that makes me FURIOUS about local government.

    Comment by Gledster — July 14, 2011 @ 10:22 am | Reply

    • I think part of the problem here is that the mistake was made by the Chief Exec and the Chairman – ie there IS nobody higher up to actually sort it out.

      Local Government can be frustrating – but then if you think about it the sudden popularity of social media must have been a shift in culture for them. Suddenly they face effective opposition – and along with the busy bodies etc, they now have serious people – even folks as reknown as David Allen Green – parking tanks on their lawn… Ten years ago that wouldn’t have happened.

      I can’t be sure, but when it comes to local authorities, I don’t think they actually like us Twitter / Blogging types! Which is fine – I can live with it.

      Comment by madaxeman — July 14, 2011 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  2. A very good summary that adds to the plethora of calls for Carmarthenshire Council to apologise and for the police arrest to be tested as to its lawfullness.

    It is not uncommon at all for councils to reject calls for apology until pushed by the Ombudsman – who in turn only make recommendations with no real impact in the longer term.

    Comment by Photon — July 14, 2011 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  3. I hope Jacqui is taking this to the ombudsman – it certainly needs to go there…

    I commute (for the next two weeks), and one of the people I know on the train works for the Ombudsman. Next time I see her, I will be discussing this case…

    Comment by madaxeman — July 14, 2011 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  4. […] (1) 4Political Scrapbook; Council at centre of filming row locks doors of public meeting5madaxeman; The daft story of #Daftarrest 6All brilliant posts, please have a […]

    Pingback by Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and more: Locked Out – News4Security — April 25, 2014 @ 3:21 pm | Reply


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