`The citizens of Greater Manchester…have directly lost confidence in the police because of this episode…'
In a withering attack on the response by Great Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd to what it calls the "quite frankly horrendous" policing of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protests in Salford, the Greater Manchester Association of Trade Councils (GMATUC) has called for an independent review of the role and function of the Tactical Aid Unit and the policing of protest.
The letter to the £100,000 a year GM Police and Crime Commissioner - `elected by local people and accountable for how crime and community safety is tackled throughout the region' – follows calls for his resignation earlier this year by a variety of groups, including Manchester Green Party, who agreed Lloyd was `out of his depth' and was failing `to hold the Chief Constable to account on behalf of the people of Greater Manchester' (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
This latest missive to Lloyd states that he has `let down' the community in Greater Manchester…
"We are aware many letters and notes were being sent to you about the daily excessive and brutal policing at the Barton Moss site...We were extremely let down to hear of your judgement that complaints sent to the commissioner's office were delegated by you to the deputy police and crime commissioner Jim Battle. We expected you to take the lead."
On the policing of the Salford anti-fracking protests, GMATUC expresses `great concern'…
"When we compare the number of arrests at the Barton Moss protest and the number of persons charged or convicted of offences it suggests that many of the arrests were unnecessary and that many of the cases should not have gone to the courts" the letter states "There is now no real evidence that the charges were in the public interest in Greater Manchester. This episode in policing and criminal justice has eroded confidence that fairness and human rights will be central in our county.
"There are citizens in our county who because of this episode now find it impossible to trust any man or woman wearing the GMP badge" it adds "We remain shocked by this legacy in Greater Manchester."
Much of the policing criticism by the trade union organisation falls on the GMP riot police, the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU), and GMATUC states "We are not confident that this branch of GMP is fit for purpose".
It expresses concerns about "the leadership of and the operation of the Tactical Aid Unit as a whole service" and calls on Lloyd to, independently of Chief Constable Peter Fahy, review the role of the TAU and to determine that "GMP has a Tactical Aid Unit, or policing system for protest, that is fit for the 21st century
"Protest is the lifeblood of democracy" the letter adds "We have concerns about the way the right to protest is being eroded and undermined and what feels like legitimate protest criminalised in an attempt to silence dissent."
As well as reviewing the `role and function' of the TAU, GMATUC calls on Lloyd to…
* "Make further statements regarding the legacy of the policing and criminal justice experiences of the Barton Moss protesters with a priority aim of regaining the confidence of the citizens of Greater Manchester who have directly lost confidence in the police because of this episode"
* To communicate regularly with GMATUC "to provide focus and leadership to all trade unions in the county"
* To "make explicit in your work plans, publications and statements the
protection of human rights in Greater Manchester"
* To "use your position to recognise the importance to human rights and justice of journalists, media practitioners, legal observers and independent witnesses who reveal the truth about matters of public life".
The letter from GMATUC was sent to Tony Lloyd before revelations emerged this week about the high level of collusion between GMP, Salford Council, Peel Holdings and fracking company IGas during the Barton Moss protests (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
* To read the full letter see photos above.
* See also Salford Star article on The Truth of Barton Moss Policing Complaints – click here