An interesting document has just been published on the UK Parliament website: Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence on the policing of the TUC march on 26th March 2011

Now UK Uncut and others have already accused the police of politically motivated arrests, but up until now it’s a charge the police have been keen to deny. Reading through that transcript though, it’s pretty clear that there were other motivations behind the arrests at Fortnum and Mason beyond simply clamping down on any ‘criminal activity.’

Here’s Lynne Owens, QPM MA, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, giving her evidence as to what took place on the day:

“We did do, contrary to all the commentary, a fairly significant amount of pre-event work on known groups of people, and indeed a number of arrests were made as part of that process. Do we now need to build on that intelligence picture? Yes, we do. It is why the fact that we arrested as many people as we did is so important to us because that obviously gives us some really important intelligence opportunities. I think it is interesting, and perhaps somewhat ironic, that we find ourselves in this position where we are being asked questions about intelligence pictures where less than a month ago we were being asked about whether it was proportionate to deploy undercover officers in public protests and public order situations. So I think there is something for the police service about getting the balance right. We do need to improve the intelligence picture, but our ability to arrest over 200 people at the weekend gives us a very good starting point in terms of building that picture.”

Yes, isn’t it brilliant that the police were able to arrest that many people and nick their mobile phones off them? At least it saves them having to tap people’s phones or do any of the rest of the boring detective work that’s often involved in normal intelligence gathering.

Oh, and I loved her response to the question of whether any actual damage had been caused inside Fortnum and Mason:

“There was damage caused on the outside. I think you will have seen the wide coverage of it, and it is our current understanding that people consumed some of the goods that were in the store, so in other words theft.”

Seriously? People ‘consumed some of the goods that were in the store‘? Well can I suggest then that if Lynne Owens wants to arrest a truck load of people for consuming goods inside a food store she pop along to my local Tesco’s, where on any given day of the week numerous people can be found (usually toddlers, but hey, no one’s above the law, right?) wandering the aisles while chowing down on crisps, biscuits, and assorted other sundry items they’ve picked off the shelves.

Or is ‘consuming some of the goods‘ only a heinous criminal act worthy of being held in the cells for 24 hours if you’ve got some potentially useful intelligence on your mobile phone? Hmm, I wonder.

Of course none of this is nothing new it has to be said. I remember getting into a right old panic a few years ago when a friend of mine was arrested after chaining herself to a fence at RAF Lakenheath, and she had her mobile phone confiscated by the MoD. Oh how I sweated when I realised the MoD then had my name and number….

Hat-tip to @AdamRamsay who tweeted the link to the transcript this morning.