September 14, 2011
A case that will decide the legality of the police containment tactic of kettling is to be heard at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg later.
The case, brought by Lois Austin, began in 2001 after she was detained along with 3,000 protesters for up to seven hours at Oxford Circus in London during May Day demonstrations.
Trapped alongside her were tourists and newspaper vendors who were not part of the protest but were refused permission to leave the cordoned area by the Metropolitan police.
The 2001 incident was one of the first major uses of kettling, and came as a response to protests by anti-capitalists the year before that saw Parliament Square vandalised and a statue of Winston Churchill defaced and daubed with graffiti.
Kettling has since been used by a number of police forces, particularly in the last 12 months as a response to anti-austerity protests, and most prominently during student demonstrations last winter.
In April the high court ruled that thousands of protesters were illegally detained in a kettle at G20 protests in 2009.
In 2009 the House of Lords ruled that the 2001 Oxford Circus “crowd control measures” had been proportionate. Today, lawyers acting for Austin will argue that the ruling was flawed on the basis that it allowed Austin’s liberty to be deprived.