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Police rapped for wasting time on Olympic protest calls

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 23, 2012

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Devon and Cornwall Police quizzed almost 20 people over their plans to protest while the Olympic torch relay was making its way through the two counties.

The force confirmed in a Freedom of Information Act response to the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch that it had "visited or spoken to" 18 people ahead of the arrival of the torch in Cornwall on May 18.

The force said: "Devon and Cornwall Police engaged with individuals in order to ensure that their right to protest was enabled without disruption to any other legitimate activity.

"I can confirm that 18 people were visited or spoken to in relation to the policing of the Olympic torch relay through Devon and Cornwall, in order to ensure that the force could support its obligations in relation to the facilitation of peaceful protest as well as the safety and security of the Olympic torch and bearers."

After a positive response from Devon and Cornwall, the campaign group followed up by asking other forces if they had done likewise.

However it has accused forces of a "cover up" about Olympic policing after the requests were rebuffed.

It said 13 forces had replied, with all but one using a template that claims confirming the visits have taken place would aid terrorists and undermine protecting "future Olympic torch relays which may pass through the UK".

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "The fact that police forces are devoting resources to pre-crime investigations about the Olympic torch relay demonstrates how utterly out of proportion the Olympic security operation has become.

"Rather than investigating crimes that have actually happened, the police are wasting their time questioning people about a potential protest and social media postings, neither of which is a crime or a security risk.

"To now try and cover-up what has happened by claiming it would aid terrorists to confirm they have visited people is utterly ridiculous."

The template response states that "the release of information identifying the focus of policing activity in safeguarding public order and the prevention of terrorism could be used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations".

The response also states: "To disclose intelligence, tactics and methods used to ensure the safety and security of the Olympic torch relay may make them ineffectual for future similar events and future Olympic torch relays which may pass through the United Kingdom."

Among the forces who have used the template are Avon and Somerset, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Gwent and West Mercia.

The torch, which has visited more than 1,000 communities throughout the UK and has been carried by more than 7,000 torch bearers, arrived in London at the weekend. Its journey ends on Friday, the day of the Olympic opening ceremony.

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  • Taxman100  |  July 26 2012, 9:20AM

    Well said Bagabagaboom and Big_Ger! It does seem some people want everyone else to be policed except themselves. The problem is, those who don't want to be policed usually have a reason - and it isn't liberalism!

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  • Gurnards_Head  |  July 26 2012, 9:00AM

    At grassroots level there are still excellent police officers but they are increasingly emasculated by poor leadership, political corectness and red tape created by political interference in an institution that should be beyond politics. There is a degree of paranoia disproportiate to the tiny threat posed by a handful of very frustrated people who genuinely objected to the olympic nonsense per se. The sinister culture behind the olympic event in Cornwall was amply demonstrated by the demeanour of the Metropolitan Police stormtropers handling of the merest hint of dissent always bearing in mind that the Metropolitan Police portray a thuggish aura and are known to be institutionally racist and politically biased anyhow.

  • tuftyaurelius  |  July 25 2012, 11:22PM

    Such lazy, timid cowards are the police! How many muggers, violent criminals, burglars and thieves do they bother catching? Do they actually protect people at night in Exeter or Plymouth?

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  • Bagabagaboom  |  July 25 2012, 10:18PM

    I'm with the Ger on this one.

    |   -5
  • Big_Ger  |  July 25 2012, 9:57PM

    More myth creating going on here, some seem to thrive on it. No one's "right to peaceful protest" was curtailed. Some known troublemakers were warned against disrupting a public event to feed their own miniscule minority political ideas. These tiny minorities should not be allowed to spoil events which the good and decent people of the county want to enjoy. They can protest legally and happily whenever they want, no one takes any notice of them when they do. (Except to laugh at them.) I think we can all see that.

    |   -8
  • Bagabagaboom  |  July 24 2012, 10:58AM

    Typical reply, if you don't like what I'm saying move somewhere else. We live in a democracy and we are free to protest peacefully. Some people abuse the situation. The Police are part of this democracy and are free to Police. It seems you like freedom for you but not for everyone. With freedom comes responsibility, the police are merely policing the situation to make sure everyone is being responsible. It is called civilisation.

    |   -12
  • Tony248  |  July 24 2012, 10:53AM

    Stripping a people of their rights and freedom on the pretext of defending them from "terrorism" is not a new phenomenon. It happened in Germany during the 1930's. Unfortunately, we do not learn the lessons of history too well. So we are condemned to repeat those mistakes.

    |   23
  • homerjay  |  July 24 2012, 9:45AM

    ...."Rather than investigating crimes that have actually happened, the police are wasting their time questioning people about a potential protest and social media postings, neither of which is a crime or a security risk.'' That is NOT policing, peaceful protest is a right in a democracy and NOT a crime. If you feel we are being 'liberal' feel free to emigrate to China where you views are encouraged and politically correct, millions died for the civil liberties we (should) enjoy

    |   25
  • Bagabagaboom  |  July 23 2012, 8:47PM

    It is good to see the liberals totally overreacting and scaremongering again to the Police who were just basically 'policing' the situation. The clue is in the name, The POLICE.

    |   -17
  • homerjay  |  July 23 2012, 8:28PM

    When the term 'terrorism' trumps freedom, democracy, human rights and privacy it will be time to ask who the terrorist really is.

    |   19