Met Police ‘regret’ amid arrest of six protesters ahead of King’s coronation
Scotland Yard has expressed regret that the six people arrested ahead of the King’s coronation were unable to join fellow anti-monarchy protesters. The Metropolitan Police were threatened with legal action when no charges were brought.
Republic chief executive Graham Smith said a chief inspector and two other Metropolitan Police officers personally apologised to him over what he called a “disgraceful episode” after they visited him on Monday evening.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had earlier backed the Met over the dozens of arrests of protesters amid concerns they were cracking down on the right to protest.
The Metropolitan Police issued a lengthy defence as it confirmed Mr Smith and five others have been told they face no further action after being arrested on Saturday and bailed.
The force said it had arrested the group using new powers under the much-criticised Public Order Act after it was believed items found alongside a large number of placards could be used as “lock-on devices” to cause disruption.
“Those arrested stated the items would be used to secure their placards, and the investigation has been unable to prove intent to use them to lock on and disrupt the event,” the statement said.
“This evening, all six have had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken.
“We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route.”
Mr Smith said the three officers apologised to him at his home in Reading, Berkshire, before handing back the phone straps they arrested him over.
“They seemed rather embarrassed, to be honest,” he said. “I said for the record I won’t accept the apology. We have a lot of questions to answer and we will be taking action.”
Scotland Yard said 52 of the 64 arrests made during its coronation operation on Saturday related to concerns individuals were going to disrupt the pageantry.
The force insisted its action was “targeted” at those believed to be “intent on taking this action”.
“Any suggestion all protest was prohibited is not correct,” it added.
The force acknowledged that at least one of the six people arrested while unloading placards from a vehicle in St Martin’s Lane had engaged with its protest liaison team, but said those officers were not present during the arrest.
“Taking into account the information that people were seeking to seriously disrupt the event, and the significance of the security operation, officers had been briefed to be extremely vigilant and proactive,” it said.
Mr Smith said the speed with which they dropped any action against the group showed officers were aware “they had made a very serious error of judgement”.
“I’m obviously relieved they dropped it so quickly but very angry they even went down this road, robbing people of their liberty for absolutely no reason,” he said.
“There was no evidence of any ability or intent to commit any offence and they simply decided to arrest us and that is outrageous.”
Mr Sunak had defended Scotland Yard’s operation and denied officers were acting under pressure from ministers.