Scotland Yard is preparing to launch pre-emptive arrests of individuals plotting to disrupt the Olympic Games. The head of the force’s security operation for London 2012 revealed that it would act if it found intelligence that criminals were targeting the event.
Assistant commissioner Chris Allison said the Met was prepared to repeat the tactics deployed before the Notting Hill carnival last summer when dozens of suspected troublemakers and gang members were seized in dawn raids. At the time the Met described the tactic as “robust”.
Allison, in charge of the UK’s biggest peacetime policing operation, said that pick-pockets, thieves and gangs looking to exploit the Games and who are already wanted for crimes committed would be targeted.
He said: “If we have intelligence that a particular gang is about to do this, then we will take action against them, obviously within the law. Pretty much the same way we do for Notting Hill carnival.
“Each year for the carnival we identify those intending to go to commit crime and where we have evidence of them having committed offences already we take action to prevent them going to carnival to disrupt.
“If we have evidence or intelligence that an individual is intending to or that a person has committed a crime we will take action. That may be before the Games to prevent them disrupting the Games.”
However, Allison reassured potential demonstrators that the tactics would not be used against protesters. Criticism of “pre-crime” arrests was heard in the high court last week when activists accused the Met of in effect “suppressing anti-monarchist sentiment” during the royal wedding in London last year. Before the ceremony about 20 individuals were arrested in four separate central London locations on suspicion of being about to commit breaches of the peace.
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, from Occupy London, voiced concerns that plans for pre-emptive strikes might target legitimate protesters hoping to use the Olympics to highlight a cause. “The definition of protest currently seems to be synonymous with disruption and criminality,” she added.
Allison said the Met fully supported the right to protest and would not pre-emptively arrest law-abiding demonstrators.
“If you want to protest, speak to us beforehand so we can manage your right to peacefully and lawfully protest. But if as an individual we think you are going to disrupt the Games in some way, then I am telling you that we will take whatever action we can within the law to prevent you from disrupting the Games, because you don’t have the right to do it.”
Other measures include issuing antisocial behaviour orders (asbos) banning individuals from approaching any Olympic venue. The handful of individuals who have been served asbos in relation to the Olympics after requests from Scotland Yard include some involved in the Leyton March demonstrations against the construction of a basketball practice facility near the Olympic park in east London.
Others include Trenton Oldfield, 36, the swimmer who brought the Boat Race to a dramatic halt and whose bail conditions prevent him going near Olympic sites or jubilee events.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010