Fit being blocked outside the No Borders Meeting
A court ruling today has once again challenged the legality of the use of police surveillance against political campaigners and protesters. Three Fitwatch supporters, who had stopped police filming a political meeting, were acquitted of charges of police obstruction after the police failed to justify why the surveillance was necessary.
The Inner London Crown Court ruled the police surveillance of an open, public political meeting in June 2008, may not have been lawful. The Judge said the police had failed to provide any evidence that they were pursuing a ‘legitimate aim’.
The meeting, called by the freedom of movement group, No Borders, took place at the Pullen community centre, South London. It had been publicly advertised and was open to anyone to attend. There was no suggestion that anything ‘underhand’ was taking place.
Officers from Metropolitan police FIT (Forward Intelligence Teams), wearing full uniform, stood across the road and took film and still photographs of those attending, until three supporters of Fitwatch unfurled a banner in front of them, obstructing the filming.
One of those attending the meeting described the experience of being under police surveillance as ‘not nice’. He said that being filmed and photographed as he walked down the street had almost changed his mind as to whether they should be holding a meeting.
During the trial, the prosecution asserted anyone regularly attending or organising protests should expect to be of the interest of the state.
Jeff Parks said “I’m delighted with the result, and not surprised that no police surveillance officer was willing to give evidence and have to explain the real purpose of their operations under oath.”
Fitwatch supporter Val Swain said, “I hope this now spells the end for police surveillance of political meetings. It is not something that should ever happen in any society that claims to have political freedoms and human rights.”
Updated 27 July 2010: Marc Vallée has posted this picture on his web site: