Thursday 27th October 2011
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
PALESTINE CAMPAIGNER WELCOMES POLICE APOLOGY BUT ALLEGES LOTHIAN AND BORDERS POLICE CONSPIRED TO COVER UP UNLAWFUL ARREST
"Napier, who spent six hours in a police cell following his unlawful arrest, welcomed the apologies as an “acknowledgement that police officers behaved unlawfully during an entirely peaceful event by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign”. He has written to Lothian and Borders Police, however, to ask for assurances that future police training will ensure that officers do not dismiss pain they inflict on members of the public as feigned. He has also asked Lothian and Borders Police to investigate video evidence that one or more officers fabricated evidence to the PCCS to justify an unlawful arrest."
Lothian and Borders Police have apologised to a 64 year-old university lecturer who was wrongfully arrested and injured by police officers after taking part in a pro-Palestine publicity event. Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Steve Allen has written to Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) Chair Mick Napier complying with a ruling by the Police Complaints Commissioner Scotland (PCCS) that they should apologise to Napier.
In the letter, DCC Allen apologised for Napier’s unlawful arrest, handcuffing and injury, since “there was no proper basis for your detention or arrest for failing to provide your details”. DCC Allen further apologised for Lothian and Borders’ dismissal of Napier’s original complaint following a flawed internal investigation, when “the error was not identified”.
Professor John McNeill, who heads the PCCS, has advised Lothian and Borders Police to “review the effectiveness of handcuff tightness checks”, and criticised the police for “avoidably” injuring the university lecturer, who was caught on video screaming in pain before police eventually slackened his handcuffs. The Commissioner told police, who had described Napier’s cries as “theatrical”, that “the applicant should not have been handcuffed and that the injury sustained by the applicant was avoidable.”
Napier, who spent six hours in a police cell following his unlawful arrest, welcomed the apologies as an “acknowledgement that police officers behaved unlawfully during an entirely peaceful event by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign”. He has written to Lothian and Borders Police, however, to ask for assurances that future police training will ensure that officers do not dismiss pain they inflict on members of the public as feigned. He has also asked Lothian and Borders Police to investigate video evidence that one or more officers fabricated evidence to the PCCS to justify an unlawful arrest.
The Scottish Police Complaints Commissioner described Napier’s case as relating to “the fundamental issues around decisions by the police to deprive people of their liberty. There can be no greater test of public confidence in the police than the way they exercise their power to detain and arrest citizens.”
The Commissioner reminded police that officers “must, when requesting certain information, inform the person of his suspicion and the general nature of the offence he suspects the person has committed.” Napier said he hoped that police now understood that “Because I’m asking for your details” is not a satisfactory justification.
“I hope that this ruling, coming after three years of attempted cover-up, will persuade L&B Police to genuinely learn from this incident. Police officers who assault and handcuff a peaceful citizen without explanation, and then later describe their victim’s response to excruciating pain as ‘theatrical’, are a danger to anyone who crosses their path.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada).
The SPSC has branches throughout Scotland, and members and supporters from Scotland and elsewhere.
For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052 ; 07958002591
3. Letter from DCC Steve Allen, Lothian and Borders Police, dated 19 October 2011, can be downloaded in pdf format here.
4. Mick Napier’s reply to DCC Steve Allen, dated 27 October 2011, can be downloaded in pdf format here.
5. The report of the Commissioner of the Police Complaints Commission Scotland can be downloaded in pdf format here:
The Commissioner also issued a media release highlighting the Napier case, entitled, “Spotlight on police as Commissioner examines wrongful arrest claims”. This can be accessed here:
6. The Lothian & Borders Police statement is quoted in the Scotsman, 23rd September 2011, “Police finally apologise for wrongful arrest of protester”: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland/Police-finally-apologise-for-wrongful.6841081.jp
The Scotsman editorial (same date) also focuses on the story: “Leader: Half-hearted police apology unhelpful”: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/leaders/Leader-Halfhearted-police-apology-unhelpful.6841021.jp
7. On 17 May 2008, around 15 members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign had bought tickets and boarded an Edinburgh open-top guided bus tour. After a few minutes, the guide informed the driver that the group were waving Palestinian flags and a banner saying, “End the siege of Gaza”. The driver informed the group that as long as the banners were not hung down the side of the bus, there would be no issue.
Mick Napier was filming the bus from a car following behind.
A passing bus supervisor who, along with the bus, was stuck in heavy traffic, saw the flags on the bus and boarded it. He told the group that they could not continue to do what they were doing, and that the driver was wrong to have given permission. Although the group were in the process of packing up their flags to leave, the supervisor, noticing a police vehicle nearby, left the bus to speak to the police officer.
Mr Napier was separated from the bus by heavy traffic and had no idea what was going on.
Around the same time as Mr Napier approached on foot to check on the bus, a vanload of police arrived. The officer in charge instructed his officers to “get everybody’s details”.
L&BP submissions to the PCCS investigation claimed, “The constable asked for his details, but Mr Napier replied: ‘I am declining’."
Video evidence reveals, however, the following dialogue:
Police officer: [Not clear] details please.
Napier: Can I ask why?
Police officer: Sorry?
Napier: Can I ask why?
Police officer: Because I am asking for your details.
(Relevant video here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2197355647127)
Napier was then assaulted by two L&BP officers, handcuffed, arrested, and detained at St Leonard’s Police Station for 6 hours.
L&BP also submitted to the PCCS investigation that Napier was "being pretty loud on the pavement shouting about the treatment of Palestinians". Once again, however, the video reveals that at no time were any voices raised, except Mr Napier’s shouts of pain as the handcuffs bit into his wrists.
In response to the PCCS ruling, L&BP stated: "We note that the commissioner accepts that the officer involved acted in good faith during a difficult operational situation.” In fact, the Commissioner makes no such assertion. The video evidence shows a very relaxed group of officers prior to the sudden attack and handcuffing of Napier. The situation was neither tense nor difficult, and L&BP actions have been officially ruled entirely unjustified.
8. Napier was also illegally arrested, handcuffed and put in leg-irons, together with another Edinburgh man, retired Scottish Government statistician, Frank Thomas, before being jailed and deported by Israeli authorities back in July this year. Neither man was charged or told why they had been arrested after they told passport control officers in Tel-Aviv Airport that they intended to travel to the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
See Edinburgh Evening News, 13th July 2011, “Lecturer tells how group was imprisoned on Israel visit”: http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/Lecturer-tells-how-group-was.6800627.jp
9. Napier was amongst five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign charged with racially aggravated conduct after their Aug 2008 disruption of a concert by Israeli Army musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet.
After Sheriff James Scott dismissed the charges, the Herald’s front page reported, “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, rules sheriff”
The Herald, April 9th 2010:
An SPSC media release on the ruling can be found here: