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Cambridge Liberal Democrats

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Julian Huppert MP

Howarth: Government overstated police injuries at climate camp

December 16, 2008 1:36 PM

David HowarthThe Home Office's claims about police injuries sustained at the Kingsnorth Camp for Climate Action have proved totally unfounded, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

Vernon Coaker had previously told MPs that 70 police officers had been injured during the protest, using this to justify his claim that the police had acted 'appropriately and proportionately'. However, research by the Liberal Democrats revealed that:

• Kent Police officers and staff suffered only 12 reportable injuries during the protest. Only four involved direct contact with another person and all were at the lowest level of seriousness

• The other eight reportable injuries included 'stung on finger by possible wasp', 'officer injured sitting in car' and 'officer succumbed to sun and heat'

• In a reply to a Parliamentary Question, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker admitted that none of these were a result of direct contact with protestors

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Justice Spokesperson, David Howarth said:

"It beggars belief that Vernon Coaker could defend as proportionate a £5.9m policing operation in which protestors didn't cause a single injury to police officers.

"The threat posed by environmental direct action is being systematically overblown by both the Government and the police.

"I hope that ministers and the police will now stop trying to portray peaceful protestors as somehow equivalent to terrorists or violent extremists.

"Members of Parliament have been rightly exercised by political policing rearing its ugly head with the arrest of Damien Green. They should be just as concerned when the same tactics appear to be directed at peaceful protestors.

"In light of this new evidence, it has to be asked whether climate campers were so heavily policed because they posed any genuine threat of violence, or because they posed a challenge to government policy?"