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Civil rights: Schoolchildren call to ban 'kettling' after being held by police for eight hours

Three teenagers are bringing a case against the police use of 'kettling' to the High Court in London, claiming that it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

The practice of 'kettling' is employed by police as a means of crowd control. It involves surrounding and confining protesters for several hours.

The teenagers, Adam Castle, 16, Rosie Castle, 15, and Sam Eaton, 16, were caught in a 'kettle' when they joined the protest march on 24 November against the planned increased university fees. They were held by police with thousands of other students, schoolchildren, teachers and lecturers in Whitehall for eight hours.

The teens claim that they were not given access to food or water during this time and after five hours of being held they were eventually given access to a portable toilet.

As it was so cold that day, the protesters were forced to set fire to their placards to keep warm.

Adam Castle said: "The 'kettle' felt like a punishment for protesting; there didn't seem any logic for the police doing it. They were bringing in reinforcements against a shivering army of schoolchildren. I came away from the day angry that the police could do this. I didn't go to other protests because I didn't want to be kettled."

The teenagers' solicitor Michael Oswald said: "It's very encouraging that thousands of schoolchildren were politically engaged enough to turn up on 24 November and we should be proud of them for doing so. However, they were met by oppressive tactics on the part of the police, with the sad result that many of those young people won't be doing anything similar in the future."

The teens' case, in which they hope to claim for judicial review against the practice of kettling, begins today (5 July).

Another case, brought by the civil liberties organisation Liberty, involves a 15-year-old girl who broke her foot during the events of the 24 November march. She was not allowed to leave the kettle as police officers accused her of faking her injury. When she finally persuaded an officer to allow her to leave, she was taken immediately to hospital.

Liberty's solicitor Emma Norton said: "These were children and they did not receive any special treatment. They are particularly vulnerable and there's no evidence the police factored that into their planning. Our concern is that kettling is used as a default mechanism. The courts need to look at it properly - it's only going to get worse with the demonstrations planned over the next few months."

Critics of kettling believe the practice deprives peaceful protesters, who are not breaking the law, of their freedom of expression, their right to protest and their liberty.

The Metropolitan Police welcome the result of the court cases as they will have clarification over the legal treatment of protesters in future.

Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens said: "Our use of containment has developed over the years. It now incorporates a containment manager who is responsible for setting the release strategy and putting this into action as soon as possible."

Related links:

Read more on this story (The Independent)
Read 'Can I be arrested for joining a public protest?' (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)