Policing By Consent ?

These truly are historic times. The death of the longest serving monarch and the accession of the new King. People are understandably shaken when great change comes – especially as we have come through – and are still going through – the Covid pandemic. Over 200,000 people have died across the UK due to Covid. The economy struggling after Brexit, has taken a huge hit. In addition, as if that wasn’t bad enough, energy companies, reporting massive profits, are charging excessive amounts for the supply of oil, gas and electricity to our homes and businesses. The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, resigned from his post in the middle of all this to be replaced by Liz Truss after weeks of electioneering within the limited Tory party membership. The parliaments of the UK and the devolved nations are suspended during the period of mourning.

These are exceptional times.

Crowds have assembled to witness the proclamation of the new King’s accession and the funeral cortege of the late queen. Amongst the many supporters of the monarchy have been a handful of protesters who do not agree with hereditary monarchs but wish to see a republic. All of the protesters have been peaceful, holding up cardboard placards with ‘Not My King’ or one young lad of 15 who shouted at Prince Andrew.

Those people were immediately arrested by police officers and led away.

In a follow up to the arrests, other individuals have held up blank sheets of paper as a protest. These people too have been warned off by police officers and their details have been requested – in case they should write anything on the blank sheets of paper.

In March 2022, at the start of the Russian invasion of the independent nation of Ukraine, individual protestors in Russia also held up blank sheets of paper. They were peacefully protesting against Russia’s war and state censorship. Those individuals were led away and arrested in Russia. Social media was filled with our politicians and media condemning Russia for this heavy handed and repressive action against free speech.

Back in the UK, even Andrew Marr, used his LBC broadcast to criticise the actions of the police here in arresting peaceful protestors for holding up cardboard placards.

“‘This is frankly pathetic.’ Andrew Marr‘s devastating takedown of ‘idiotic heavy-handed policing’ as people have been arrested for protesting against King Charles.

In Scotland, indeed in rUK, we have ‘Policing by Consent’, based upon long held principles since the foundation of the police service itself:

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Essentially, as explained by the notable police historian Charles Reith in his ‘New Study of Police History ‘in 1956, it was a philosophy of policing ‘unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public’.

It should be noted that it refers to the power of the police coming from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state. 

UK Home Office Definition of policing by consent

” A monarchy which can’t survive some booing and a few pieces of cardboard is a pretty flimsy thing isn’t it? “, said Andrew Marr. And he warned of the dangers of heavy handed policing in the long term for the monarchy.

By casting aside the principle ‘Policing by Consent’ , and arresting peaceful protestors so few in number, what has become of our freedoms in today’s UK? Such times as these of monumental change and a political void are worrying indeed.

Fiona Grahame

2 replies »

  1. I’m getting into a habit of posting links to my blog in ‘comments’ to TON – I tell myself that Fiona needn’t include them if she chooses not to.

    Today, our respective postings are so much in accord that I decided to do it again. This is an email I’ve just sent to someone I know…..

    “I thought you might like to see this…in particular, my PS/Update…..


    We’re not all sleep-walking through life – thank goodness.

    Nil Desperandum”

  2. The new Crime and Policing Bill sadly has done away with the concept of ‘free speech’ and with it ‘policing by consent’. It has just taken some time to understand how that would function in our society – Well, now you can see how that works.

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