No concerns over trust in police, says Priti Patel on Yorkshire visit following spate of criticism over protest conduct

The Home Secretary has dismissed concerns over trust in the police in the wake of several protests which have seen criticism of forces’ behaviour.

Speaking at a visit to York earlier this week, Priti Patel said the police still receive a “great deal of support” from the public following the protests.
Speaking at a visit to York earlier this week, Priti Patel said the police still receive a “great deal of support” from the public following the protests.

Netpol, an independent monitoring charity, reported police used “excessive use of force and the disproportionate targeting of black protesters” in a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK last year, sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.

And a vigil for Sarah Everard, the York woman whose body was found in Kent woodland, saw scenes where Met police officers physically restrained women protesters.

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Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick faced calls to resign in the wake of the vigil.

Speaking at a visit to York earlier this week, Priti Patel said the police still receive a “great deal of support” from the public following the protests.

She said: “We should not generalise about trust in policing.

“Our police have had to do remarkable things. Underneath the uniform they wear, they are remarkable public servants.

“There’s a great deal of support for police. The protests last year turned violent and it was a minority that used a particular cause to subvert that cause and behave

appallingly.

“I witnessed bikes being thrown at police officers and horses. I met a family of one officer who had dislocated her shoulder. That is outrageous and wrong.”

The Home Secretary said her controversial Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill would “double the sentences on those thugs that assault our police officers.”

But the Bill has faced opposition from the Labour Party and human rights groups including Liberty, amid concerns it curtails the right to protest.

Part three of the proposed Bill would allow police to lawfully criminalise protests they see as “public nuisance”, including forcing start and finish times on protesters.

The Bill’s second reading was passed in March in the Commons by 359 votes to 263, with Labour voting against it.

Asked whether the Bill will threaten protesters’ rights, Ms Patel said: “That is nonsense and a gross distortion of the Government’s position.

“A minority distort the intent of this Bill.

“It’s no great surprise the Labour Party voted this Bill down at second reading. They are not interested in protecting the police, giving them power to protect our country and citizens.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Home Secretary, said: “No wonder the Home Secretary is defensive, when violent crime is up 116 per cent and suspects charged down by over a quarter. Under the Conservatives criminals have never had it so good.”