By Paul Christian, Reporter
Thursday, August 9, 2012
PROTESTERS were equated to terrorists in a response by Hertfordshire Constabulary to a Freedom of Information Act request on Olympic Torch Relay policing.
The Constabulary was also accused of a “cover-up” by civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.
After confirming Devon and Cornwall police had visited 18 people and asked them if they had any plans to disrupt the events, Big Brother Watch had asked how many people were visited by other police forces, including Hertfordshire, ahead of last month’s Olympic Torch Relay in the county.
The organisation said “all but one” force, including Hertfordshire Constabulary, refused to provide answers and used “a template that claims confirming the visits have taken place would aid terrorists and undermine protecting future Olympic torch relays which may pass through the UK”.
As one of the chief reasons for failing to disclose the information, the force said it was charged with ensuring a “safe and secure celebration” and the torch passed many iconic UK sites which, it said, “could be potential targets for national and international terrorists and protestors”.
The constabulary concluded “the disclosure of intelligence, tactics and methods used to ensure the safety and security of the Olympic Torch Relay may make them ineffectual for future similar events and future Olympic Torch Relays which may pass through the UK.”
The response added that disclosure could have “national security” implications and be “used to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations”.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch slammed the secretive stance.
He said: “The public have a right to know if Hertfordshire Constabulary has devoted some of its scarce resources to spurious and speculative investigations into people who may wish to protest during the Olympic Torch relay.
“To claim that confirming they have done so would aid terrorists to confirm they have visited people is utterly ridiculous.”
He added: “I’m sure the public would prefer the police to be investigating crimes that have taken place or pursuing serious criminals rather than wasting their time questioning people about exercising their democratic right to protest, which is neither a crime or a security risk.”
But a police spokesman said: “We believe the public will understand our reasons for not releasing information that could potentially be used to jeopardise the security of other high profile events or operations held in the future.”