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United Airlines are in trouble for dragging a passenger off an overbooked plane, but any parent could have told them physically removing someone who doesn’t want to leave is difficult.

I recall a long battle with one of my sons to get him down our stairs spindle by spindle, although by the time I had won, I had forgotten what it was all about!

Back here, Sussex Police took a more conciliatory approach to revellers at a rave near Falmer in the early hours of Easter Sunday. They deemed it too dangerous to close it down, (to protect the Police or revellers was not made clear) and whilst they did subsequently make arrests for drugs and public nuisance offences, local residents had to put up with the noise and road closures. The Police action was also too late for the lamb that was beheaded at the scene.

It is easy to criticise, but the way that our laws and compensation culture have developed over the years now seem to put the Police in an impossible position. Most people would expect the Police to act reasonably when dealing with those breaking the law, but safety concerns seem to have gone to the Nth degree. The United Airlines victim (who suffered concussion and a broken nose) is understandably looking to sue both the airline and the local police who removed him, but surely that is different from those breaking the law.

I recently attended a talk by a company that specialise in the removal of environmental protesters. They have undertaken high profile work including the Newbury Bypass and Balcombe fracking sites and made it clear that the safety of the protestors was their number one priority, whatever the cost. In the case of the Newbury Bypass, security and policing cost £30m and that was back in 1995.

Their stance is understandable. They have a legal duty of care to the protester (and their activities are as much controlled by their liability insurers, who will certainly not want them to cut corners), as well as preventing reputational damage to their client. But it also works economically, the impression was the harder it is to get the protester out, the longer it takes and the more they earn (usually at ours – the tax payers expense).

Protesters go to extremes involving personal risk and discomfort. Tunnels, tree houses and barriers are constructed to try and obstruct and delay their removal. A favourite is to construct an arm tube, frequently concreted in, with their wrist attached at the bottom and the whole thing has to be cut away to remove them. However, they know the game. They crawl into tunnels with restricted air and the first thing the removers do is pump air in for them, but the bravery only goes so far, hence the tale of the protester told he was in imminent danger of a collapse and was out like a shot.

There is also some hypocrisy. After the Manchester runway extension protest ended, one of the last to be removed was asked what he would be doing next. “Fly off on holiday” was the response. Where from?  The airport where he had been protesting of course!

Few are arrested and just move on to the next protest. Perhaps understandably some (but probably not the insurers) would endorse a firmer enforcement of the law.

 

 

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