Sunday, July 12, 2009

Police threaten to physically remove us from where we sleep

It looks like things are going to get violent tonight at our sleeping pitch – a porch of the Salters’ Hall located on a derelict highwalk (see blog of 5 June “Salters back in the spotlight” for two Google map photos of the pitch). A short briefing: on Thursday night we found three notices stating that the Salters’ Company would report to “the authorities” anyone found sleeping in the porch (see here); and on Friday night we found two additional notices from the City of London Police (see previous blog here).

As I have written previously, we have been sleeping in this porch since January. For some months prior to this, we slept about twenty paces from the front entrance of the same building, down some twelve steps. Prior to that, we slept for almost two years in a porch at street level until a trellis gate was installed … on Declan’s birthday! In the previous blog, I also gave a short description of the occasions I have been assaulted while sleeping on a street level.

Anyway, at about 10.30pm we were woken up by the Beadle to the Salters’ Company, Michel Goeller - the Salters’ Company, one of the Twelve Great City Livery Companies, grew up in the early Middle Ages, and plays an important part in the system of local government in the City of London, reflecting its historical roots. (In Friday’s blog I actually publish a picture of the former Law Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who is the Master of the Salters’ Company.) “I have to ask you to move,” he says. When I tell him he needs a court order to get us to move, I thought he was going to burst out laughing. Instead, he returns with two City of London police officers.

One of the officers gets my attention with his foot and I know immediately that we are onto another level. According to the two of them, they don’t need a court order to remove us from the porch, and neither do they need to arrest me if I refuse to move. Under the law, they say, police are entitled to remove us and our belongings with reasonable force. If we move back in tonight, they say, police will return and move us by force – and throughout the night if they have to. In their opinion, it is in our best interests to find another place, even if that means that I am at greater risk of being assaulted.

So it seems that when the June 2008 issue of The Pavement, a free magazine for London’s homeless, reported that the local council needed a court order to get a rough sleeper moved on from a multi-storey Hampshire car park, they forgot to mention the council could have saved taxpayers’ money by having police throw him and this belongings onto the street (see blog here). Another example, of course, is squatters: the Telegraph reported yesterday that squatters living in a house owned by Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen, who are facing a formal sleaze probe over their expenses, have been ordered to leave by a judge.

Anyway, I am hoping tonight the application of “reasonable force” will not include me getting tasered. This is shocking:

British Police Taser and Beat Man

Nottingham police use excessive force on a man, he had his legs kicked from under him and was tasered three times, handcuffed then punched three times in the face by one officer.

Just in case, this afternoon Declan emailed City of London Police Commissioner Michael Bowron (copied to Lord Lloyd of Berwick):

Subject: My complaint against the City of London Police

Dear Commissioner Bowron,

I refer to your email of 18 June signed by Darren Pulman, Staff Officer to the Commissioner, acknowledging receipt of my email of complaint to you of 17 June regarding stop at Salters' Hall: CAD 10903 of 16/06/09. My subsequent email of complaint to you of 18 June, having been further issued on the morning of 18 June with false records (386s) in relation to said stop, was acknowledged on 26 June as received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

As you are aware, my wife and I are of no fixed abode and have been sleeping rough in the City of London since 3 November 2006, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) having terminated my joint claim JSA on 27 September 2006 because I did not sign on for Jobseeker's Allowance two days before I was actually due to do so on 29 September. (We slept in a porch in the City of London until a trellis gate was installed on 4 September 2008; as from 12 September, we have been sleeping at Salters’ Hall, 4 Fore Street, London EC2Y 5DE.)

I wish to confirm that at 11.00pm last night PC 300CP and PC 360CP from Bishopsgate police station insisted in the company of the Beadle to the Salters’ Company, Mr. Michel Goeller, that my wife and I move out of our sleeping pitch – a porch of the Salters’ Hall located on (a derelict) St. Alphage Highwalk. When my wife requested the court order to which she is entitled, PC 300CP informed her that he was not in need of any such order and that she had to vacate the porch immediately. My wife refused as a result of having nowhere else to sleep, the upshot being that PC 360CP issued us with two 386s for the stop, PC 300CP informing my wife in the presence of Mr. Goeller that if she returned to the porch tonight City of London police would use “reasonable force” to move her and her belongings away – and throughout the night if she does not desist from returning.

I beg to again point out that my wife and I do not wish to be sleeping in the street. We have been denied benefits by the DWP because I did not sign up early enough – even though we were both doing so in a timely fashion. And I have exhausted the appeals process: my case has been dismissed by the High Court (Judicial Review), Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights, despite that I was denied the internal appeal process by procedural impropriety on the part of the DWP. We have informed the homeless organisation Broadway that all we require is a reinstatement of my joint claim JSA and the payment of a deposit on a flat, a small fraction of what we are entitled to in accumulated arrears. That we are dealing with such an obvious "mistake" (however deliberate), I cannot imagine what is motivating the officials to deny us benefits to which we are entitled.

I am copying this email to former Law Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, the Master of the Salters’ Company c/o the Clerk to the Salters’ Company at

Please would you acknowledge receipt.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey

cc Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Master of the Salters’ Company