May 12, 2007

Inquiry into claim that police joined BNP event

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate allegations that some off-duty officers attended a British National party event to mark St George's Day in Manchester last month.

Supporters of the extreme right-wing party had gathered outside a pub in Manchester city centre and police were called after complaints that they had turned rowdy.

At the time, Chief Superintendent Terry Sweeney, head of the GMP's professional standards branch, said: "There is absolutely no evidence at this time to suggest that any GMP employees took part in the disturbance ... The officer [who submitted the report] did not see any GMP employees involved in the disturbance himself, but has rightly brought to our attention the information he received from other people. We will investigate this thoroughly to establish if any off-duty officers or staff were involved."

Yesterday it emerged that Greater Manchester Police has referred the matter to the IPCC, which is investigating the allegations. Naseem Malik, IPCC commissioner for the north-west, said the incident could "undermine public confidence in the force".

He added: "I have decided that we will manage Greater Manchester police's investigation which means we will be in charge of the direction and control of the investigation. The investigation will focus on establishing firstly whether any off-duty officers or staff members were present and secondly, if they were, whether they were innocent bystanders or associating with the BNP supporters."

The allegations are especially embarrassing for GMP as it was one of the forces whose trainee officers were caught making racist remarks by an undercover television programme. Following revelations in the BBC Secret Policeman documentary, the force vowed to stamp out racism in the ranks.

Earlier this week the force said it had seized CCTV footage and that its detectives will scour it frame by frame for evidence. The force added that any officer found to be a BNP member could be sacked.

The incident happened at 4.30pm on April 23.

Around 120 BNP supporters were reported to be milling around Sinclair's Oyster Bar, and were said to be chanting abuse at passers by. Some were wearing T-shirts saying "Love Britain or fuck off" and shouting BNP slogans. One officer present claims he saw a fellow officer wearing a BNP badge. Bar managers feared trouble and called police to help them clear away the BNP supporters.

Yesterday Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, was barred from speaking at Bath University amid fears the event would bring chaos to the campus.


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