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Met Police apologises after homeless people's tents destroyed outside Camden hospital

Footage appeared to show the tents being put into a waste disposal truck (Streets Kitchen / Twitter)
Footage appeared to show the tents being put into a waste disposal truck (Streets Kitchen / Twitter)

The Met Police has apologised to an evicted homeless person after footage of tents being destroyed outside a London hospital sparked outrage.

Around ten people were forcibly removed by police and the council from outside University College Hospital in November, with council contractors filmed destroying their tents.

Now the Met has apologised to one of those evicted, said a human rights’ charity, admitting it acted unlawfully by issuing a dispersal order requiring the people in the tents to leave the area.

Liberty, which represented Anthony Sinclair, said he was arrested when he refused to leave, and while he was held in custody, his belongings, including his tent, mattress and toiletries, were disposed of by the council.

After a legal challenge, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley apologised to Mr Sinclair, and that the force accepted officers unlawfully interfered with Mr Sinclair’s human rights.

In a statement released by Liberty, Mr Sinclair said: “The treatment that I and others received at the hands of police officers was inhumane.

“I was arrested for refusing to leave the place where I had been living for eight months, and while I was held for six hours in custody, my tent and other belongings were taken away and destroyed.

“I am glad to see this admission from the police that this was wrong, and I hope that no-one in the future receives the treatment that I did.”

Camden Council, whose waste contractors were filmed destroying possessions at the scene, vowed an investigation, with acting council leader, Cllr Pat Callaghan, saying she would “personally” look into the matter.

Streets Kitchen, a grassroots group who had been supporting those affected, returned to the scene to give out more tents days after the footage of destroyed possessions sparked backlash.

Elodie Berland, a co-ordinator with the group, said it was “shocked though not surprised” at the scenes of homeless people’s tents being destroyed, and welcomed the Met’s apology as a step in the right direction.

Lana Adamou, a lawyer with Liberty, said: “We’re glad to see the police admit that their officers should not have treated our client or the other people affected in this way and that our client’s rights were breached, and we welcome the Commissioner’s apology.

“This sends a clear message that dispersal orders should not be used against people living on the streets in this way.”

Chief Superintendent Andy Carter, responsible for policing in Camden, said: "We have written a letter to representatives from Liberty in relation to police action and the enforcement of a dispersal order in Camden on Friday, 10 November 2023.

"We accept that the authority and use of the powers on this occasion were unlawful.

"We don't underestimate the impact of this incident on the man and will be meeting him to apologise in person, and listen to any views he might have.

"My officers will be taking part in further legal training around use of their dispersal powers so that we can ensure this does not happen again and that we use this tactic responsibly."