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Officers who cleared homeless people’s tents acted unlawfully, say Met Police

Britain’s biggest police force has admitted officers acted unlawfully when several tents belonging to homeless people were destroyed in London.

Human Rights charity Liberty threatened legal action against the Metropolitan Police on behalf of one of the group, Anthony Sinclair, whose tent and belongings were destroyed while he was in police custody after being wrongfully arrested.

The force said it would apologise to Mr Sinclair for the unlawful use of a dispersal order in Camden on November 10 last year.

Video footage was taken of tents being thrown into bin lorries and those living in them told they were banned from the area.

Mr Sinclair was wrongfully arrested when he refused to leave, on the grounds that a dispersal order cannot stop someone accessing where they live.

He 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.”

Legal representatives for Liberty successfully argued that officers had breached Mr Sinclair’s human rights and put the group at risk of harm.

Lawyer Lana Adamou said: “We all have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, whatever our circumstances. But increasingly, people living on the streets are being subject to unfair and degrading treatment by police, putting them at risk of harm.

“This government is criminalising poverty and homelessness, and police are misusing powers they have been given such as dispersal orders as a short-term fix to remove people from an area, instead of providing support or dealing with the root causes of these issues.”

Suella Braverman
The incident happened days after former home secretary Suella Braverman suggested sleeping rough was a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some (Justin Tallis/PA)

The Met Police action came days after former home secretary Suella Braverman railed against homeless people living in tents on Britain’s streets, claiming that some were doing so as “a lifestyle choice”.

Chief Superintendent Andy Carter, responsible for policing in Camden, said: “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.”