How we work with the Police to remove protesters
We find that many organisations that find themselves besieged by protesters often think it is the Police Service’s job to remove them.
In some situations, such as public highways, that is the case, but for the majority it is not and it is the responsibility of the organisation to arrange for their removal, working with a company like the National Eviction Team.
The powers of an Authorised HCEO
As Authorised High Court Enforcement Officers (AHCEO), we operate under one of two authorities from the court: a writ of possession or a warrant issued under the Compulsory Purchase Order 1965.
We can also remove trespassers under Halsbury’s Volume 45(2) Para 522 (Common Law), although this is normally used to remove travellers, rather than activists and protesters, as the court writ or warrant provides us with greater powers.
Under a writ or warrant, the AHCEO is wholly responsible and personally liable for executing the writ of possession or warrant.
The writ confers extensive powers, including:
- The right to use reasonable force
- Powers of arrest
- A statutory requirement for the Police to assist the enforcement of a writ, extending to criminal offences of obstruction with arrest sanctions
Acting under a CPO warrant as an agent of the landowner under Common Law permits us to use reasonable force to remove people, but without direct support from the Police, whose role will be to maintain the peace and to prevent criminality.
Supporting the Police with specialist teams
When removing protesters, especially from infrastructure sites such as HS2, we frequently need to use our specialist access teams, particularly at height (IRATA 3 – rope access protestor removal) and in confined spaces (water UK Level NC1 / NC2). We carry a high level of specialist insurance cover for these operations.
Most Police Services do not have their own teams for these services for protester removal. They may have them for rescue purposes, but that is quite different, as a person being rescued will welcome the help, whereas a protester will resist, which significantly increases the risk.
The HCEO’s responsibilities
Even when we are working with the Police on a protester removal, we still remain wholly responsible for the enforcement action – and personally liable as the Authorised HCEO.
These are the areas that fall under our remit:
- Initial site assessment, including identifying the land and premises
- Operational planning
- Using standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure transparency and regulatory compliance
- Publishing risk assessment / method statements (RAMS)
- Considering public order risks and proportionate mitigation measures
- Managing protest activities
- Maintaining reputational care and management standards
- Delivering safe, effective and rapid eviction
At the end of the action, we return the land to the landowner and may, if required, provide ongoing security to prevent incursion.
Need advice or support
Please get in touch with us on 01792 450031 – we provide a free initial consultation.