Franck Magennis is arrested on a picket line in 2020. UVW
The Metropolitan Police has released a cringing apology for arresting a trade union official on a legal picket line, and coughed up thousands of pounds in compensation.
The Met apologised and paid £3,000 in compensation to Franck Magennis, former legal head of the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union, for “the way you were treated when you were arrested, put in handcuffs and searched” on a picket line in January 2020.
The Met also settled a legal claim brought by UVW out of court and agreed to pay the union £2,000, bringing the total compensation paid out to £5,000. UVW claimed the Met had broken human rights law when it broke up the picket.
On 13 January 2020, security guards organised by UVW held a picket at St George’s University of London in Tooting, south London. The largely black, brown and migrant workers were outsourced and had worse terms and conditions than their largely white, in-housed colleagues, according to UVW.
Video footage shows how police officers arrested and cuffed Magennis as union members and supporters insisted he had done nothing wrong. Officers had threatened striking workers for causing a nuisance on NHS premises, and Mangennis had been inquiring into the legality of this. Mangennis was eventually released on the condition that he could no longer stand on the picket line.
Inspector Andy O’Donnell of the Directorate of Professional Standards Civil Actions and Inquests apologised to Magennis for “the way you were treated when you were arrested, put in handcuffs and searched”.
In a letter of apology he wrote: “Whilst the Metropolitan Police Service constantly strives to maintain the highest standards, incidents occasionally occur when the level of service falls below that standard. On this occasion, and on the facts as known, it would appear that the level of service has fallen below the requisite standard.
“I would therefore like to express my regret for the distress that you have suffered as a result of this incident.”
Magennis said: “This victory should send the message that we know our rights and that if the police show up and try to do the bosses’ bidding, if they set a foot wrong, if they make a single mistake, we will come down on them like a ton of bricks.
“They are not to mess with our picket lines because if they do we are going to defend ourselves. We don’t tolerate cops or bosses or anyone pushing us around.”
Petros Elia, UVW’s general secretary, said: “This is a huge win for UVW and the wider movement, and one that reaffirms our human right to strike free from bullying cops.”
Susie Labinjoh of Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors, representing Magennis, said: “Where the police fail to uphold and respect trade union members’ rights, as they did in this case, they must be held accountable. This settlement sends a strong message to the Metropolitan Police Service that they must ensure that any policing of industrial action is conducted lawfully.”
A spokesperson for the Met said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has apologised to a man for the way he was treated when he was arrested in Tooting in January 2020.
“Whilst we constantly strive to maintain the highest standards, incidents occasionally occur when the level of service falls below that standard. On this occasion, and on the facts as known, it would appear that the level of service has fallen below the acceptable standards.”
Simon Childs is a commissioning editor and reporter for Novara Media.