Kettled in TopShop

February 8, 2011 8:59 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Being Locked inside Topshop is some people’s idea of a paradise. For others it is a violation of human rights.

Either way, it was not what I was expecting when I went in to look for a beret.

On Saturday, January 29, some 100 shoppers were ‘kettled’ inside Topshop in Oxford Circus, London, and told it was for their protection, as a protest occurred outside.

Topshop managers warned the 100-odd shoppers that 10 protestors were seated outside of one of the exits of the 8,400 metre, five-storey building.

The building has three main exits, sliding glass doors, but as these were all locked and guarded by Topshop employees, and shoppers were herded towards the back of the building, exiting was not an option.

Shoppers waited for 30 minutes, politely asking when they would be allowed to leave. They were denied information. They stood in front of the glass doors at the rear of the building, looking out on an empty street with no protest in sight.

Remembering my United Nations Geneva Convention rights, and knowing a bit about false imprisonment, I demanded to be let out.

Geneva Convention Article 33 goes like this: ‘No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.’

False imprisonment, under UK civil and criminal law, says it is unlawful to detain someone except under specific conditions such as the shopkeeper’s privilege in detaining a shoplifter or citizen’s arrest. These conditions apply only to detainees suspected of committing a crime.

Nonetheless, I was detained for half an hour, which gave me the leisure time to call the police and report an abduction.

The not-so-reassuring officer told me that, if the police were involved, then the Topshop managers probably knew what they were doing.

Confirmation that they did not know what they were doing came when Jeremy Tiernan, Operations Manager at Topshop Oxford Street, said, ‘The doors in Selfridges were open all the time’. Selfridges is the adjacent, connected store.

If the doors were always open and we were allowed to leave, why did they direct us to the opposite side of the building and tell us to wait there?

The UK has a long history of abusing civilians caught up in protest action. Despite the country’s relatively small population, UK has longer list of recorded ‘kettling’ incidents than any first world country.

This latest kettle was similar to action against protesters during the November riots against cuts that received global media coverage.

This isn’t the first time that UK police have kettled Oxford Street shoppers. The same thing occurred during the socialist riots on Mayday, 2001. A pair, including one civilian, sued the London Metropolitan Police for kettling on the grounds of Geneva Convention offenses. The British High Court ruled against them saying that human rights only apply under certain circumstances.

Since this precedent makes it perfectly legal to kettle shoppers, you might as well think twice before entering Topshop’s flagship store.


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This post was written by Cristina Brooks

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