Gwent Police’s arrest of a woman in Newport

Statement from WRN-Wales and Merched Cymru

We have noted with disappointment and disbelief the content of the press release issued yesterday by Gwent Police about the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a woman in Newport on Sunday 23 January.

Gwent Police have lost a great deal of public confidence as a result of this situation, especially among women who are deeply concerned both about the apparent proportionality and motivation for the arrest and detention, and about Gwent Police’s subsequent handling and messaging.

When this story first began circulating online, the Gwent Chief Constable asked for a halt to speculation while the investigation was ongoing. Not only did we respect this request, we also contacted Gwent Police to offer our assistance and support in improving their response and reaction to incidents involving women in the future. Gwent Police have yet to respond to this offer, which still stands.

In light of the above, it is extremely concerning that Gwent Police have chosen to comment on details relating to the investigation, despite not yet having brought any charges against the woman concerned.

Reporting the facts of the arrest might be justified given the intense speculation online. The reference to ‘offensive material’, however, suggests that Gwent Police have already taken a view as to the content of that material. This is highly unfair to the woman concerned and suggests a lack of impartiality.

We are also concerned at Gwent Police’s association of the arrest with reports of posters concealing dangerous items, including glass and pins. This indirectly suggests that the woman arrested had been carrying out such an activity, creating an unfair and prejudicial association.

Allegations of activists concealing sharp items beneath stickers is a common urban myth. Recently, there have also been suspicions of malicious reporting in order to create an effective ‘hate scare’ to prompt the police into responding. We ask Gwent Police to clarify whether any sharp items were actually discovered under any posters and from whom such claims originated.

Women have also noted the apparent lack of action from Gwent Police in relation to other activists who have since been boasting on social media about the abusive stickers they are placing throughout Newport.

Policing without fear or favour is an important principle. It makes clear the impartial nature of the police service as one free from political or ideological influence. It also effectively secures the additional principle of policing with the consent of the community.

Our offer to engage remains open. If Gwent Police are committed to their stated purpose of ‘Protecting and Reassuring’ and wish to regain the trust of women, it is essential that they quickly take up this opportunity. Women deserve better.