Police quiz boy over protest

Nicky Wishart on the protest with India Atwell, 13, from Eynsham

Nicky Wishart on the protest with India Atwell, 13, from Eynsham

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

A 12-year-old trying to save his youth club was taken out of class to be quizzed by police over plans to protest outside Prime Minister David Cameron’s Witney office.

Nicky Wishart, who attends Bartholomew School, in Eynsham, set up a group on the Facebook website to save the village youth centre, which is threatened by spending cuts.

But the youngster was taken out of class on Tuesday, and said he was told by a policeman he could face arrest if there was any trouble.

Nicky, of Pelican Place, Eynsham, said the officer asked him why he set up the page and how many people were going to be there.

“The policeman said: ‘You do know if any riots break out then they will arrest people and you will be held responsible and you could be arrested because you organised it?’,” Nicky said last night.

“He also said: ‘Are you aware the anti-terrorist people are looking at your page?”

Nicky’s mother Virginia Phelps, 41, said she was proud of her son for taking a stand against the cuts and angry at the police’s actions.

She said: “I was absolutely outraged. I really could not believe the police had spoken to him. It was not like he had gone out shoplifting.

“I supported the protest as the youth club has been very beneficial for us as a family.”

Oxfordshire County Council is cutting funding for 20 youth centres across the county to save £4.2m, but said the facilities could stay open if volunteers step in to run them.

The 100-strong protest pass-ed off peacefully as planned on Friday outside Mr Came-ron’s constituency office.

But Nicky said the interrogation made him feel like a criminal. He added: “It was like they were trying to intimidate me and scare me away from doing it.”

“The youth club gives us something to do. There is nothing else in Eynsham.”

The family pointed out a teacher was present when Nicky was spoken to.

His stepfather, Dean Gallon, 40, said: “He is a 12-year-old boy who does not want his youth centre closed.

“What do they expect a 12-year-old to do? I do not know what the law is, but I thought if you are interrogating a child under 18 there should be a parent present? The way it was done was all wrong.”

Police spokesman Andrea Bennett said: “This was not (done) with the intention of dissuading him from organising it, but to obtain information regarding the protest to ensure his and others safety.

“As with any demonstration, we always aim to facilitate a peaceful protest.”

Nicky set up the Facebook group Save All UK Youth Centres, which now has 832 members.

Oxfordshire County Council and Bartholomew School were yesterday unavailable for comment.

Comments (7)

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10:58am Mon 13 Dec 10

oxman says...

I, for one, sleep better at night knowing that our glorious leader is being kept safe from subversive twelve year olds and their dangerous, rhetoric.

I suggest that the apt greeting that we should all use for the great man be "Hail David"
I, for one, sleep better at night knowing that our glorious leader is being kept safe from subversive twelve year olds and their dangerous, rhetoric. I suggest that the apt greeting that we should all use for the great man be "Hail David" oxman
  • Score: 0

11:55am Mon 13 Dec 10

online_reader says...

Dear young Tory voters. This is what happened the last time too. Thatcher was untouchable, there was rioting in the streets, everything in the public interest was privatised, the down at heel were kicked and the rich held up as a shining example no matter how they came by their wads of dosh. A modern fable that we all forgot. It's sickening, and I'm not even a socialist.
Dear young Tory voters. This is what happened the last time too. Thatcher was untouchable, there was rioting in the streets, everything in the public interest was privatised, the down at heel were kicked and the rich held up as a shining example no matter how they came by their wads of dosh. A modern fable that we all forgot. It's sickening, and I'm not even a socialist. online_reader
  • Score: 0

12:12pm Mon 13 Dec 10

Englishman says...

Pity the police don't show the same enthusiasm when crimes are reported to them.
Pity the police don't show the same enthusiasm when crimes are reported to them. Englishman
  • Score: 0

12:31pm Mon 13 Dec 10

Sophia says...

Just unbelievable. Our police have lost their collective marble. Step forth Sara Thornton, chief plod and leadership failure
Just unbelievable. Our police have lost their collective marble. Step forth Sara Thornton, chief plod and leadership failure Sophia
  • Score: 0

12:58pm Mon 13 Dec 10

Gotafeeling says...

Admittedly at first glance this seems ridiculously heavy handed but you only have to look at how things that are promoted on social networking sites often get out of control and are taken over by gangs of youths or rent-a-thugs. Not a week goes by without there being a story in the national media about a gatecrashed party wrecking someones home that was advertised on facebook. I don't seriously suppose this lad was considered a threat by police but as is often the case his original (good) intentions may well have turned nasty due to older people with different agendas using the planned protest to cause trouble. I wish him every success in his campaign.
Admittedly at first glance this seems ridiculously heavy handed but you only have to look at how things that are promoted on social networking sites often get out of control and are taken over by gangs of youths or rent-a-thugs. Not a week goes by without there being a story in the national media about a gatecrashed party wrecking someones home that was advertised on facebook. I don't seriously suppose this lad was considered a threat by police but as is often the case his original (good) intentions may well have turned nasty due to older people with different agendas using the planned protest to cause trouble. I wish him every success in his campaign. Gotafeeling
  • Score: 0

9:55am Tue 14 Dec 10

Man on the Green says...

If this account is indeed confirmed, then it is hard to see why disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated against the officer(s) involved, and that must include the commanding officer in question. 

It is one thing to warn a child that something he has posted on Facebook might get out of hand and to offer sensible advice about how he might be protected by the police against any threats by those who might want to hijack this protest for non-peaceful purposes. 

It is quite another to abuse one's position to terrorise a child in a setting in which he should feel secure, by threatening and intimidating him on entirely spurious grounds. 

Invoking the "anti-terror" people is the modern bogeyman. Under the last Government we saw local authorities abuse RIPA powers for surveillance of school applicants etc. That was bad enough. The loss of personal liberties was one of the factors that most determined the May election result.

But for a police officer to seek to intimidate a young child in such a way (and he or she cannot but have known that what was said and the fact that the child was being hauled out of class to "get the message" was likely to be taken as a threat and indeed on the - admittedly flimsy -  evidence of this article  seems to have been intended to make this youngster fear that his personal liberty would be at stake if he persisted in the exercise of his democratic rights) would - if confirmed - be deeply offensive to our pluralist "big society".

I hope the boy's local MP will take this case up... Doh! 
If this account is indeed confirmed, then it is hard to see why disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated against the officer(s) involved, and that must include the commanding officer in question.  It is one thing to warn a child that something he has posted on Facebook might get out of hand and to offer sensible advice about how he might be protected by the police against any threats by those who might want to hijack this protest for non-peaceful purposes.  It is quite another to abuse one's position to terrorise a child in a setting in which he should feel secure, by threatening and intimidating him on entirely spurious grounds.  Invoking the "anti-terror" people is the modern bogeyman. Under the last Government we saw local authorities abuse RIPA powers for surveillance of school applicants etc. That was bad enough. The loss of personal liberties was one of the factors that most determined the May election result. But for a police officer to seek to intimidate a young child in such a way (and he or she cannot but have known that what was said and the fact that the child was being hauled out of class to "get the message" was likely to be taken as a threat and indeed on the - admittedly flimsy -  evidence of this article  seems to have been intended to make this youngster fear that his personal liberty would be at stake if he persisted in the exercise of his democratic rights) would - if confirmed - be deeply offensive to our pluralist "big society". I hope the boy's local MP will take this case up... Doh!  Man on the Green
  • Score: 0

9:14am Wed 15 Dec 10

Man on the Green says...

It is good to learn that the Police have apparently issued an apology to the family.

Would it be too much to hope that it came from the Chief Constable herself, whose example her officers follow?
It is good to learn that the Police have apparently issued an apology to the family. Would it be too much to hope that it came from the Chief Constable herself, whose example her officers follow? Man on the Green
  • Score: 0

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