Was Mark Field Right?
“A number of unknown people entered a high-profile dinner party, no-one know their intentions. MP Mark Field took action”
Was MP Mark Field Right in Taking Physical Action?
British Member of Parliament, Mark Field, was sat as a guest in a private dinner at Mansion House in London, when several people entered the room. A woman who was clearly with this group tried to approach the top table guests, and she was stopped and ejected from the room by Mark Field.
This forceful ejection is now being scrutinised and politicised.
Let’s have a look in more detail at this event. Did Mark Field MP act aggressively or commit common assault?
Background to the Mansion House Speech
Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London since 1752, hosts each year a dinner where the Chancellor of the Exchequer gives their "Mansion House Speech" about the state of the British economy. In 2019, the British Chancellor was Philip Hammond.
The 300 or more attendees of this event are normally bankers and merchants in the City of London, with about a third of guests representing overseas financial institutions.
On the evening of the 20th of June 2019, this dinner took place, as has been the tradition for over 100 years.
As the Chancellor stood from his seat, unaware to him or other guests, a number of protesters from Greenpeace had entered the building dressed in dinner attire, the men in tuxedos and the ladies in cocktail dresses.
The Mansion House Incident
A number of unknown persons entered the room where the dinner was taking place.
There was, what has been described a “quite a bit of commotion” at the back of the room, guests did not know what was going on.
A woman who was with the party of intruders tried to make her way around the side of the room and to the top table. Her intentions were not clear, neither were the intentions of other intruders.
As this woman, (later to be identified as Janet Barker a Greenpeace activist) passed where Mark Field MP was sat, he rose to his feet, grabbed her forcefully, and marched her out of the room.
At the same time, other guests, Mansion House staff and security officers were helping to eject other intruders. The fire alarm had also been set off. There was a degree of concern amongst the guests.
It transpired that the intruders were from Greenpeace. Their objective was to peacefully disrupt and protest at the dinner and to highlight climate change.
What went wrong at Mansion House?
The single point of failure was that these protesters, as we shall now refer to them were able to gain access to the building.
Whilst we can be unsure of the exact security arrangements at Mansion House, it is worrying to think that adequate security would not have been in place given the number of guests and the VIPs in attendance.
Opportunities were missed to lock down the dining room, once it was apparent that there were an unknown number of intruders in the building.
“Stage Rushing” is not a new phenomenon and is something that should have been factored into the security for such an event.
Fifty years ago, a number of people intruding on such a dinner would have been viewed very differently.
Like it or not, we live in an era of extreme act of terrorism. May 2013 saw British soldier Lee Rigby slaughtered by knife wielding terrorists on the streets of London. Since then, we have had a number of attacks in London such as the Westminster and London bridge attacks.
2016 saw Labour MP Jo Cox murdered, she was stabbed 15 times and shot three times by a right-wing extremist shouting “Britain first, this is for Britain”.
A terror attack could take place in London at any time, and those carrying out such acts are always on the lookout for soft, yet high profile targets.
When Janet Barker was trying to make her way to the top table, her intentions were not clear, she had no business being on the premises and there was an air of uncertainty within the room.
We know that if Janet Barker’s intent was to cause physical harm to guests, that the outcome may have been very different. She could have been carrying any type of weapon, acid, a knife, a firearm, biological fluids, anything.
Greenpeace and other action groups need to assess their protests with intentions that may be misconstrued as something else. They should also consider what is appropriate, and if they should be putting pressure on police and security resources at a time when those resources have other priorities.
Was Mark Field right in his actions?
When Mark Field got to his feet and grabbed Janet Barker, he made a split second, dynamic decision, by instinct.
If there was a security officer present, they would have acted in exactly the same way. A lot has been made out of the fact that Mark Field is not a trained security professional – so was he wrong?
The short answer is no, it could be argued that Mark Field used appropriate force. He acted on instinct to remove someone who had no legal right to be in that room, whose intentions were not clear.
Security professionals almost without question applauded the actions of Mark Field, whilst questioning the mindset of Greenpeace given the climate (no pun intended) of fear.
Only today, a few days since this incident in London, there has been an acid attack. If Mark Field had confronted Janet Barker and it later transpired that she has been carrying a firearm, acid or a knife, Mark Field would be undoubtedly be heralded as a hero.
What does the UK Law say?
Under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, people can use "reasonable force" in self-defence, to defend someone else, to prevent a crime or to assist in the arrest of someone. Of course, it has been highlighted that trained security professionals are exactly that = trained to deal with such situations. We covered the "approate use of force" for Bodyguards in once of our recents articles: Bodyguards use of force.
The law says you do not have to wait until someone is attacked: fear of attack or fear that someone else could be attacked may be sufficient.
When looking at the question of “reasonable force”, Mark Field did not cause injury to Janet Barker, he did not punch, kick or otherwise retaliate, he did not incapacitate her as a security officer might have, he restrained her.
What lessons can be learned?
There are a number of things that can be gleaned from this incident. Firstly, in light of public opinion, it is quite clear that the public are divided, parts of the press trying to link this incident to the #metoo movement, showing it as another attack on women in general. Others look at the bigger picture and ask if it was a wise move by Greenpeace and also ask if protesting like this is going to have fatal repercussions in the future.
Mansion House receives a number of VIPs each year, it needs to review its security urgently in the light of this event. They need to carry out an external investigation into the incident to better understand how this incident took place. The investigation should in its conclusion include recommendation to ensure that all risks identified are best mitigated.
Mark Field should not be subject to any further action.
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