Today in London transport history: Police seize a no 11 bus for a mobile custody suite, 2002.

It’s the question every Londoner should know the answer to – what number bus route runs from Tower Hill, via Shoreditch, Islington, Plumstead, to Walworth? The no 11 of course… well, now and again…

It all began on June 4 2002, the day of the Queen’s golden jubilee. More than 14,000 police were on duty as tens of thousands of people thronged London.

Among them was a small group of anti-monarchist protesters. They had held a peaceful demonstration shouting anti-royal slogans at Tower Hill, before retiring to the Goodman’s Fields pub nearby for a lunchtime pint.

However such a handful of dangerous anarchists, er, drinking, having, er, left the scene of the protest, were obviously, er, up to something. So police surrounded the pub, questioned people leaving, nicked anyone they didn’t like the look of, and finally entered the pub in force and arrested 19 people.

Marching them outside, (two police officers per demonstrator), they then searched them all. However, there must have been a shortage of police vans that day, as they then flagged down a passing no 11 bus, on its way to Bow, and persuaded the driver to use it to transport the prisoners. It’s not known whether the driver was coerced, or was an ardent monarchist, generally a fan of law and order, or just looking to relieve the mindless tedium of his job.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said the bus was needed because of the number of people arrested and the scores of officers who accompanied them: “The officers used their ingenuity. They saw a passing bus, spoke with the driver, and it was agreed that they could use it as a mode of transportation.”

It’s good to see police using their initiative. Shame it was to cost the Met eighty thousand quid.

Some of the arrested were handcuffed, then the bus, sped off, running red lights, and dropping off arrestees, first at Bishopsgate copshop, then in Shoreditch, then Islington, before trundling down south over the river Thames to Plumstead in south-east London. The last protesters were dropped off at Walworth Road station. They sere held for several hours, but no one was charged.

However the two and a half hour magical mystery tour ended badly – faced with legal action for wrongful arrest, the police admitted that they had no evidence to detain the demonstrators and had to apologise.

The Metropolitan police’s attempt at running a tourist bus costing the force £80,000 and a grovelling apology. The 23 protesters each received £3,500 as the Met settled their lawsuit out of court.

In the letter of apology, the Met wrote: “I am writing to apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan police for the fact that you were arrested and detained for some hours.”

Adding insult to injury for the shame-faced Met, several of the protestors donated part of their compensation to the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group, who used it to reprint yet another edition of the iconic ‘No Comment’ booklet, which is distributed free and advises demonstrators and other troublemakers on their rights on arrest and the best ways to respond to police questioning. Using police payouts to fund ‘No Comment’ has become something of a tradition over the least decade. Thanks, Scotland Yard.


An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

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