The guidance documents for the planning of events ( see Further Information ) explain the responsibilities of both the organisers and the police at public events and suggest that these can be met through a partnership approach to event planning and management. These guidance documents are also provided for the use of stewards and safety officers.
Whilst the freedom to hold events, to march and to demonstrate is important, so too is the freedom of people to go about their normal daily business with a minimum of disruption.
Accordingly, every effort must be made to ensure that a balance is struck between the rights and freedoms of those taking part in an event and those living and working close by.
In general the public perception is that the police are the lead agency for approving all public events, including those which take place on the public highway. In reality the Police have no authority to either approve or ban such events and, in fact, Police powers to regulate traffic for planned events are extremely limited.
Furthermore, the Police have no general duty to preserve public safety at any public event, except where there are imminent or likely threats to life.
Legal opinion suggests that the responsibility for public safety rests with the organisers of an event, the owners of the land on which it takes place and the Local Authority if the event takes place on a road. However, other persons or agencies who undertake actions regarding public safety at an event may assume a duty of care and, therefore, also become responsible.
In the past the Police service has taken the lead and undertaken actions to facilitate public events, acting for what they believed to be the public good. However, with the emerging spectre of civil litigation, a more focused approach, confining Police action to those issues which are part of our core responsibilities and where there is legal authority, is becoming necessary.
This guide is aimed at standardising the Police approach to all organised events staged in a public place and on all public highways. It creates an environment where, through consultation and partnership, public events will continue to take place. A greater awareness of the individual responsibility of the organisers and those of the other agencies involved should emerge, which will ensure a more focused approach by all concerned resulting in a better planned, safer and more resilient event.