Minister insists police did ‘really good job’ but can’t ‘get every decision right’ following coronation arrests

After the Metropolitan Police yesterday expressed “regret” over the arrest of six protesters in London before the coronation, a minister has defended the force’s actions while insisting they cannot “get every decision right”.

Graham Smith, the leader of Britain’s leading anti-monarchy group Republic was among the six detained by officers, who went on to seize items that they believed could be used as lock-on devices.

The Met now says an investigation has been unable to prove intent to disrupt the event “This evening all six have had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken”, the Met said in a statement.

Reacting to the statement on Sky News this morning, health minister Neil O’Brien said that “in general the police did a pretty good job at the weekend the whole thing off passed off smoothly”.

Appearing to stand by the arrests, he said it seemed “pretty clear some of the people there were going to cause really serious and dangerous and stupid disruption”.

Mr O’Brien referenced the alleged use of rape alarms “to scare horses and cause a big stampede”. “That would have been a really dangerous thing because people could have got trampled”, he explained.

He continued: “In some cases, they also did the right thing. And it’s not for me to second guess every single decision the police make — it’s a difficult thing. … I think that in general, they did a really good job. I’m sure sometimes the police don’t get every single decision they make right because no one can make every single decision right every single time, but overall, they made the coronation go off really smoothly”.

Graham Smith of Republic accused the minister of “wild speculation”, saying there had been “no intelligence supporting the arrests”.

He also told Sky News: “There was no evidence of any intent or capacity to commit any offence.

“There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the eight people from Republic who were arrested at all. There was no intent. There was no evidence of any intent. There was no evidence of any equipment being carried that would have caused the crime”.

“And we were very clear with the police for four months [about] the details of our plans, and they were very clear to us that they were okay with those plans”, he added.

In total, officers arrested 64 people on coronation day, with 46 of those later bailed after being detained on suspicion of causing a public nuisance or breaching the peace.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak had backed the police over the arrests ahead of the latest statement of “regret” from the force, despite concerns.

Asked about the criticism yesterday, the prime minister said: “The police are operationally independent of government, they’ll make these decisions based on what they think is best.

“And actually I am grateful to the police and everyone who played a part in ensuring this weekend has gone so well, so successfully and so safely. 

“That was an extraordinary effort by so many people and I am grateful to them for all their hard work”, he added.