Element Descriptor

Legal observers are trained volunteers who support the legal rights of activists. They provide basic legal guidance and are independent witnesses of police behaviour at protests. Legal observers are independent from the protest and do not participate as activists. This is important and high-consequence-for-doing-it-badly work.

Level descriptors

After a briefing you’re able to fulfil the basic role of legal observer, as part of a team – watching for incidents and arrest and noting times, places, police numbers and the names of those arrestedYou can fulfil the basic tasks of legal observing with only a brief reminder of what’s necessary

You self-organise to have the necessary equipment

You also use photography and film to document what you see
You’re confident observing from the front line, knowing when you can and cannot push the boundaries
You can observe effectively as part of a team or on your own (where necessary)

You are an ‘active’ observer – intervening to assert your rights and challenge the police’s behaviour in many situations

If appropriate you liaise with senior police officers to head off or resolve problem situations

You can play a useful part in a legal observing coordination group
You can pull together a coordination group at short notice, even for large actions

You’re able to recruit observers from a group and give them effective on-the-job inductions to the role

You’re confident wading into the messiest situations, and observing from the most advantageous point, even if the police disapprove

You think nothing of pulling rank on senior coppers and calling their bosses at any time of day or night
Most coppers assume you’re a lawyer even if you’re not

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

The reason legal observing is done badly or not at all is it is a skill and responsibility and it needs to be very vigorously respected as such. And if you are part of an organisation that is not respecting this, then you have a problem.

The consequences of legal observation being done badly or not at all is that the police can get away with more than they otherwise would. And this can have consequences for people who are arrested or charged and this can lose those people to the movement. demoralise them and limit the credibility of your group and your issue. If public order situations are happening, and arrests are happening, and there is not good legal observation, which is distinct from arrest support, if there is not a well trained, well maintained, adequate number of legal observers, then some people are going to get into trouble where others didn’t. And you’re going to have resentments and recriminations all people are just going to very quietly walk away.

So the solutions are to make sure that you’re constantly training people to do legal observation that those people feel supported, and can keep learning and keep brushing up their skills and that were appropriate. They are thanked, though of course, sometimes they want to stay relatively anonymous.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources