Correspondence shows coronation protesters informed police of plans months ago

The Met's commissioner has defended the policing of the coronation after his force apologised over some anti-monarchy protesters' arrests, ITV UK editor Paul Brand reports

ITV News has seen written correspondence proving that Republic had been talking to police about their protest from as early as January 24.

They had at least one meeting with officers, on March 24, and kept police informed of their plans right up until the May 2 - just days before the coronation.

The revelation comes as Rishi Sunak defends a controversial new law under which anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation weekend, after the Met Police said it regretted detaining six people who were not charged.

The PM backed the new Public Order Act, brought forward ahead of the coronation to help police deal with disruption, despite criticisms from his own MPs and a former police chief about a lack of clarity in the law for officers implementing it.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has also defended his officers, describing the arrests as "unfortunate" but stressing that he supports their actions. He also claimed that people who were "purporting" to be event stewards during the coronation were in possession of plastic bottles of white paint, which the force believe were to be used to "criminally disrupt" the procession.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, however, told Sir Mark he should conduct an urgent review into the controversial arrests to ascertain what went wrong.

Former Greater Manchester police chief Sir Peter Fahy said the Public Order Act used to detain the protesters was "very poorly defined and far too broad", while senior Tory MP David Davis suggested the Commons Home Affairs Committee should investigate.

But the PM did not agree, telling broadcasters: "What the government has done is give the police the powers that they need to tackle instances of serious disruption to people's lives.

"I think that is the right thing to do and the police will make decisions on when they use those powers."

The force made 64 arrests on coronation day, 52 of which related to concerns people were going to disrupt the event.

So far four charges have been brought following the 64 arrests made on Saturday, but the Met said some investigations are complex and take more time.On the arrests it said it regretted, the Met explained that officers saw a group of people unloading items from a vehicle in St Martin's Lane, Westminster, at around 6.40am that morning.

They were arrested under Section 2 of the Public Order Act 2023, under the suspicion they were planning to lock onto something to disrupt the procession. One man was also arrested for possession of a knife/pointed article.

However, those arrested insisted they only wanted to use their items to secure their placards, and the police's investigation was unable to prove they intended to disrupt the event.

"This evening all six have had their bail cancelled and no further action will be taken," the force added.

"We regret that those six people arrested were unable to join the wider group of protesters in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere on the procession route."

Mr Khan, in a letter to the Met commissioner, said "it is clear that some of the arrests made have given rise to concerns and, in my oversight role as Mayor, I am seeking assurance from you that the issues related to these will be subject to a review and lessons learned".

Despite this, Mr Sunak would not criticise the police or accept any blame for his new law.

Asked if nothing about the arrests made him feel uncomfortable, the PM said police are "rightly, operationally independent of government".

"They make the decisions on the ground in the way they see fit," he added.

"It wouldn't be right for me to interfere with their operational decisions but it is right for the government to give the police the powers to tackle serious disruption."

Writing in the London Evening Standard, he said: "Much of the ill-informed commentary on the day is wholly inaccurate - for example protest was not banned. I want to be absolutely clear - our activity was targeted at those we believed were intent on causing serious disruption and criminality.

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"Serious and reliable intelligence told us that the risks were very real. 53 individuals have been bailed and most of the following investigations will be lengthy as we work towards criminal charges.

"However, on reviewing the evidence we will be taking no further action against the six Republic protesters arrested. Officers searched a vehicle on Saturday morning and found items which at the time they believed could have been used as part of a 'lock on'-style protest. As I would expect, the arresting officers were vigilant, curious and proactive.

"They formed the 'reasonable suspicion' necessary to arrest for the new Section 2 Public Order Act 2023 offence of being equipped to lock on, and these were the only arrests under the new legislation. Having now reviewed the evidence and potential lines of inquiry, we do not judge that we will be able to prove criminal intent beyond all reasonable doubt.

"While it is unfortunate that the six people affected by this were unable to join the hundreds of peaceful protestors, I support the officers' actions in this unique, fast-moving operational context."