“Knife arch” for Piccadilly Gardens

Article published: Friday, February 19th 2010

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have today erected a temporary “knife arch”, consisting of a metal detector and sniffer dogs, in Piccadilly Gardens for pedestrians to walk through.

The arch is part of Operation Portcullis, which is supposedly aimed at encouraging responsible drinking in the city centre and clamping down on drink-fuelled violence. According to a GMP statement the operation “involves a range of agencies, such as Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Public Health Network and British Transport Police.”

When MULE editor Siobhan McGuirk was walking through the area she noticed the police-surrounded detector and decided to avoid walking through it. Instead she walked past it as the barrier covered only the paved walkway and was only a few meters wide.

When she saw two young black men being stopped and searched nearby she returned to ask what was going on. She asked one of six officers standing by the decetor what was happening and whether people had to walk through the arch. The officer said, “No, but it might look suspicious if you tried to avoid it.” Ms McGuirk then told the officer that she had purposefully avoided the “safety arch”. The officer replied, “To be honest, you don’t fit the profile we’re looking for.”

We asked a GMP press officer why it might seem suspicious for anyone to want to avoid walking through a metal detector surrounded by uniformed police and have their crotch sniffed, on a public walkway. He responded that you didn’t have to “if you don’t want to go to the location”. The police are not “pulling people off the street”, he continued, and there is no law to make anyone subject themselves to the process. He went on to say that people “should have no objection to do it really, if they’ve got no weapons.” Ms McGuirk had chosen to walk around the “safety arch” because she thought “it looked ridiculous, and intimidating”.

When asked whether there was a profile of person they were looking for the press officer responded “no not really” and stressed that the ethnicity of the two men being searched nearby was “irrelevant”. Furthermore he warned that any implication otherwise would result in GMP coming down on MULE “like a tonne of bricks, put it that way.”

Andy Lockhart

More: News, Policing


  1. i noticed this yesterday too, i must say that was the quietest ive seen that walkway EVER. as if any self respecting crazed knife man is going to wal through a clearly marked and noticable metal detector. i didnt notice anyone get beeped though, did you happen to see how far the searching went if it beeped, i mean its not like an airport where u can remove belt and shoes let alone an other metal objects you will need on a shopping trip. sorry for ranting but seeing this discusted me, confirming nw tha we live in a big brother society. not only are we the most surveilled country in the world but now we may be subject to this

    Comment by bradley on February 20, 2010 at 9:27 am
  2. clearly this is just another example of the police intimidating the public

    Comment by dave on February 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm
  3. Thanks for this brave and revealing article.

    I would be interested to know whether the procedure constitutes random searches of the type provided by section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and which were recently ruled against the law on privacy by the European Court of Human Rights.

    Despite the weaselly words of the GMP press officer, citizens did not always have a choice whether to pass through these barriers. I spent some time observing the suspicious conduct surrounding them and later in the day I noticed they set themselves up over at the tram stop. As passengers disembarked they were herded by the police towards the barrier. I have a photograph of this.

    Of course, the press office may yet say citizens don’t have to take the tram to Piccadilly. While strictly true, this would perhaps stand up in the corporate media, but certainly not in court.

    One more point. Now that you’ve quoted the officer who said Siobhan didn’t fit the profile, thus implying they were profiling, and giving the lie to the press office, I do wonder which variety of brick they intend to use by the tonne. Will they, for example, employ the tactics of Ali Dizaei? Can we expect a false arrest of Andy Lockhart under a trumped up assault charge?

    Well done for showing up the press office as the bunch of wily-worded Bliars they are. Let’s hope a tonne of bricks falls on the whole shower of them for their skanky deceit and vulgar privileging of corporate self-interest above the elementary decency they and their buddies owe equally to us all.

    Shame yet again on GMP for riding roughshod over basic rights.

    Comment by Jim on February 22, 2010 at 2:51 am
  4. By this do you mean that he was intimidating a member of the public for inquiring as to the nature of a police exercise, or simply a harassment of the press? Great exposure of a ridiculous police idea

    Comment by M on February 26, 2010 at 3:51 am

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