‘Our Olympics’: (3) The Cann Hall – Cathall – Leytonstone – Wanstead 2012 Dispersal Order (DO)

The final piece in this Olympics trilogy is about policing.

It’s my experience that the police in Waltham Forest for the most part escape serious scrutiny, and for that reason I’ll be looking at their functioning and performance in some detail over the coming months.

To start the ball rolling, here is a piece I wrote in December 2012 about the Dispersal Order that was imposed on South Leytonstone and environs during the Olympics. At the time, I was secretary of the A Better Way Partnership Board, the formal community partner in LBWF’s Gang Prevention Programme, so I had a ringside seat.

Opinions about Dispersal Orders vary, but any sane person must want choices about them and their efficacy to be made on the basis of evidence, not hearsay and prejudice. That it not least because, if you are going to in effect suspend people’s civil liberties, you need to be certain that it is really necessary.

Unfortunately, in 2012, despite the assurances that were given, it turned out that the case for the DO was very shaky indeed, underlining that in future such measures should not be introduced unless there is far more substantial oversight and accountability.


The Cann Hall – Cathall – Leytonstone – Wanstead 2012 Dispersal Order (DO)


The Cann Hall – Cathall – Leytonstone – Wanstead 2012 DO, which ran from 26 June to 20 November 2012 meant that the police had a legal right to move people on from a fairly large area covering all or parts of four specified wards, three in the south of Waltham Forest (Cann Hall, Cathall, and Leytonstone), and one in Redbridge (Wanstead), with youth being particularly targeted – ‘If you are under 16 you may not be allowed to be here between the hours of 9pm and 6am unless you are under the effective control of a parent or responsible person over the age of 18’.

DOs may be sought under the Anti-social Behaviour Act of 2003 Pt.4, where a relevant officer has reasonable grounds for believing: ‘(a) that any members of the public have been intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed as a result of the presence or behaviour of groups of two or more persons in public places in any locality in his police area (the “relevant locality”), and (b) that anti-social behaviour is a significant and persistent problem in the relevant locality’. An authorisation may not be given ‘without the consent of the local authority or each local authority whose area includes the whole or part of the relevant locality’.

Previous DOs in the south of Waltham Forest

Smaller DOs were imposed in the south of Waltham Forest (particularly Cann Hall and Cathall) during 2009, 2010, and 2011. None were without problems. Indeed, a MPS briefing of mid-2012 candidly admitted:the impact of the 2009 DO was that ‘The level of crime increased according to Safer Neighbourhood teams and Robberies [sic] were dispersed into other areas’; and the impact of the 2010 DO was that, according to residents of Redbridge, ‘Robberies and knife crime had now been displaced and had encompassed the Wanstead Flats’ (MPS Briefing, nd., p.2). Such displacement was also noted in relation to a DO in neighbouring Leyton during 2010 (Waltham Forest Guardian, 26 October 2010). 

Against this background, it is perhaps unsurprising to find that, in discussing the 2012 DO before it was implemented, Superintendent Adrian Hutchinson of Waltham Forest Police commented: ‘Overall I think they [DOs] have a place but in isolation they have restricted impact and merely “move the problem”’ (E-mail, 8 May 2012).

In press statements at the time the 2012 DO was introduced, the MPS confronted this issue full on, with a spokesman telling the Waltham Forest Guardian: ‘”A previous dispersal zone had displaced anti-social behaviour to neighbouring wards…[so] we hope to tackle this problem by enforcing cross-border dispersal zones”’ (Waltham Forest Guardian, 25 June 2012). The latter observation can only have referred to the fact that the DO now included Wanstead. However, why displacement was not considered in terms of the area’s many other neighbours – particularly populous places to the south and west like Forest Gate, Leyton, Maryland, and Stratford – remains a puzzle.

The 2012 DO – origins

The plan to impose a DO order was notified to the A Better Way Partnership Board in early May 2012, and subsequently the organisation’s chair, Mr. Sheridan Mangal, asked the two most senior Waltham Forest officers involved – Mr. Alastair Macorkindale, Waltham Forest Head of Community Safety, and Superintendent Hutchinson – for clarification as to why it was merited.

Surprisingly, neither seemed to be very certain about what was going on. An e-mail exchange on the morning of 8 May evolved as follows:

09.12, Hutchinson to Mangal – ‘Whilst an application is being prepared I am yet to see it’.

10.38, Macorkindale to Hutchinson – ‘My understanding is that the application came from leytonstone snt. [sic]’.

10.45, Hutchinson to Macorkindale – ‘Mine too – but clearly given the amount of work that are in the files they will have started it off following requests!’

10.50, Macorkindale to Hutchinson – ‘I don’t know where the requests came from that originated the application’.

Subsequently, despite the fact that the request for clarification was repeated, little further information was forthcoming.

The 2012 DO – evidence

Using the FIA, in late November 2012 I finally obtained the evidence that had been assembled to justify the DO order, which turned out to be four witness statements (one for each ward), three compiled by SNT sergeants, one by a senior SNT PC.

As with every witness statement, there is space on each page for the author’s signature. In one case the statement is wholly unsigned.

All the statements are considerably redacted, and drawing conclusions is therefore difficult. However, it is possible to say that a key element of each of the statements is – unsurprisingly – a list of recent offences and offenders in the ward concerned.

One interesting fact is that these do not seem to have been compiled in common fashion, and relate to varying time periods and crime categories, as summarised in Table One.

Table One – witness statements’ coverage

Ward/part of ward Witness statement date Time period covered Type of crime covered
Cann Hall 27/02/12 01/12/11-27/02/12 ‘crimes relating to violence and crimes possibly linked to anti-social behaviour, whereby two or more suspects were involved’; drug related offences
Cathall 26/02/12 ‘the last six months’ ‘relevant crimes’
Leytonstone 29/02/12 ‘up to six months’ ‘crimes involving two or more suspects and that may well be linked to groups’
Wanstead 09/05/12 ‘this year’ Crimes ‘within that section of the dispersal zone that is within Borough of Redbridge’ where ‘either they involved group of suspects or where the victim believed the suspect was part of a larger group although not directly involved in the particular crime’








Alongside the listing of offenders and offences, three of the four statements also make reference to crime trends over time, and advance the view (more or less explicitly) that these prove how effective DOs could be, with crime falling when the DOs were in operation, and rising thereafter.

The 2012 DO evidence in context

 Several observations are pertinent.

The 2012 DO covered only parts of Cann Hall and Cathall, but it is by no means clear that the crimes listed in either of the witness statement relating to these wards were adjusted accordingly (in contrast to the witness statement for Wanstead), a potentially serious weakness.

As regards the contention about previous DOs’ effectiveness, it is notable that this is merely asserted, and not supported by statistical evidence. It is possible that the latter has been redacted, though unlikely, since a covering letter explains that the redactions are to do with personal data, while series on crime by ward anyway have been in the public domain for some years.

What makes all this particularly pertinent is that, when the statistics are consulted, they – at the very least – raise doubts about the assertions repeated in the witness statements. The 2011 DO ran from 30 July to 5 December. Table Two relates to Cann Hall, and summarises the average number of offences per month in various categories during two four-month periods – August to November 2011, i.e. during the DO, and December 2011 to March 2012, i.e. after the DO (data taken from http://www.ukcrimestats.com). The alleged ‘DO effect’ seems hardly discernible.

Table Two: Average monthly crime in Cann Hall ward, during and after 2011 DO

Monthly average Anti-Social Burglary Robbery Violent Crime Total crime
August 2011 to November 2011 50 10 5 18 135
December 2011 to March 2012 40 11.5 6 18 122



Table Three repeats the exercise for Leytonstone ward, with similar results.

Table Three: Average monthly crime in Leytonstone ward, during and after 2011 DO

Monthly average Anti-Social Burglary Robbery Violent Crime Total crime
August 2011 to November 2011 68 15 13 23 189
December 2011 to March 2012 44 10 10 22 151



Needless to say, these are only specimen findings, and further work on all the DOs would be necessary to deliver a definitive conclusion, but they are at least indicative.

Introducing a relative perspective raises further issues, for in rankings of local wards, those in the 2012 DO do not stand out particularly in terms of either their volume or type of crime, in turn begging the question as to why exactly they were chosen, when more crime-ridden wards were not.

Finally, a further disappointing aspect is that – as the relevant officers now confirm – there was no connection between the 2012 DO and Waltham Forest’s Gang Prevention Programme, thus compromising the latter’s promise to deliver much more than just enforcement.


It is clear that DOs divide opinion. The MPS has claimed that public consultation prior to the implementation of the 2012 DO revealed strong support (See Briefing, op. cit, p.1). On the other hand, one group was sufficiently antagonized to demonstrate outside Leytonstone Police Station (Waltham Forest Guardian, 3 July 2012). However, what all sides must surely insist upon is that if a DO is considered, it must be (a) justified by appropriate evidence, rather than mere assertion (no matter where from), and (b) linked to other elements of the area’s wider policing strategy.

What is disappointing is the fact that in 2012, despite all the good intentions that were certainly present in much other community safety and gang-related work, there is little sign that either of these basic conditions was fulfilled.