THE MAN who authorised terror arrests that brought the M65 to a standstill last year has said he would do the same again in the same circumstances.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said it would be ‘with a heavy heart’ but refused to reveal anything about why six people in an aid convoy to Gaza were arrested on the motorway in February 2009.

They were released without charge.

The official debriefing report was released under the Freedom of Information Act. It reveals:

  • Some of the men, who were from Blackburn and Burnley, were kept in vans for six hours at a secret location.
  • Senior officers in charge of the areas affected were not told soon enough.
  • The officers felt at a ‘distinct disadvantage’ because their community contacts seemed to know more than they did about the arrests and house searches.
  • Police had a ‘credibility issue’ in saying the arrests were spontaneous, because resources were mustered so quickly.
  • There had been a decline in relationships between the police and their key community contacts after the arrests.

The operation was criticised because of disruption caused, with the motorway closed for hours on a busy Friday.

The report said there was ‘no other option’ but to make the arrests at that time.

Mr Cooke said the vehicles were stopped because the police had ‘an element of control’ while they were in Lancashire.

He said police were fully aware of the fall-out that would follow.

Police paid to put some of the men on ferries to join up with the convoy, but Mr Cooke said: “That’s not an admission that we did something wrong.”

He said ‘lessons have been learned’ but added: “Tomorrow, faced with the same circumstances, I would do it again – with a heavy heart.”