Archive | May, 2012

Day 3 of the trial

31 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Day three saw the rest of the barrister Stephen Cragg speaking on behalf of the Grow Heathrow claimants whose squat was searched by riot police the day before the royal wedding, and then the barrister Sam Grodzinski representing the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police began his response to all four Judicial Reviews. Continue reading

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Day 2 of the Trial

29 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Firstly a clarification: the format for the four judicial reviews is not as stated in the post on the first day of the trial. In fact the barristers representing the plaintiffs will each make their cases, then the barristers acting for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will respond to all of them, starting with the most recent and ending with the first one. Then the barristers acting for the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to respond.

Tuesday 29th May – Day Two in Court
This was a packed day which saw evidence from all four Judicial Reviews.
The First Judicial Review: 15 Pre-emptive Arrests for Breach of the Peace

  • It began with the first Judicial Review about 15 people arrested pre-emptively for breach of the peace (R (on the application of Hicks & Others) V the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis). Karon Monaghan QC showed video evidence of the stop and search and eventual arrest of the Charing Cross 10. The first video is available here. The second is here.
  • Ms Monaghan summed up with arguments relating to articles 5 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights and brought up the fact that the detentions appeared to be punitive. “The intention was not to bring them to court, it was simply to remove them from the streets.”

The same barrister acting for Tuckers solicitors, represented both the second and third Judicial Reviews and they were presented side-by side. They have been split out here for clarity.

The Second Judicial Review: Minor Arrested Pre-Emptively for Criminal Damage

  • The second JR concerned a minor (known as M) who was 16 years old at the time. He was stopped by police while walking towards Soho Square carrying a megaphone. He was searched and subsequently arrested pre-emptively for criminal damage when police found two permanent markers in his bag. The minor had his DNA, fingerprints and photographs taken and he was held for eight hours. Eventually he was released without charge as, according to the police, “there was no evidence to suggest he would commit an offence.”
  • While the facts were not in dispute that the minor had two pens, a bulging backpack and a megaphone on his person, the stories from the police officers who arrested him varied. Initially the officers’ notebooks and the reports which they filled out mentioned the minor’s megaphone and his stated intention to protest and a ‘rude and obnoxious’ demeanor as the reason why they searched him. However, in their subsequent statements the officers had claimed it was M’s bulging backpack which had raised their suspicions as they feared it could contain rocks or spray paint.
  • It emerged that there were ‘anti-demonstration patrols’ of police going up and down Oxford Street on the day of the royal wedding.
  • The difference in the earlier and later accounts given by the officers was so large that the officers in question were called to the witness stand. Their testimony did not particularly clarify the facts. The barrister mentioned it was unusual that Constable Whitwell’s memory of the incident appeared to grow better and more complex as time went on.
  • In his testimony Constable Whitwell said he initially approached M asking ‘why have you got a megaphone’. M responded ‘I want to express my opinion, it’s my right to do so’. Whitwell stated that “to my mind this was very strange.” Constable Whitwell’s written statement mentioned that “a megaphone is not normally a tool for peaceful, non-provocative protest.”
  • The court was shown footage taken by a concerned passer-by of the minor’s arrest. The minor was in handcuffs, in tears, repeatedly stating “I didn’t do anything” while the passerby asked the police on why the minor was under arrest. The passerby, hearing the police’s reasons, reacted with audible disbelief and dubbed the police’s actions ‘precrime’.

The Third Judicial Review: Raid on a Squat in Camberwell

  • A squat in Camberwell was raided by the Territorial Support Group (TSG – i.e. riot police) on April 27th 2011 – the day before the royal wedding. Despite not being officially anything to do with the royal wedding the Metropolitan Police’s Gold Commander (officer in charge of the policing of the royal wedding) had received regular updates about the raid, and stated to the media at midday on the 27th that he was “relieved that no evidence of a conspiracy to disrupt the royal wedding had been uncovered.”
  • The TSG police officers who carried out the search were briefed by the royal wedding police team and instructed by commander Broadhurst and Commander Johnson who both held key roles in the policing of the royal wedding.
  • The search warrant was for stolen goods – specifically bicycles and computers. However no bike parts were seized – despite there being plenty around as a bike workshop was run on the property.
  • The items which were seized included computers, all toothbrushes from the bathrooms, and flyers about a zombie themed event in Soho Square on the day of the royal wedding (which were taken directly to the silver command officer). It was not in dispute that the toothbrushes were taken to obtain DNA.
  • “We are asking the court to draw inferences on what the motivations were of the police during the searches” the plaintiff’s barrister stated.
  • The police do not deny that there was an ulterior motive to the searches, or that the sole reason for the timing of the search was the royal wedding, but they insist that gathering intelligence on what they believed to be an extremist group was not the dominant motive, therefore it was not unlawful.
  • The plaintiff’s barrister argued that evidence gathering was the dominant motive but that the police did not have enough information to apply for a warrant on that basis, so the stolen goods was a cover story. (No stolen goods were recovered.)

The Fourth Judicial Review: Police Raid on Grow Heathrow Squat
Grow Heathrow is a community gardens project on the site of former plant nursery. It grows herbs, vegetables, and runs art workshops and bike workshops. It is well-loved by the community. It was also raided on the 27th of April (the day before the royal wedding) by TSG riot police. The claimants in this Judicial Review are represented by Bindmans solicitors with Stephen Cragg as their barrister. This case didn’t get very long before the court broke up for the day.

  • It was pointed out that geographically this had very little to do with the royal wedding.
  • The reason for the search was intelligence/a suspicion about the royal wedding. The police were searching for paintbombs (glass bulbs filled with paint). None were found
  • As at the Camberwell squat, none of the residents had any intention to go to either the royal wedding or anti-royal wedding demonstrations.
  • Up to 40 officers arrived with a “surprising show of force”. When the residents asked to see search warrants they were grabbed and pushed. No one saw any warrants for over 40 minutes.

Coming up on Wednesday the 30th:
Wednesday in court (from 10:00 AM onwards) will see the conclusion of the submissions for the claimants in the Grow Heathrow Judicial Review and the beginning of the police’s defence for all four cases.

Day 1 of the Trial

28 May

For up to the minute updates, press releases, video evidence and more, go to the Pageantry and Precrime website.

Monday 28th was the first day of what’s set to be a five day hearing with judges Lord Justice Richard and Lord Openshaw. The hearing will encompass four Judicial Reviews which are:

  • one Judicial Review into the pre-emptive arrests for ‘breach of the peace’ on the day of the royal wedding
  • one Judicial Review into the pre-emptive arrest of a minor for ‘criminal damage’ the police believed he would cause (evidence: two pens)
  • one Judicial Review into the raid on the Grow Heathrow squat the day before the royal wedding – for which a supposed link to rupublican extremism was the excuse
  • one Judicial Review into another raid on a squat in Camberwell for which – again – a supposed link to left wing extremism was the excuse given.

The first, and largest, Judicial Review is expected to take two days.

On Monday 28th of May Karon Monaghan QC, representing the arrestees, set out her arguments:
In the morning she set out the framework of other cases involving protest, dissent, and arrests and stated that the police’s actions on the day of the royal wedding demonstrated a ‘self-evident policy which equated the intention to protest with criminal conduct’. She stated that ‘what it [this case] not about it the right to protest being absolute – it is not’ but that on the day of the royal wedding the police acted with an ‘impermissably low threshold of tolerance’ which had the effect of ‘the suppression of a dissenting voice’.

  • ‘The fact that others may take part in criminal conduct does not mean that my clients lose their right to free expression or their assembly rights … an individual assessment must be made.’
  • It was brought up that the state is not merely under a negative obligation to not prevent public protest – it may be under a positive obligation to actively facilitate protest.
  • In all the cases the violence which police claimed they feared would soon breach the peace was violence which coming from provoked monarchists – therefore the police were under a specific obligation to facilitate any intention to protest.
  • Mentioned the ruling of Lord Roger on a breach of the peace case – when Lord Roger concluded that ‘Police must take no more steps than is necessary to prevent it [a breach of the peace]’ therefore the police – by handcuffing and arresting protestors instead of, say, asking them to go away – acted disproportionately.
  • In the afternoon Karon Monaghan QC went through the individual cases of pre-emptive arrest one by one.
  • None of the officers went through the process or came to the conclusions necessary to affect a legal arrest – they were simply acting on the instructions of their superiors.
  • Police officers aren’t simply employees. Each officer’s authority comes directly from the crown and each officer is individually accountable for their actions – therefore it’s unlawful for an officer to fetter their own discretion.

Coming up on Tuesday 29th:

  • Arguments related to articles 5 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights
  • The video of the Charing Cross 10’s arrests will be played
  • The barrister acting for the Metropolitan Police will begin.

Pageantry & pre-crime: Royal Wedding arrests Judicial Review begins Monday at the High Court

24 May

This Monday 28 May, sees a landmark Judicial Review begin at the High Court examining policing tactics – including the use of ‘pre-crime’ arrests – employed around last year’s Royal Wedding, which will likely impact future policing of upcoming events such as the Jubilee and the Olympics. [1]

Zombies in the Evening Standard newspaperHannah, one of the fifteen people granted leave to challenge their arrests by way of a Judicial Review, said: “Saturday 29 April last year was a day of contrasts. On one hand there was pageantry, celebration, pomp and ceremony as William Windsor and Kate Middleton got married. However, on the other hand, dozens of innocent people were arrested by the Metropolitan Police, handcuffed and detained for crimes which they had not committed, in an apparent attempt to silence potential dissent.”

“These ‘pre-crime’ arrests were supposedly to pre-emptively ‘prevent a breach of the peace’. In reality, they are part of a trend of increasingly heavy-handed tactics employed against peaceful protestors, aimed at creating a ‘chilling effect’ to dissuade others from protesting in the future. With this Judicial Review, we plan to challenge the validity of this style of policing and our unnecessary arrests – the use of such tactics raises questions of constitutional significance with regard to the role of policing in a democracy.”

The Judicial Review hearing will be heard with three other cases arising out of the police’s actions over the course of the Royal Wedding bank holiday weekend: two concerning raids on squats on 28 April by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service and the other arising out of another pre-emptive arrest of a minor on the day of the Royal Wedding. The 15 claimants, who were all released without charge once the public celebrations had finished, are being represented by Karon Monaghan QC and Ruth Brander. [2] The claimants in the three other cases have different legal teams.

“It is our view that the treatment of our clients was unlawful under common law and was in breach of their fundamental rights,” said a spokesperson from Bhatt Murphy, the civil liberties solicitors who are representing the claimants. “The apparent existence of an underlying policy that resulted in those arrests is a matter of considerable concern with implications for all those engaged in peaceful dissent or protest.”

Who was arrested?
Those arrested were not a cohesive group and they did not have cohesive aims. Some were people on their way to peaceful protests, others were people the police merely suspected of being protestors. Those arrested include members of the ‘Charing Cross 10’ who were on their way to a republican street party, the ‘Starbucks Zombies’ who were arrested from an Oxford Street branch of Starbucks for wearing zombie fancy dress, and a man who was simply walking in London and was arrested by plainclothes officers because he was ‘a known activist’.

Daniel Randall, one of the ‘Charing Cross 10’ arrestees, said: “The British Transport Police officer’s comment confirmed our suspicions that the police were using pre-emptive arrests as a political tactic to keep republican voices off the streets and out of the public eye.”

Erich, a Starbucks Zombie arrestee, said: “I was told by the police, ‘if you’re going to dress like that, you’ve got to expect to be arrested’. And I thought I had to break the law to be arrested.”

Notes
[1] The website Pageantry and Precrime has blog posts, accounts, and footage from various arrests on the day of the royal wedding. It aims to gather all public domain information on the court case into one place http://pageantryandprecrime.wordpress.com/
[2] Bhatt Murphy is a leading civil liberties firm which specialises in police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, deaths in custody and immigration detention.
Karon Monaghan QC –
http://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/Members/29/Karon%20Monaghan.aspx.
Ruth Brander – http://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/barristers/ruth_brander.cfm

Crowd-funding legal actions

4 May

Wow. A lot of people want to see the Met in court.

I had an unpleasant surprise on Wednesday night that my legal excess bill was not small change. (The rest is covered by legal aid, but this bit is non-negotiable) and I need to pay £550 before the end of the month.

(Background to the case nicely covered by the Guardian here:)
Guardian Video

Sarah J from the Bad Reputation suggested crowd funding, so I put together a Facebook group called ‘I’ll Give Hannah a Tenner to see the Met in Court‘. I was looking for 55 people to pledge a tenner, which would be refunded (as all my legal fees would be) if I win – but if I lose the case then, sorry, thank you for your charity. It went to a good cause.

I made a group with this copy:

Hannah was arrested, handcuffed and held in a police station on the day of the royal wedding because she was dressed like a zombie (for a flashmob) which police had decided was an anti-royalist statement. She hadn’t broken any laws and was in a Starbucks, queuing to buy a coffee at the time. She and fourteen others arrested pre-emptively (i.e. illegally) have won the right to a Judicial Review.

Full details available here: http://pageantryandprecrime.wordpress.com/

However, even with legal aid she’s got a few costs that can’t be shirked. She’s looking for 55 people to donate a tenner – which will be refunded if she wins the case.

And I tweeted and Facebooked it – as did my friends. I was expecting some friends to support it, and maybe even a couple of activists with… ahem… history with the Met. I was thinking even half the costs would be a huge help.

You, good people, did not disappoint. Within 24 hours I had more money pledged than I was asking for. Thank you so much, you have no idea. It’s a huge help financially, obviously – it’s also hugely heartening and touching that so many people want to help so much.

I will spend the weekend sorting out the best method of transferring money (I’ve been warned off paypal). If anyone wants to donate to this cause but has missed the boat – the wonderful Netpol – the network for police monitoring are well worth a tenner. They’re made up of amazing organisations such as the Climate Camp Legal Team, FITWatch, Green & Black Cross, the Legal Defence & Monitoring Group and Newham Monitoring Project (NPM). These guys will be supporting protest and fighting police abuses of power long after our court case has been and gone – so click on the Netpol site where you can donate.

But in the meantime, from the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone.