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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.
Note: the court case was anticipated to last a full five days, but seems to be running slightly ahead of schedule. At this rate it may either end towards the end of the day on Thursday, or early on Friday morning.
The Fourth Judicial Review: Raid on the Grow Heathrow Encampment
Continuing from yesterday Stephen Cragg acting for Bindmans solicitors represented the residents of Grow Heathrow – a community gardens project on the site of former plant nursery in Sipson. It grows herbs, vegetables, and runs art workshops and bike workshops. It is well-loved by the community. It was raided on the 27th of April (the day before the royal wedding) by TSG riot police.
- Previous to the search warrant being issued there was no evidence that the anyone on site was involved in any plan to disrupt or protest about the royal wedding. However, apparently working on a gut-feeling. However, Commander Broadhurst, Gold Command for the policing of the royal wedding, stated “I’ve got some fears there are some people on the premises who may disrupt the royal wedding.”
- The police were acting, Mr Cragg said, on extremely crude political profiling “there’s a link being made that simple because the people in the camp were left wing or environmental that they were people who would disrupt the royal wedding.”
- The warrant for the search was only for paint bombs (light bulbs filled with paint). None were found.
- The 2 hour raid was unnecessarily heavy-handed. Residents were pushed and shoved, no one was shown a search warrant for over 40 minutes. Police (with a warrant only relating to paint bombs) searched people’s wallets – indicating that the true purpose of the search was for information on individuals.
- In both this case and the raids on the Camberwell squat – the warrants for the search were not returned to the Magistrate’s court, rendering the searches unlawful.
The Barrister Acting for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Replies
Barrister Sam Grodzinski responded to all the cases in turn, beginning with the first Judicial Review relating to pre-emptive arrests for breach of the peace on the day of the royal wedding.
Mr Grodzinski set the scene that the policing operation was a large one and came in the aftermath of the student demonstrations of 2010. The police’s barrister has to argue that the Met did not equate protest with illegality and that there was no unlawful policy of pre-emptive arrests. Therefore, to argue that the arrests were lawful he has to argue that all those arrested were likely to cause an imminent breach of the peace.
- Police documents admitted there was a “contingency mass arrest to prevent a breach of the peace” but the Met’s barrister insisted this was “not to prevent protest.”
- Commander Broadhurst referred, in his witness statement, to an article from the Sun as evidence that a large scale disruption was planned.
- The interview Commander Jones gave on the World at One (in which she stated that there are “364 other days” which people can protest on) – the defence insisted this did not indicate that the police were opposed to protest that day.
- Defence quoted another case which held that “the mere existence of an unlawful policy is not enough” the policy has to be material to the decision.
- The definition of breach of the peace which the police were using was not that those arrested were likely to breach the peace, but that the police believed the actions they were likely to carry out would have provoked others (i.e. royalists) to a ‘not wholly unreasonable’ violent response.
- Though the police have a duty to facilitate protest this is “subject to what is realistically achievable” the police’s barrister insists that facilitating their protest (or, in the case of the zombies, what was believed to be a protest) was impossible on the day, therefore arresting the Charing Cross 10 and the Starbucks Zombies was apparently the only option available to the police.
- Police documents drafted by Commander Broadhurst state “we accept that protest may involve some degree of disruption … but there is a world of difference between disruption and a situation which has descended or may descend into a breach of the peace.” However, Lord Justice Richard (the lead judge on this case) pointed out to the Met’s barrister that this “may not be an entirely valid distinction” between peaceful protest on one hand and disruption on the other.
- The defence repeatedly insists that both the Charing Cross 10 and the Starbucks Zombies were likely to provoke others, that the crowds were nearby, and that the police had cause to believe they were ruthless, determined and intent on disruption.
- Regarding the Charing Cross 10 the police seemed especially concerned about the ‘climbing equipment’ (one climbing helmet used as a bike helmet) which one person had on their person. Inspector Bethal stated “I also thought it was highly likely other climbing equipment had been concealed nearby”. This fictional stash of climbing equipment and the possibility, pulled out of thin air, that the Charing Cross 10 were apparently planning on scaling buildings, was one of the main parts of the police’s argument.
- The claimant’s barrister insisted on Monday that the police had many options open to them, such as confiscating placards, or asking the people to disperse. The Met’s barrister on Wednesday insisted “the idea that there was some proportionate response other than arrest is fanciful”
- The Met’s barrister asked that the police’s descisions be “seen through the operational prism” and not with the wisdom of hindsight.
- In the case of the Starbucks zombies the fact that they had left Soho Square was seen as evidence that they were “moving towards the footprint of the royal wedding”. They had left Soho Square to avoid what looked like a police kettle forming and had only stopped less than a minute away in the location B on this map.
Coming up on Thursday the 31st:
Thursday in court (from 10:00 AM onwards) will see the conclusion of the Met’s barrister’s defence in all four cases, and the beginning of the response arguments from the barristers acting on behalf of the claimants in all four cases.