First Day of the Arms Protest Trial

Monday, April 11, 2016
A very pleasant cycle ride of 9 miles along the Regent’s Canal and Greenway to Stratford Court, where protesters were beginning to assemble. Around 40 people came to the protest, including London’s Green Mayoral candidate, Sian Berry, several members of veterans for peace and members of the Green Party from as far afield as Cambridge and Dorset.


Much of the trial today is best described as a shambles. It started off with an argument over whether we should have a legal argument, and if so when. We, the defence, want to present a defence that we were trying to prevent a crime. The prosecution argued that we should not be allowed to prevent a defence of necessity (which is related, but not the same and different precedents apply). As you can imagine the judge was not impressed by this. The judge then asked the prosecutor to try to agree with the defence when the arguments about whether we could present either of our defences (prevention of crime and reasonable behaviour) as protected by articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights [1]. He also asked for a proper timetable for the trial, which he had expected to see in advance showing how long each witness etc would take.

It then became clear that the prosecution had not properly served the video on the defence, by which I mean they had sent us DVDs, but they were either blank or unreadable, and had not sent copies when so requested. They had also not served anything on Susannah Mengesha, who is defending herself. This meant that during the first recess the prosecution had to copy all their papers and give them to her with the result that the prosecutor failed to do the other tasks that the judge had asked her to.

After another recess the trail proper got started at 12:30 when the prosecution read the cases against Angela Ditchfield and then Abdul Aali and myself. The statement was fairly short, and mostly (but not entirely accurate). Noting that we lay down in front of the low loader, that they asked us to move, we didn’t respond and that they arrested us and carried us to the pavement. The prosecution then wanted to play video, but there was no facility to do so in the court we were in, so we adjourned for lunch whilst officials found us another courtroom. The judge also warned the prosecutor that if she was using a mac she needed to make sure that she could play the video as Macs do not work very well with the court system.

After lunch the judge was still not happy with the timetable and the prosecutor had not sorted out her equipment, and the judge was loath to use his computer as he put “It is not my job to deliver evidence for the prosecution”. In the end one of the defence lawyers used their computer to show the video. Which were really far too long and repetitive and would certainly never win any prizes for anything really. Perhaps the most entertaining bit was seeing the police failing to cut a chain with their own bolt cutters, and they had to borrow a pair of the military (apparently) to cut the chain tying people to a military vehicle (from the day before my protest).

The prosecutor then admitted they had lost the next video they wanted! So the judge pissed off again asked her very pointedly whether the video was even necessary. She said that it added colour to the black and white statements. The judge asked if it was really necessary and whether a whole hour was needed (1 of the videos scheduled for tomorrow lasts over an hour!)

He then spent 15 minutes telling the defence lawyers that he didn’t want them repeating questions previous ones had asked (they said they were cooperating and that wouldn’t happen) and asked again if the video was necessary as court time needs to be used well.

And that is as far as we got in one day. Tomorrow the prosecution should finish and either we will have legal arguments about whether we can present a defence of reasonableness and prevention of crime or we will have the start of the defence itself.

Also there is a nice report in the Guardian on Monday 11th April 2016

[1] Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights
Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Freedom of assembly and association
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

Posted by Tom at 7:51 pm
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Labels: peace, stopDSEI, trial
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