channel 4 interview
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inside the court, two senior judges heard fro m michael fordham acting on behalf of the protestors, how 120 campaigners had been turned back from a lawful demonstration and their convoy of three coaches escorted back to london on the 22nd of march last year.
as b-52 bombers prepared for war in iraq the raf base at fairford in gloucestershire became the focus of several demonstrations organised by the umbrella group 'gwi' - gloucester weapons inspectors. the senior judges heard how the protest in march had been notified to the police in accordance with public order acts, and that the police had agreed to facilitate peaceful protest within the terms of section 12, 14 and 60. this meant that they had imposed certain conditions on the place and numbers of any procession and assembly, and that they had the right to stop and search people for any offensive weapons or dangerous instruments likely to cause harm to person or property. additionally, they had the right to remove items and seize property likely to be used to conceal identity.
mr. fordham argu ed that the police did indeed have the right to stop and search the coaches based on intelligence gathered by the 'jic' or joint intelligence cell, and that they had the right to seize certain items, and that they even possibly had the right to detain cer tain individuals under public order and common laws. where they overstepped the law and infringed both common law and human rights law (enshrined in british law in october 2000), was in the blanket nature of their action and also the way evidence was used. various precedents were raised in order to establish the scope of the relevant public order acts and common laws. there were questions raised about the interpretation of article 5 of the human rights act where there is provision for detention in three s cenarios - in order to prevent a crime, in order to investigate a crime, and in order to prevent the escape of someone under suspicion of crime. in all cases, there should be an intent to bring the detainee in front of a competent authority, and michael f ordham argued that in this case there was no such intent.
central to the argument were the contemporaneous logs kept by chief superintendent lambert who was in operational control in the area that day.
despite the stated police objective to prevent vio lence and to facilitate peaceful protest, csi lambert issued a command at 10.45 that morning that the three coaches from london should be detained six miles short of fairford. he wanted them intercepted and thoroughly searched under section 60 for weapons, dangerous items, and items likely to be used to conceal identity.
crucially, he commanded that should any such items be found, that the coaches should be escorted back to london in order 'to prevent a breach of the peace'. further, he ordered that no arrests should be made, as the breach of the peace was not (as required by law) imminent, but that protestors should be told that if they were to continue to fairford that the breach would become imminent and so that they would then be liable to arrest. he probably thought this doublespeak was enough to save his legal ass! but it will come under intense legal scrutiny in this judicial review.
another area of contention is that the 'gwi' had clearly stated in all their propaganda that it would be fun for people to turn up in white overalls, and at no time prior to the demo had police raised any objection to this. however, intelligence notes showed that police were concerned about the 'wombles' group whom they characterised as 'hardcore violent activists' known to wear white overalls as their 'uniform' :) and they confiscated white overalls from the coach under section 60 - this was one of the main triggers for the following detention and escort of coaches - some scarves, a hooded jacket, and a crash helmet were also used as evidence of section 60 breaches.
the biggest issue in all this is that despite intelligence notes showing that the police were aware that the coach passengers were made up of individuals and members of various groups, they decided on a blanket detention of all 120 demonstrators. senior judges will issue their verdict on the legality of this action in about three weeks' time.
the court case is continuing tomorrow, and 'rhythms of resistance' will be outside the high court in the stran d at 9am with protestors once more.
please come along and support this important issue and you can also enter the court and view proceedings from the public gallery freely.