Please circulate press release below. Next week at 7pm on Thursday 26 February, see the two coach passenger movies at G2, SOAS (with food/drinks, and guest speakers).
Phone Jane Laporte on 07817 483 167 or Jesse Schust on 0781 458 7361
or e-mail email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HIGH COURT TO RULE ON POLICE 'COACH-NAPPING' CASE
At 10am on Thursday 19 February 2004, the High Court will rule on the legality of police detaining 120 anti-war protestors for two-and-a-half hours without arrests.
On 22 March 2003, police stopped 120 protestors from London en route to an anti-war demonstration at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. The protestors and their coaches were searched for nearly two hours before being forced back to London "to prevent a breach of the peace". Before the coaches gathered speed, police held the doors shut. Drivers faced arrest if they didn't comply with all police demands. Police blocked the exits on and off of the motorway as they brought the coaches in convoy to London. During the two and a half hour journey, no toilet breaks at services were permitted. The detained passengers have campaigned for eleven months to get a High Court ruling on the police's actions.
At the High Court hearing last month, the police's barrister argued that "two pairs of scissors" seized from the 120 protesters indicated an intent to breach the peace. The barrister for the coach passengers argued that the Police's actions were not authorised by the common law or any Act of Parliament and in fact violated three fundamental Human Rights now part of UK law under the Human Rights Act: freedom from arbitrary detention; the right to assemble to protest; and freedom of speech. Amnesty International and Liberty both support the coach passengers' case.
John Halford, the solicitor at Bindman & Partners who represents the passengers, said:
"that the Police should consider it lawful to forcibly detain and frustrate the democratic right to protest of 120 people who had committed no crime whatsoever… on the grounds that some of them were wearing white suits is barely credible… We are hopeful that the Court will give a firm ruling that policing of this kind can have absolutely no place in a democratic society."
The detained coach passengers are prepared to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if UK courts fail to uphold their human rights.
Support Demonstration: 9am-10am, Thursday 19 February 2004
outside the Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand, WC2.
For more information on Fairford Coach Action,
phone Jane Laporte on 07817 483 167 or Jesse Schust on 0781 458 7361
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Journalists
1. Fairford Coach Action is the name of the group of about 60 passengers who have collectively decided to pursue a Judicial Review case against the police's actions on 22nd March 2003. Full background information is available on the website. Visit the site for links to related web articles, and testimonial statements. http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk
The site is mirrored at http://www.mythic-beasts.com/~thedishbench/fca
2. On the 22nd of March 2003, three days after the start of the US/UK war on Iraq, a demonstration, 'Flowers for Fairford', organised by the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors (GWI) attracted over 3,000 protestors to the airbase. Local groups organised transport to Fairford from 37 locations across the UK. One other coach (from Swindon) was also turned back by the police.
3. American B-52 planes flew from RAF Fairford airbase to bomb Baghdad (see www.fairfordpeacewatch.com ) and Fairford was the site of excessive policing during the war on Iraq. Within 52 days starting on 6 March 2003, police conducted anti-terror searches on "2,132 occasions in the vicinity of RAF Fairford". GWI, Berkshire CIA and Liberty have issued a dossier showing how stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 were misused by police in Gloucestershire. For the report "Casualty of War - 8 weeks of counter-terrorism in rural England" and further information see http://www.gwi.org.uk and http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk. The government estimated the added cost of policing the RAF Fairford base was £6.9 milliion. RAF Fairford continues to be upgraded for use by US Stealth (B2) Bombers. Upgrading of RAF Fairford greatly expands the US capacity to "invisibly" deploy tactical nuclear weapons anywhere in the world within hours. Further info at http://www.gwi.org.uk and
4. The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in October 2000. It requires the police and other public authorities to avoid breaching key European Convention Human Rights Articles save where legislation makes this impossible. Amongst the key rights are Article 5 (deprivation of liberty must be justified in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law and on one of the five grounds listed in paragraph (1) of the Article), Article 8 (which requires justification for interference with private life, including those which impact upon physical and psychological integrity), Article 10 (freedom of speech and expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly).
5. At common law a constable may arrest a person without warrant who he or she reasonably believes will commit a breach of the peace in the immediate future, even though at the time of the arrest such person has not committed any breach. This power is subject to a number of strict restrictions, however: the belief must relate to an act or threatened act harming any person or, in his presence, his property, or which puts a person in fear of such harm; the belief must relate to the likely actions of the particular individual or individuals against whom the power is used; and when the particular individual is acting lawfully at the time the power is used, the threat of his committing a breach of the peace must be sufficiently real and imminent to justify the use of such a draconian power.
6. Interviews with passengers from the coaches can be arranged (please enquire - see contact details above). Dramatic, high-quality, digital video footage and photographs are also available. Permission to use them will be granted on a case-by-case basis (rates vary). Contact Jesse Schust at 0781 458 7361.
7. The solicitor representing the case, John Halford, can be contacted at Bindman & Partners on 020 7833 4433.
8. The main defendants in the case are The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary; the two interested parties are the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.
9. The Fairford Coach case was mentioned in Liberty's dossier on the policing at RAF Fairford, and the case is expected to appear in Amnesty International's report on Human Rights in the UK.
Fairford Coach Action