All 14 SPEAK Supporters who were charged with various public order offences have today (30th May) been acquitted by Justice Wright at Bicester Magistrates Court.
SPEAK defendents were barred for an entire year from entering a city in their own country as they waited for the case against them to move to trialThe charges against the 14 SPEAK supporters arose from a legal demonstration held at the Oxford University Encaenia ceremony on June 21st 2006 which saw five SPEAK supporters arrested on the day and a further eleven arrested at their home addresses in the following weeks.
This case has taken almost one year to come to court during which time the defendants have been subject to police bail conditions which have barred them from entering Oxford City. Charges originally laid by the police included breach of section 12&14 of the Public Order Act, inciting others to breach sect 12&14, obstruction of the highway, obstructing a police officer and assaulting a police officer.
The 4 week trial that began on the 30th April has highlighted a deliberate and sinister policy by Thames Valley Police (TVP) to intimidate and harass legal campaigners who support SPEAK. It has also exposed a close relationship between TVP and Oxford University.
During the trial a transcript of a Dictaphone tape which was recorded by a serving Thames Valley Police officer acting as a tactical advisor on the day of the demonstration was presented as evidence by the defence to support their case that the police had deliberately provoked and engineered a situation that would allow them to arrest peaceful campaigners.
The recording device carried by the officer on the day of the demonstration was accidentally re-activated after the arrests of the five individuals had taken place and the days demonstration had been stopped and recorded officers (including senior officers) of TVP revealing how they really felt about animal rights campaigners, the relationship between TVP and Oxford University and their clear intention to engage in a campaign of harassment and persecution against legal campaigners supporting SPEAK.
The use of obscene language is used to describe campaigners as well as members of the public. Talk of “waging a dirty war” was excused by officers in the witness box as “tongue in cheek” or “banter between officers”, one senior police officer under cross examination even excused the behaviour of one of his officers putting it down to the officer having come from “Liverpool” and of another police officers behaviour because he was an "ex squaddie".
Even more disturbing is the clear evidence that arrests were pre-planned, as described in comments like “we knew we were going to take bodies today” and “just heard from the university, they are very impressed”. One officer is also clearly heard saying to the Bronze commander on the day (Inspector Sharp) “The university’s got Masons, it’s got you”.
The transcripts also clearly reveal that Thames Valley police have played an active part in trying to create the conditions in which a draconian High Court injunction can be implemented against SPEAK.
Robert Cogswell from SPEAK commented on hearing that the defendants had been acquitted; "of course we are all very happy that justice has prevailed but can we really call it justice when the 14 defendants should never have been on trial in the first place. 5 people were arrested on the day, the remaining were rounded up in a ‘Stasi’ like operation at their homes. It is a sad day when a public body like Thames Valley Police are clearly doing the bidding of private institutions like Oxford University. At SPEAK we will be insisting on high level talks with Thames Valley Police Officers in order to make sure this sort of political and clearly biased policing is a thing of the past.”
Mr. Cogswell goes onto say that "Its disgraceful that peaceful protesters have been targeted in this so called 'dirty war' when the real crime is taking place day in and day out behind the closed doors of Oxford Universities laboratories. Primates who have the capacity to feel pain and suffer when deprived of their natural environments and most basic instincts are forced to endure painful invasive procedures.
SPEAK are a legal campaign that works within legal framework and the sooner Thames Valley Police realise this and the sooner Oxford University stop peddling their lies about us the sooner we can stop wasting the taxpayers money on needless trials. Its about time the police put a stop to real crime that blights our society today and at SPEAK we will be insisting they do just that".