The first case to be called was that of the "Sharky's Three," arrested after the police's game of "Follow the Leader" with the Wombles turned unpleasant on Thursday 7th July. The accused had been part of a larger group offering court support to people arrested for (but never charged with) "Conspiracy to Breach the Peace" and had been prevented from crossing from the court to the city centre by a police cordon. Wanting to stay out of trouble they'd settled in Sharky's pub on Ballater Street for a quiet drink. After an hour two police entered on the pretext of a routine licensee check but proceeded to abuse the folk sat inside. When one of them followed them outside to get the officers' numbers for a harassment claim the police attempted to make an arrest and there was a scuffle during which the 3 police vans parked around the corner seized the opportunity to appear to not be wasting everyone's time and money. The trial itself was short. A Glasgow man's plea of Not Guilty was accepted, a Reading man pled Guilty to Breach of the Peace in return for Resisting Arrest to be dropped and a London man pled guilty to two charges in return for the third being dropped. Fines of £200 and £400 were imposed.
The next trial called, of the Bristol fairy accused of assaulting a policewoman with a feather duster, was also very short. The assault charge was dropped and her plea of Guilty to Breach of the Peace resulted in her being Admonished. This is equivalent to "no punishment", although as she pointed out afterwards, that interpretation doesn't take into account the stress, travel expenses, forfeited holiday allowance and three days in custody that was incurred. By accepting the plea bargain, the prosecution were able to avoid cross-examination of the arresting officer, WPC Bellingham. Several defence witnesses were present to testify that they had seen her push the defendant several times and her ill-tempered performance in court last week at the trial of the clown not guilty of "de-arresting" the fairy suggests that she has had a lucky escape, though a separate complaint about her behaviour has apparently not been ruled out.
After a short adjournment the final G8 case of the day got underway at about 12:30. To my knowledge, this was the first case where the prosecution had gone to the trouble and expense of transporting police from south of the border to testify. According to legal sources this is because of a recent edict from the crown office that local Procurators Fiscal are not to drop any more cases. In this case the result was that a Constable and Inspector were brought up from South Yorkshire to testify in the case of a Nottingham man accused of sitting in Govan Road.
The first officer, PC Leadbetter, testified that he had been part of a "Police Support Unit" (riot squad) that had spent the day driving about the country before ending up at the Boogie on the Bridge. There they were deployed to replace "unprotected" Strathclyde officers forming a cordon around 200 demonstrators. There was music and dancing and it was never made clear what the reason for deploying Riot Police was. The officer identified the accused as having been sat in a group of four people who refused to move with the cordon. The line was opened, the cordon moved forward and they were left outside it and were then arrested. The next officer, also in neatly pressed uniform, gave testimony that failed to correlate with Leadbetter's on crucial details. He was very clear that the group of 4 was sat not on the road but on a grass verge next to the road, weakening the case that a breach of the peace was caused by their blocking the road. More importantly though he failed to realise that Scots Law requires two people to identify the accused with the person committing the offence. When asked if he could see that person in the court today, he admitted that he would be unlikely to remember him with any certainty. At this point questioning was ended and the Sheriff told the defendant that he had no case to answer and was free to go. Applause broke out from the public gallery and the defendant was out of the dock before the policeman had quite realised what had happened.
So at the end of the session the defendants were mostly pleased with how the day had went. The plea bargaining had left a slightly bitter taste in some mouths but was accepted as a necessary evil when faced with the seriousness of some the charges, no matter how spurious. It was pointed out that the only convictions had been of those people who pled guilty. No-one thus far has been found guilty on the evidence presented before the Glasgow court, pointing to the essential weakness of the Crown's cases and, perhaps, the arbitrariness of the original arrests.
There will be more cases however. The order that no more cases be dropped will mean more officers travelling up from far-flung bits of the UK to make trivial accusations against people who may also have to travel large distances for no good reason. The next G8 cases in Glasgow Sheriff Court are on Tuesday 25th October. They include Criminal Damage to a Police Cell (with a pencil) and another case of sitting in Govan Road. The defendants would welcome people coming along to support them then or on any other day, if you would like to help but have questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.