The appeal will be heard at Lancaster Crown Court (behind the castle) from the 13th March. It will probably last 3 to 5 days. Please do consider coming to show solidarity with the six, and to stand up for free speech at our universities.
AN UPDATE OF EVENTS
This is an update of what's been happening with the George Fox 6 and Lancaster University since they were convicted of Aggravated Trespass last September - see below for background information about the George Fox 6 case.
Since the six were found guilty of "momentarily disrupting a conference" and ordered to pay £1800 costs and given a conditional discharge for 2 years there has been quite a lot happening at Lancaster University.
Shortly after the trial the Vice Chancellor was reprimanded by staff, both in an open letter ("We believe that the University's decision to refer this matter for possible prosecution was a most serious and damaging error of judgement. We profoundly hope that in future the University will conduct itself in a manner that is tolerant of, and sensitive to, its intellectual and political diversity."), and at the next Senate meeting. His plans to shrink democracy by 'streamlining' the university's structure was rejected by the University Council a few days after that.
It appeared to many that until that week the VC was unaware of the impact of his decision to support the prosecution of the six.
Nevertheless the VC continues to support, or at least has not withdrawn support for the prosecution of the six. When directly asked to refute claims that the six had thrown chairs at him during their demonstration he remained silent, but has continued to maintain that the prosecution was justified.
Happily there is now an independent staff newsletter at Lancaster - subtext - www.lancs.ac.uk/subtext. All who were unhappy about the lack of reporting (and the readers' letters that so consistently went astray) in the official
newsletter (published by the universtiy PR department) have already seen a lot more reporting on the GF6 issue, and the original issues the six were protesting about - commercialisation of research and a frigtening lack of
ethics in our university.
Free speech is now more than an issue than when the six were charged. We have been shocked by how many academics and management at the university were too frightened to speak out, or to stand as witnesses at the first trial. The
university were caught taking down Freedom of Speech related posters at the university, letters to the staff newsletter haven't weren't published, there's been a smear campaign against the six, and university actively supported the prosecution to the end (and continue to do so) - to the extent of the University Secretary going into conference with the prosecution during the trial.
The appeal will be heard from the 13th March. It will probably last 3 to 5 days. The appeal will take the form of a whole new trial, and because of this they will be resentenced if found guilty. So once again the six potentially face 3 months in prison.
There is real concern that the verdict against the six last September has encouraged universities throughout England and Wales to crack down on student protest and staff unrest. For this reason, and the fact that the six
feel the verdict last time went against the weight of evidence they have decided to appeal, despite the risk of heavier sentencing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* We still need people to let the University know what they think about the right to Freedom of Speech (addresses at the end of the email), and to sign the online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/gfox6/ . Please encourage others to do the same.
* Ask your union / group / organisation to pass a motion of support, and to write to Lancaster University.
* If you are at college/university find out what your institution's Freedom of Speech policy is. If it doesn't actually protect freedom of speech then campaign to get it changed!
* If you want to write an article for our website on the ethics of big business (particularly those mentioned on http://www.georgefox6.co.uk) or on the privatisation of education and research then please drop us a line!
Six students and members of the local community are facing jail for taking part in a peaceful demonstration against multinational corporations meeting at Lancaster University in September 2004. Protestors had gone into Lecture Theatre 1 of the George Fox building at the university to hand out leaflets and talk to people at the "Corporate Venturing" Conference - a networking meeting for multinational corporations. Speakers at the conference were drawn from controversial arms manufacturer BAE Systems, Shell and other companies the six say have 'long histories of human rights abuses and environmental destruction'. Concerns were also raised about the commercialisation of university research. While delegates engaged some of the protestors in conversation security removed others from the lecture theatre. The demonstration then continued outside. The police were called and told the demonstrators they were doing nothing illegal. But in September the six were found guilty of "momentarily disrupting a conference" (but not
guilty of any kind of intimidation) in a prosecution supported by the university.
There will be an appeal held on the 13th March 2006.
For more information please go to: http://www.georgefox6.co.uk
*CONTACT DETAILS FOR THE UNIVERSITY*
Roderick O'Brien, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation (responsible
for Third Mission)
Tel: 01524 592002
Vice-Chancellor Prof. Paul Wellings
Tel: 01524 592001
Prof. Gary Cooper, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Affairs
Tel: 01524 592299
Address: University House
University of Lancaster
Lancaster LA1 4YW