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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A tale of two trials

Over the last fortnight there has been two trials in London for Fitwatching activities, both for obstructing police cameras. The three defendants in the first trial were lucky enough to have lawyers representing them for free. The two defendants in the second trail were forced by lack of legal aid to defend themselves. The difference between the two trials could not have been more stark, nor give a clearer picture of the complete lack of justice in our criminal justice system.

There are solid legal arguments as to why obstructing police cameras is not unlawful. Some of these are quite complex, others relatively simple. The police have no more power than you or I to take photographs of people in the street. If I want to take a photograph and someone gets in the way, well, it’s just tough. Same applies to the police. No-one has ever given them the authority to use force or arrest in order to get the pictures they want.

There are other reasons too why FIT activities are less than completely lawful; the harassment of individuals who have committed no crimes, the intimidation of those who want to be involved in political protest, and unlawful data gathering and processing, to name but three!

Legal arguments were raised at both trials. When they were raised by lawyers in the first trial, they were taken seriously. When they were raised by ordinary, non-legally trained defendants in the second trial they were not. The District Judge just didn’t bother his head with them. “I’ve looked at your arguments, but I’m happy the police were obstructed in their duty, because that is the evidence they have given,” he said. In other words, ‘I can’t be bothered with all that legal stuff, I’ll just find you guilty because the nice policeman wants me to’. Fairness and impartiality at its very best.

Of course, none of us will be rocked by the shock headline of injustice in British courts. But at a time when legal aid is being cut back and back, it shows how much harder it is for unrepresented defendants to get anything like a fair hearing.

Fortunately the three defendants on trial at Horseferry Road magistrates court faired better, to the credit largely of a more reasonable District Judge and the two law firms who were prepared to give their services for free. Apart from the serious stuff it was interesting to hear Inspector Spence reveal his carefully contrived ‘plan’ to lure fitwatchers out of the crowd at the stop the war march in order to arrest them with his three units of back-up TSG. And amusing to hear PC Rooney talk of the ‘hundreds’ of protests he has been at where there had been a Fitwatch presence. Clearly we have been more effective than we thought!

This trial went part-heard, and will not now conclude until December. The defendants convicted at the second trial are considering thier appeal. If CO11 are celebrating a victory, I’d say they’re a bit too quick off the mark. There is everything still to play for.

14 comments:

Apples are not the only fruit said...

So this win plus the Sequani disaster at the weekend - whats the score now?

an affable irregular said...

a quick google for "sequani disaster" returns no relevant results. it's unclear therefore what you're on about to the uninitiated, and to most of the initiated too no doubt.

unfit said...

The second trial related to the FIT operation outside the londonfete meeting on 15th June, at the Pullens Centre in London.

There's a photo report on indymedia, and a photo set of the cops involved on Flickr.

FIT Watch said...

More pathetic comments from cops. I really thought they'd have better things to do with their time than wasting taxpayers money making playground jokes about people's names.

"Sequani disaster" - don't know what you're talking about mate. I thought it was a really good demo (Carnival Against Vivisection at the weekend for anyone who doesn't know). Very vibrant, lots of fitwatching, and lots of people refusing to pushed round by the cops. I'll write a full account later, but maybe you'd like to elaborate further.

Oh, and the score? You're definitely losing, and by a very big margin. As the article states, you are a long way from being able to celebrate a legal victory. You are being attacked from all fronts and you are in a very precarious position.

We're here to stay. Are you?

Anonymous said...

Nice piccies, unfit. I recognise PC Pritchard, the Forward Intelligence Officer who professed at the trial that he had no idea he was outside a meeting about the G8. (then again, he does seem to have been sacked from FIT duties - maybe that's why!).

I also recognise Gavin Paul, the photographer. But which one is Pritchard' sidekick, Lloyd?

unfit said...

Lloyd is MD 761, while Pritchard is MD 862, and here's Gavin Paul.

LoonyLynn said...

Oh dear - you arn't starting to belive your own hype are you - a comment too real to be allowed to be seen on Indymedia:-

stop the spin
08.09.2008 14:56



I was there, this is just crap, there was about 60 which grew to probably about 150 maybe a little more and that’s just rubbish after all the publicity. This spin to cover what was a disaster for the animal movement just wastes everybody’s time and hides the real issue of falling support for the issue.
I came home really pissed off and I haven’t changed my mind since then. I don’t know what to do but writing articles on IndyMedia saying it was a success is not it.


A really pissed off participant

That ring any bells?

nine rows said...

not really, no. when i used to go to the football it didn't matter to some fans what the final score was, i always heard plenty of moaning on the bus home about how shit this player was and how another had been pissing about the entire game - and this after a 4-0 victory, on one occasion! so, i wouldn't take the words of one pissed off person as representative of how everyone else felt about it. clearly they're entitled to their opinion but that doesn't mean it is one shared by anyone else.

incidentally, i wasn't there and have no great sympathy for the animal rights movement. however, having been on more small demos than i care to think about i know that it's easier to go home pissed off after them. but think about it, a demo in the middle of bloody nowhere which attracted that number of people, be it 60 or 160 or whatever, is, to my mind, quite a coup. certainly i've been on demos in large cities with fewer.

Fighting Fit said...

I'm not really sure why we are having a discussion about the success or otherwise of an animal rights march on this blog.

Of course, a lot of people who support fitwatch are also supporters of animal rights, but fitwatchers are a mixed bag with all sorts of political views. The thing that unites us is our opposition to police bullying of political protesters. That's pretty much any protester as far as I am concerned, whether it is for Tibetan independence, animal rights, anti-G8, whatever.

It is not a matter for fitwatch how many people attended a march - except to ask that, if it was only 60 people, did it really necessitate a FIT team, section 60 notice and arrests for not removing facemasks?

nine rows said...

shows they're doing something right!

Anonymous said...

pc comment.
How would FITWATCH run a demo when there is intelligence that it might get a bit fruity ? Lets say 'The peoples front of Judea' wanted to march on 'The peoples Tenth Roman legion appreciation society' Because one oppoeses the others extreme, Left wing, Facist anarchistic views with a pinch of comedy!Remember all aspects. But lets concentrate on if things start going wrong because protesters are clashing.........over to you amigo!!

Anonymous said...

despite all the time you've spent posting shite here, or perhaps because of it, you don't seem to have the faintest notion of what fitwatch do. it's strange, then, that you DO seem to have a fair grasp of where the tenth legion were in 130s...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if I was obstructing the cops by stopping the stupid nosy sods sticking a camera under our brolly? Would I have been justified in giving it and him a good shove with the pointy end... I think it is fucking rude and what ever they and the government say, it is an attack on the liberty of the ordinary person to go about their business including peaceful protest. If I was chucking bricks or tipping over cars then I would expect to get photographed but we [ wife and I] went to this demo to show solidarity with Sean Kirtley who is a member of our family and with the animal rights movement.
Having coppers act in this way brings the policy into disrepute. I might well be writing a few angry letters to the usual recipients of this sort of correspondence.
This behaviour is intimidation and is also another way of alienating the general public from the issues, I am an ordinary working bloke and find this offensive.

fitwatch blogger said...

If the previous poster felt able to spend a little time on a few angry letters, I'd be very interested to hear how he got on. Please copy us in to any responses!