Seven protestors have been jailed in the last couple of weeks in London and it is likely that more will follow soon.
Obviously they deserve our support and also we must do everything possible to avoid others being imprisoned.
On 28th March 2009 a number of people travelled to Welling in south-east London to protest against a Blood and Honour gig at the Duchess of Edinburgh Pub. On their way back there was a fight between some of the protestors and fascists on the platform of Welling train station. This led to 23 people being arrested in total, and 22 charged with conspiracy to commit Violent Disorder. This was too many to fit into one court room so the case split in two, with the first 11 people going on trial on 6th June. Just in case you’re wondering whether there were any problems having fascists and anti-fascists on trial together, don’t worry! None of the fascists were arrested or charged.
On Tuesday 28th June, on the 17th day of the trial and after 13 hours of deliberation, the Jury returned verdicts. Four people were convicted by eleven-to-one majority and three by ten-to-two. Four were sentenced immediately to 21 months, three are awaiting reports, two are on remand and one is on bail and will be sentenced in August.
Four people have been acquitted and we wish them all the best in suing the police which they mightily deserve not only for having the worry of a court case hanging over them for over two years but also in one case being unable to work as a nurse because of comments by police on his criminal record check.
The second trial will start on 12th September. Obviously this means we cannot comment in detail on the evidence or the consequences for anti-fascist protests and the wider issue of conspiracy just yet.
Francis Fernie was jailed for 12 months at Kingston Crown Court for Violent Disorder on the 7th July. He is only the second person to be sentenced for section 2 of the public order act out of over 30 charged from the student protests and March 26th demo.
When Edward Woolard was sentenced to 32 Months on 11th January for dropping a fire extinguisher from the roof of Millbank, we warned (Freedom issue 7202, 29th January, page 11, ’32 reasons not to plead guilty’) that a guilty plea would not enable people to avoid imprisonment for violent disorder however trivial the circumstances. francis threw two sticks on the 26th March causing no damage or injury. When his photo was put out he handed himself in and made a full confession in interview. He had no previous convictions and, having just finished his A-levels, was working with learning impaired adults prior to taking up a place at university this autumn. Judge Nicholas Price noted all this and said he was giving a much lighter sentence than he was originally thinking of, but quoted Lord Justice Thomas in the case of Alhaddad (appeals against sentences from the Gaza demonstrations in 2008/9). He said “In our judgement, anybody who engages in violence of this kind must go into custody. They cannot be dealt with by community sentences. The protection of the public and of the police demands that the serious offence of violent disorder on this scale, to which each pleaded guilty, is marked by a custodial sentence. The length of custodial sentences will, of course, depend upon a clear and close analysis of the events in question and the activity and circumstances of each defendant. As we have endeavoured to set out in this case, political motivation can play no part.”From this we think that the ‘starting point’ for Millbank, 9th December and 26th March will be similar to the Gaza 10th January 2009 demonstration i.e two years three months for prisoners who came to protest peacefully but were ‘caught up’ in the events of the day.
Rhys Gray received a eight week curfew on a tag and has to pay £2,400 compensation for criminal damage to a set of traffic lights and a window in Parliament Square on 9th December.
Of the 34 people who were arrested on the London demonstration of 30th June, 18 have been charged with various offences. Good luck to all of them. Possessing items with intent to cause criminal damage is potentially a very serious charge carrying a 10 year maximum, but we don’t think the art student allegedly with a paint filled water pistol should be packing her toothbrush just yet.
All currently held at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, PO Box 757, Du Cane Road, London W12 0AE.
-Andy Baker A5768CE
-Thomas Blak A5728CE
-Sean Cregan A5769CE
-Phil De Souza A5766CE
-Ravinder Gill A5770CE
-Austin Jackson A5729CE
LDMG in Freedom Magazine