25 December, 2006
As you see from a few days ago, I submitted a picture of what I was doing at 5pm on the 5th December. BBC Radio 4’s PM program then put thousands of them on their blog. He is what I sent in ……. >>
My picture on the BBC PM blog at:
with the Radio4 PM blog gallery 21 at:
13 December, 2006
Curent mainstream reportage below:-
LAW LORDS RULE TO PROTECT FREEDOM TO PROTEST
Anti-war protestors are today celebrating a ruling by the House of Lords that police acted unlawfully in turning them away from a demonstration and detaining them on their coaches for 2½ hours without arrests, violating their right to freedom of speech and assembly and freedom from arbitrary detention.
The police had argued, at the hearing in October, that they were in fact protecting the protestors’ right to life, by preventing 120 of them from reaching protests at RAF Fairford (Gloucestershire). The officer in charge of policing the protests stated that, since the US military had reserved the right to use “deadly force” in the event of an intrusion into the base, “had a member of the public been killed or injured by one of the armed personnel guarding the B52 aircraft…the political consequences would have been extremely damaging to the coalition partners”. Helen Wickham, a coach passenger, said: “I think it is deeply worrying that Gloucestershire police, confronted with the possibility of US troops shooting unarmed protestors, chose to defend the US use of lethal force over our right to protest. I wonder if there was pressure on them to do so.”
The protestors have always maintained that the actions of the police were both unlawful and unreasonable. Many have doubts about the legality of searches which took nearly two hours and included the seizure of a Frisbee and a bag of toy soldiers. It was only once the passengers had reboarded the coaches after being searched that they were told they would not be allowed to continue to the demonstrations. The forced return, a 2 ½ hour journey back to London, was made without toilet breaks and under a heavy police escort “to prevent a breach of the peace.”
The ruling was welcomed as a clarification of a draconian power which Parliament has never debated or sanctioned and which many protestors feel is used inappropriately to stifle dissent.
Giving judgment, Lord Bingham said the case had “raised[d] important questions on the right of the private citizen to demonstrate against government policy and the powers of the police to curtail exercise of that right.”
They had done so wholly unlawfully in this case, their Lordships held, because the Human Rights Act had brought about “a constitutional shift” creating for the first time a right to protest which the common law had previously been “reluctant and hesitant” to acknowledge (para 34 of the ruling). Freedom of expression was “an essential foundation of democratic society” (para 36) and there had been no reason to restrict it in this case. Rejecting the police’s argument that suspicions about some of the coach passengers entitled them to turn back everyone, Lord Bingham commented:
“There was no reason (other than her refusal to give her name, which however irritating to the police was entirely lawful) to view the claimant as other than a committed, peaceful demonstrator. It was wholly disproportionate to restrict her exercise of her rights under articles 10 and 11 because she was in the company of others some of whom might, at some time in the future, breach the peace.”
This ruling will impact significantly on policing of future demonstrations and will have implications for the Austin/Saxby May Day 2001 cases against the Metropolitan Police to be heard early next year. On Mayday 2001, police detained thousands in Oxford Circus for seven hours to “prevent a breach of peace”.
Jane Laporte, the claimant in the case, was determined that the police’s actions should not go unchecked. She said today:
“The willingness of the police to bow to political pressure, by stifling dissent and arbitrarily detaining protestors in this way, brings the role of the police as facilitators of peaceful protest in to question. They should, as the judgement found, be the facilitators not suppressors of peaceful protest. I am delighted the House of Lords has said their actions were completely unlawful and a human rights breach.”
Jesse Schust, a passenger and legal observer on the coaches, said: “It is particularly ironic that the police violated our human rights by detaining us, when we sought to demonstrate against an illegal war that has devastated Iraq and left over 100,000 dead.”
John Halford, a public law and human rights specialist at Bindman and Partners, represented the campaigners. He said today:
“The House of Lords judgement is a wake up call for democracy. Under this government we have seen a sad and steady erosion of the rights that underpin democracy: those to express dissent and to do so collectively with others in public. The Lords have given a principled judgement on where the line should and must be drawn: peaceful protest can only be prevented in the most extreme circumstances which are very far from this. These campaigners wanted to protest lawfully against an unlawful war. The Lords have unhesitatingly said they had that right.”
For more information on Fairford Coach Action, phone Jane Laporte on 07817 483 167 or Jesse Schust on 07814 587 361 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Journalists
1. Fairford Coach Action is the name of the group of more than 90 passengers who have collectively decided to pursue a Judicial Review case against the police’s actions on 22nd March 2003. Full background information is available on the website. Visit the site for links to the full judgement, related web articles, statements of support, and testimonial statements from coach passengers. http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk
2. On 22nd March 2003, three days after the start of the US/UK war on Iraq, a demonstration organised by the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors (GWI), attracted over 3,000 protestors to the airbase. Groups travelled to Fairford from 37 locations across the UK. American B-52 planes flew from RAF Fairford airbase to bomb Baghdad (see http://www.fairfordpeacewatch.com/ ) and Fairford was the site of excessive policing during the war on Iraq. (Within 52 days (from 6 March 2003), police conducted over 2000 anti-terror searches in the vicinity.) GWI, Berkshire CIA and Liberty issued a dossier showing how stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 were misused by police. For the report “Casualty of War – 8 weeks of counter-terrorism in rural England” see http://www.gwi.org.uk and http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk The Government estimated the added cost of policing RAF Fairford was £6.9 million. The airbase continues to be upgraded for use by US Stealth (B2) Bombers, greatly expanding the US capacity to “invisibly” deploy tactical nuclear weapons anywhere in the world within hours. Further info at http://www.gwi.org.uk and http://www.atkinsglobal.com/skills/design/sectors/aviationdefence/jfsiraffairford
3. The Appellant in the case is The Queen on the application of Jane Laporte. The respondent or main defendant is The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary. The two interested parties are the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.
4. The solicitor representing the case, John Halford, can be contacted at Bindman & Partners on 020 7833 4433. Also representing are Michael Fordham of Blackstone Chambers and Ben Emmerson QC of Matrix Chambers.
5. The committee of five Law Lords who heard and ruled on the case are: Lord Bingham of Cornhill (Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary), Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Carswell, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, and Lord Mance.
6 Liberty made a submission to the House of Lords, supporting the passengers’ case. The Fairford coach case is listed in Amnesty International’s report: Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International’s Concerns in the Region, January-June 2004, and was mentioned in Liberty’s dossier on the policing at RAF Fairford. Other supporters include Ken Livingstone, David Drew MP (Stroud), Lynne Jones MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, and Mark Thomas (see http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk press for quotes).
7. Interviews with passengers from the coaches can be arranged (please enquire – see contact details above). Dramatic, high-quality, digital video footage and photographs are also available. To use this footage, contact Catherine Bonnici of Journeyman Films ( email@example.com Tel: 020 8941 9994 Fax: 020 8941 9899).
This is a press release about today’s ruling by the law lords.
8. Professional photos of the coach detention are available. Guy Smallman was one of several accredited journalists who were on the coaches. He has a selection of pictures from the day. Contact Guy Smallman 07956 429 059 with enquiries. (These photos are in a suitable format to be wired directly to the picture desk).
9. The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in October 2000. It requires the police and other public authorities to avoid breaching key European Convention Human Rights Articles save where legislation makes this impossible. Amongst the key rights are Article 5 (deprivation of liberty must be justified in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law and on one of the five grounds listed in paragraph (1) of the Article), Article 10 (freedom of speech and expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly).
10. At common law a constable may arrest a person without warrant whom he or she reasonably believes will commit a breach of the peace in the immediate future, even though at the time of the arrest such person has not committed any breach. This power is subject to a number of strict restrictions, however: the belief must relate to an act or threatened act harming any person or, in his presence, his property, or which puts a person in fear of such harm; the belief must relate to the likely actions of the particular individual or individuals against whom the power is used; and when the particular individual is acting lawfully at the time the power is used, the threat of his committing a breach of the peace must be sufficiently real and imminent to justify the use of such a draconian power.
home Homepage: http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk
13 December, 2006
The Law Lords have made judgement today that has wide inplications ….
Victory for anti-war protesters
Campaigners have won a legal battle to prove their rights to protest were violated when police stopped them from attending an anti-war demonstration.
About 120 Iraq war protesters were held on coaches by police near RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in March 2003.
The High Court and Court of Appeal had already ruled police acted unlawfully in holding protesters on the coaches.
But on Wednesday Law Lords ruled police did violate the right to freedom of expression and lawful assembly.
This overturned a previous High Court ruling that police did not violate the protesters’ rights in this respect.
Five Law Lords also dismissed a cross-appeal by the police against the “unlawful” decision to hold protesters on the coaches.
Peace campaigner Jane Laporte, under whose name the case was brought, said: “I am absolutely overjoyed.
“The Lords have confirmed that freedom to protest is something that should be treasured in this country and police don’t have the right to take it away.”
Gloucestershire Police said it was “disappointed” with the decision, which it accepted, and added that officers acted in “good faith”.
It also expressed “regret” for any inconvenience and said it would now review its policies.
“Policing in [such] scenarios is difficult and complex, with competing rights and responsibilities having to be assessed and acted upon in real time by operational commanders,” said a spokesman.
“Intelligence pointed to the potential for further disorder at the base and it was against this background that the decision was made to stop and turn back the three coaches travelling to RAF Fairford from London.”
Lord Bingham said: “It was entirely reasonable to suppose that some of those on board the coaches might wish to cause damage and injury to the base, and to enter the base with a view to causing further damage and injury.
“It was not reasonable to suppose that even these passengers simply wanted a violent confrontation with the police, which they could have had in the lay-by.
“Nor was it reasonable to anticipate an outburst of disorder on arrival of these passengers in the assembly area or during the procession to the base.”
The Lords ruled the police actions were unlawful because they were not prescribed by law and were disproportionate.
Alex Gask, legal officer for human rights group Liberty, which had intervened as an interested party in the appeal, said: “Nothing less than our freedom of speech was at stake in this case.
“Unmerited concerns (on the part of the police) about some future breach of the peace cannot justify the denial of this fundamental right.”
Ben Emmerson QC, representing the protesters, told the Law Lords that it was a fundamental right in Britain for citizens to gather to demonstrate peacefully on matters of public interest.
He said it was the responsibility of the police to maintain public order “in a manner which fully respects the rights of those who wish to demonstrate peacefully”.
Police who authorised two coach-loads of protesters to be stopped and passengers searched while being detained – and then escorted back to London – had breached that right, he said.
Police lawyers had argued that rather than interfering with passengers’ human rights, they were upholding them by protecting their lives, which would have been put at risk if they had broken into the air base.
5 December, 2006
BBC Radio 4, asking for listeners to send in pix of what they’re doing, or find interesting at 5PM today.
This is my contribution.
Here’s how to send us your picture for Window On Your World.
By Post: Window On Your World, PM, Room G601, BBC News Centre, London W12 7RJ.
Sorry – we can’t return any…in the style of Vision On.
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org – please put Window On Your World in the subject line.
From your mobile phone – 07725 100 100 – you must mark it Photo for PM.
However you send them, feel free to add any information you like. Maybe you can tell us what the picture shows, or where it was taken, or whether it’s typical of your view of the world at 5pm – or how long you’ve been listening to us. It’s up to you.
Thank you for taking part. Tomorrow, we’ll let you know where the pictures can be seen.
Please accept my offering to your “Window On Your World” report
Well, in common with many, here I am at 5pm, sitting in front of a computer in my living room / office. Hopefully a slight variation from some, in that there are two cameras involved. The one I took it with, and the other, a webcam enabling me to have a video conversation, discussing some work.
Alan Lodge, Nottingham
2 December, 2006
Sorry for not keeping up with many postings on my blog here. But over recent times, I’ve been adding much of my work to Nottingham & UK Indymedia.
Please check Tash’s ‘collected’ Posts @
1 December, 2006
Wednesday 6 December 2006 :: 18:30 – 19:30
Lecture Theatre, Belgrave Centre, Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Distinguished Academic Lawyer, Professor Sir David Williams, is visiting Nottingham Trent University on Wednesday 6 December 2006 to deliver a lecture “Public Order and Freedom of Expression”.
Sir David’s lecture will be concerned with both the traditional law and principles relating to freedom of assembly and with the impact of new legislation and new responses with regard, for instance, to anti-terrorism, to race and religion, and to new forms of protest. It will involve an inquiry into many pressing issues of legal, political and social concern.
Sir David has taught at the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford and has served on many Royal Commissions, government advisory groups, councils and committees (including Council on Tribunals, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Commission on Energy and the Environment, and the Clean Air Council). Knighted in 1991, he is an honorary Queen’s Counsel and was President of Wolfson College, Cambridge, for twelve years where he was Vice-Chancellor for seven years (1989-1996).
This event will be held from 18.30-19.30 on Wednesday 6 December 2006 in the Lecture Theatre of Nottingham Law School’s Belgrave Centre, Nottingham Trent University, Chaucer Street, Nottingham. It is free to attend although places must be booked in advance by emailing us or calling +44 (0) 115 848 8786. Please be advised that audience members are requested to be seated by 18.25 and latecomers may not be admitted. A drinks reception will take place immediately after the lecture.
For further details please contact:
Tel: +44 (0)115 848 8786