NCAFC is the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts: www.anticuts.com
All 3 activists were arrested and held in police cells over the weekend, charged with road traffic offences.
At their bail hearing on Monday 19th, the prosecution alleged that debris fell from the banner, causing a danger to road users, but also stated that no damage or injury was caused. The defendents denied the claim that they caused any danger to road users, and pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution asked for bail to be denied to all 3 activists because they believe them to be members of the group NCAFC, because of the Liberal Democrat conference and in the case of Ed, because of a previous conviction for aggravated trespass in relation to Kingsnorth Climate Camp, and because he is currently on bail for being part of the sit-in at Fortnum and Mason, where the senior police officer on site described the protesters as “Non-violent” and “Sensible”. It is of course worth noting that of the 145 original arrestees in that case, 6 were not charged and 109 have had charges dropped, and the remaining defendents have all pleaded not guilty, and are yet to be convicted of breaking the law.
Ed did not break any bail conditions – the only conditions of bail were to stay out of London for the Royal Wedding (and Ed did not go to the Royal Wedding, thus upholding his bail condition), and to attend court.
The other two activists who have clean records were released on bail, with conditions to keep them out of the city centre of Birmingham, as defined by the inner ring road. Ed however was remanded in custody, with a further bail hearing set for the following Monday (26th), meaning he will have spent at least 10 days in custody without trial.
In considering her verdict, the district judge specifically ruled out the existence of the conference in her decision making. The judge said that she could not be satisfied that Ed would not committ further offences if released on bail.
Since this offence, and the other unproven offence and conviction all relate to previous protests, we can only interpret this as meaning that she felt that Ed would peacefully protest again if he was not imprisoned, and that she feels it is the courts job to prevent protest by locking people up before it is shown that they have even broken the law.
The decision to hold the activists over the weekend was in itself overly heavy policing of what is a very tame form of protest, but the decision of a court to remand someone on custody – and remember this means that Ed has not had a trial yet and has not been found to have broken any laws – is almost unbelievable.
It raises the general issue of the use of the Criminal Justice system to clamp down on political dissent. This happened because the police keep dragging peaceful protesters to court, in this case almost certainly motivated by preventing embarrassing scenes at the Liberal Democrat conference, which is not the job of the courts. Remand is entirely disproportionate given that it is highly unlikely that either action, even if proven, would result in a custodial sentence.
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