The Judicial Review ruling in our favour was delivered at 10am on Thursday 19 February 2004. The Fairford Coach Action have released a press release about the ruling.
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HIGH COURT VICTORY FOR “COACH-NAPPED” PROTESTORS
Anti-war protestors are today celebrating a judgement which ruled that the police acted unlawfully in detaining them for 2½ hours without arrests.
The High Court ruled today that Police violated the Human Rights Act when they illegally detained 120 protestors en route to a demonstration at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. This ruling will impact significantly on policing of future demonstrations and will have implications for the May Day 2001/Oxford Circus cases against the Metropolitan Police later this year.
The ruling was welcomed as a clarification of a draconian power which Parliament has never debated or sanctioned. However the protestors feel that the judgement should have gone further and ruled that the police also denied them two other human rights: freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The protestors have permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal.
Last March, the protestors and their coaches were searched for nearly two hours and forced back to London under a heavy police escort “to prevent a breach of the peace.” The police argued that this was justified because the protestors were, in their view, “well-armed”.
However, giving judgement, Lord Justice May commented that, “for practical purposes none of the articles seized were to be regarded as offensive. Two pairs of scissors would not make much impression on the perimeter fencing of the air base.”
John Halford, the solicitor at Bindman and Partners representing the group, said today that, “no crime had been committed. What the Police did was arbitrarily detain on the flimsiest of pretexts. The Court has laid down a firm marker that this must not happen in future.”
Jane Laporte, the named claimant, said: “attending a demonstration is a basic freedom which everyone should enjoy if a society is to function as a democracy. We hoped that the Court would uphold this freedom, particularly in respect of a war so widely regarded as being waged on unjust grounds. Not only is this an attack on our freedom but the operation and the police’s decision to contest the action is a waste of public money.’
For more information on Fairford Coach Action,
phone Jane Laporte on 07817 483 167 or Jesse Schust on 0781 458 7361
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Journalists
1. Fairford Coach Action is the name of the group of about 60 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 related web articles, and testimonial statements. http://www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk
2. On the 22nd of March 2003, three days after the start of the US/UK war on Iraq, a demonstration, ‘Flowers for Fairford’, organised by the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors (GWI) attracted over 3,000 protestors to the airbase. Local groups organised transport to Fairford from 37 locations across the UK. One other coach (from Swindon) was also turned back by the police.
3. American B-52 planes flew from RAF Fairford airbase to bomb Baghdad (see www.fairfordpeacewatch.com ) and Fairford was the site of excessive policing during the war on Iraq. Within 52 days starting on 6 March 2003, police conducted anti-terror searches on “2,132 occasions in the vicinity of RAF Fairford”. GWI, Berkshire CIA and Liberty have issued a dossier showing how stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 were misused by police in Gloucestershire. For the report “Casualty of War – 8 weeks of counter-terrorism in rural England” and further information see http://www.gwi.org.uk and http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk. The government estimated the added cost of policing the RAF Fairford base was £6.9 milliion. RAF Fairford continues to be upgraded for use by US Stealth (B2) Bombers. Upgrading of RAF Fairford greatly expands the US capacity to “invisibly” deploy tactical nuclear weapons anywhere in the world within hours.
Further info at http://www.gwi.org.uk and
4. 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 8 (which requires justification for interference with private life, including those which impact upon physical and psychological integrity), Article 10 (freedom of speech and expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly).
5. At common law a constable may arrest a person without warrant who 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.
6. 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. Permission to use them will be granted on a case-by-case basis (rates vary). Contact Jesse Schust at 0781 458 7361.
7. The solicitor representing the case, John Halford, can be contacted at Bindman & Partners on 020 7833 4433.
8. The main defendants in the case are 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.
9. The protestors have 28 days in which to lodge their appeal of the Judges’ ruling.
10. The Fairford Coach case was mentioned in Liberty’s dossier on the policing at RAF Fairford, and the case is expected to appear in Amnesty International’s report on Human Rights in the UK.
11. PUBLIC EVENT (26.02.04): To mark the conclusion of our court challenge, Fairford Coach Action invites the press, public and friends to a showing of the two Fairford Coach passenger movies at 7pm-9pm on Thursday 26 February 2004 in G2 at SOAS. Guest speakers (Liberty, Bindmans, Statewatch), and food and drinks.