Day 2 of the Trial
Firstly a clarification: the format for the four judicial reviews is not as stated in the post on the first day of the trial. In fact the barristers representing the plaintiffs will each make their cases, then the barristers acting for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will respond to all of them, starting with the most recent and ending with the first one. Then the barristers acting for the plaintiffs will have an opportunity to respond.
Tuesday 29th May – Day Two in Court
This was a packed day which saw evidence from all four Judicial Reviews.
The First Judicial Review: 15 Pre-emptive Arrests for Breach of the Peace
- It began with the first Judicial Review about 15 people arrested pre-emptively for breach of the peace (R (on the application of Hicks & Others) V the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis). Karon Monaghan QC showed video evidence of the stop and search and eventual arrest of the Charing Cross 10. The first video is available here. The second is here.
- Ms Monaghan summed up with arguments relating to articles 5 and 8 of the European Court of Human Rights and brought up the fact that the detentions appeared to be punitive. “The intention was not to bring them to court, it was simply to remove them from the streets.”
The Second Judicial Review: Minor Arrested Pre-Emptively for Criminal Damage
- The second JR concerned a minor (known as M) who was 16 years old at the time. He was stopped by police while walking towards Soho Square carrying a megaphone. He was searched and subsequently arrested pre-emptively for criminal damage when police found two permanent markers in his bag. The minor had his DNA, fingerprints and photographs taken and he was held for eight hours. Eventually he was released without charge as, according to the police, “there was no evidence to suggest he would commit an offence.”
- While the facts were not in dispute that the minor had two pens, a bulging backpack and a megaphone on his person, the stories from the police officers who arrested him varied. Initially the officers’ notebooks and the reports which they filled out mentioned the minor’s megaphone and his stated intention to protest and a ‘rude and obnoxious’ demeanor as the reason why they searched him. However, in their subsequent statements the officers had claimed it was M’s bulging backpack which had raised their suspicions as they feared it could contain rocks or spray paint.
- It emerged that there were ‘anti-demonstration patrols’ of police going up and down Oxford Street on the day of the royal wedding.
- The difference in the earlier and later accounts given by the officers was so large that the officers in question were called to the witness stand. Their testimony did not particularly clarify the facts. The barrister mentioned it was unusual that Constable Whitwell’s memory of the incident appeared to grow better and more complex as time went on.
- In his testimony Constable Whitwell said he initially approached M asking ‘why have you got a megaphone’. M responded ‘I want to express my opinion, it’s my right to do so’. Whitwell stated that “to my mind this was very strange.” Constable Whitwell’s written statement mentioned that “a megaphone is not normally a tool for peaceful, non-provocative protest.”
- The court was shown footage taken by a concerned passer-by of the minor’s arrest. The minor was in handcuffs, in tears, repeatedly stating “I didn’t do anything” while the passerby asked the police on why the minor was under arrest. The passerby, hearing the police’s reasons, reacted with audible disbelief and dubbed the police’s actions ‘precrime’.
The Third Judicial Review: Raid on a Squat in Camberwell
- A squat in Camberwell was raided by the Territorial Support Group (TSG – i.e. riot police) on April 27th 2011 – the day before the royal wedding. Despite not being officially anything to do with the royal wedding the Metropolitan Police’s Gold Commander (officer in charge of the policing of the royal wedding) had received regular updates about the raid, and stated to the media at midday on the 27th that he was “relieved that no evidence of a conspiracy to disrupt the royal wedding had been uncovered.”
- The TSG police officers who carried out the search were briefed by the royal wedding police team and instructed by commander Broadhurst and Commander Johnson who both held key roles in the policing of the royal wedding.
- The search warrant was for stolen goods – specifically bicycles and computers. However no bike parts were seized – despite there being plenty around as a bike workshop was run on the property.
- The items which were seized included computers, all toothbrushes from the bathrooms, and flyers about a zombie themed event in Soho Square on the day of the royal wedding (which were taken directly to the silver command officer). It was not in dispute that the toothbrushes were taken to obtain DNA.
- “We are asking the court to draw inferences on what the motivations were of the police during the searches” the plaintiff’s barrister stated.
- The police do not deny that there was an ulterior motive to the searches, or that the sole reason for the timing of the search was the royal wedding, but they insist that gathering intelligence on what they believed to be an extremist group was not the dominant motive, therefore it was not unlawful.
- The plaintiff’s barrister argued that evidence gathering was the dominant motive but that the police did not have enough information to apply for a warrant on that basis, so the stolen goods was a cover story. (No stolen goods were recovered.)
The Fourth Judicial Review: Police Raid on Grow Heathrow Squat
Grow Heathrow is a community gardens project on the site of former plant nursery. It grows herbs, vegetables, and runs art workshops and bike workshops. It is well-loved by the community. It was also raided on the 27th of April (the day before the royal wedding) by TSG riot police. The claimants in this Judicial Review are represented by Bindmans solicitors with Stephen Cragg as their barrister. This case didn’t get very long before the court broke up for the day.
- It was pointed out that geographically this had very little to do with the royal wedding.
- The reason for the search was intelligence/a suspicion about the royal wedding. The police were searching for paintbombs (glass bulbs filled with paint). None were found
- As at the Camberwell squat, none of the residents had any intention to go to either the royal wedding or anti-royal wedding demonstrations.
- Up to 40 officers arrived with a “surprising show of force”. When the residents asked to see search warrants they were grabbed and pushed. No one saw any warrants for over 40 minutes.
Coming up on Wednesday the 30th:
Wednesday in court (from 10:00 AM onwards) will see the conclusion of the Grow Heathrow Judicial Review and the beginning of the police’s defence for all four cases.