Criminal Justice Act Update

HSA news release February 2nd 1995

Two hunt saboteurs arrested at the Ashford Valley Foxhunt meet at Chainhurst, Kent, on 12th November 1994 were convited on charges of aggravated trespass at Maidstone Magistrates Court today (2nd February) despite serious flaws in the prosecution case which led defence barristers to ask for the court to rule there was no case to answer.

They were fined £100 and £200 respectively, with costs of £60 awarded against each of them. Both have announced their intention to appeal (which prevents us going into great detail here) and to take the case as far as necessary to protect the right to protest. The Crown Prosecution Service had already dropped all charges against their co-defendant, another saboteur arrested with them, when she agreed to accept a bind-over in January as the evidence against her was so weak.

On Saturday, 33 people were arrested at a demonstration against the Criminal Justice Act in Maidstone in which several protesters were badly beaten by police, including one man who required stitches to a head wound. A phone poll published today in Kent Today , a local newspaper, found 74% of local people thought Kent police overreact to demonstrations about the Criminal Justice Act.

The Crown is not having a happy time so far with the Criminal Justice Act: the cases against saboteurs arrested in the first few weeks of the Act’s implementation are dropping like flies:

A timetable of failure:

  • 9th January 1995, Maidstone: charges dropped against Erika Wirrmann in return for her accepting a bind-over . She agreed as she will be leaving the country this month, so the bind-over will be ineffective.
  • 27th January 1995, Hexham: Dermot Morrow, who was arrested while he was being beaten up by hunt supporters at the Tynedale Foxhunt in November 1994. He is given a conditional discharge on charges of aggravated trespass and an anonymous local resident offers to pay all his costs, as a sign of disgust at the fact he was prosecuted.
  • 27th January 1995, Corby: charges of aggravated trespass are dropped against Nick Penn and another saboteur from Leicester. They had been arrested at the Woodland Pytchley Foxhunt on 12th November 1994 in contravention of an agreement with local police. Inspector Nicholls of Kettering police had told saboteurs they would be allowed to video the hunt but when Nick and his fellow saboteur tried to do so they were arrested. They take the view that the police deliberately broke an agreement, entered into in good faith, in order to intimidate saboteurs and are now taking legal action against Northamptonshire Police.

The Criminal Justice Act is simply not working and we anticipate there will be more acquittals, more charges dropped, and that those police forces who seek to use the act in the aggressive and oppressive way that the Kent and Northamptonshire forces have done will be facing a hefty bill for damages with precious little to show in the way of convictions.

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