First victims of Essex police riot acquitted

HSA news release 15th June 1995

The trial of two saboteurs charged with violent disorder after a demonstration against the Criminal Justice Act at the Essex Foxhunt last November ended in humiliation for Essex police today at Chelmsford Crown Court. The case against one man, Ken Edmundson, was thrown out of court two days ago as there was absolutely no evidence that he had committed any offence.

The remaining defendant, Dale Johnson, was this afternoon found not guilty of causing actual bodily harm to a police officer, but bizarrely was convicted of resisting arrest. He is appealing against this conviction.

The prosecution had alleged that both men had attacked a police officer who was trying to arrest another sab, kicking him unconscious and press reports at the time carried lurid headlines about sab violence, repeating the police allegation that two officers had been badly injured by sabs. In fact, this turned out to be a badly thought out lie. PC Crawley, who supposedly had his arm broken when arresting Dale turned out in court to have sustained a minor sprain to the wrist. The doctor who treated him at the time told the court that Crawley told him he had sustained the injury when someone fell on him. A far cry from the “saboteur mob breaks cop’s arm” of the gutter press reports of the time. It also became clear in court that the officer who was supposedly kicked unconscious, Sergeant Hayter, had just picked Ken out of the crowd at random and accused him of a vicious assault. In fact, PS Hayter had himself attacked several sabs that day, including a woman who was beaten semi-conscious. He was just one of several officers who carried out assaults on sabs, in what was little more than a police riot.

Both men spent over a month in jail on remand as a result of these trumped-up charges and are understandably furious both at the police lies and those sections of the press who uncritically reprinted them, happy to join in the police smears of two innocent peaceful protesters.

Some 31 saboteurs were arrested during the course of the police riot and 23 are still awaiting dates for trial on charges of aggravated trespass and minor public order offences, such as breach of the peace. All the other cases in connection with that day have been dropped.

The collapse of this case comes at a bad time for supporters of Michael Howard’s hardline approach on hunt saboteurs as it follows hard on the heels of the acquittal of five saboteurs on charges of aggravated trespass last week. It also coincides with the publication of the HSA’s report Who’s afraid of the CJA? showing that the Criminal Justice Act has turned out to be an absolute disaster in the first season of its implementation, with 43% of cases being dropped before even reaching court, and only 7% convicted.

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