Court: Westminster Magistrates
Bench: DJ Baraister
Represented by: Bindmans
Charge: S 14
Decision: Guilty, conditional discharge 12 months, Costs £775 % 2 + £20 VS
Both Defendants had participated in a road block in Parliament Square on April 18.
DJ Baraister appeared to want to show firmness and at times she seemed to be irritated with the Defence.
The evidence of the arresting officers gave an impression of stock answers and some of what they said was not supported by the Bodycam evidence. The Senior Officer was clearly very experienced in tackling the issue of proportionality of the s 14 condition.
The DJ interrupted Defence Counsel repeatedly to challenge him.
The DJ initially opposed cross-examination of the Defendants on their motives, on the basis that their beliefs on climate change were irrelevant to the matter being determined. Said that beliefs do not affect proportionality. Counsel had to insist that their motives were relevant to the defence of necessity. Both Defendants looked shocked at this point. Eventually the DJ conceded but said she would stop them if they strayed into issues that she deemed irrelevant. In the event both Defendants were excellent witnesses in this respect.
-Defendants’ belief that civil disobedience is necessary shows that they had no intention to move when requested
-XR had informed the police that “they did not intend to listen to conditions because the government was not listening to theirs”.
-Officers state they made sure they were heard even though the defendants’ ignored them
-Chief Inspector had reasonable belief that the condition was necessary to maintain public order, and this is a proportionate interference with Arts 10 & 11 HRA.
Proportionality of s 14 Condition not proven. No evidence in decisions log that Senior Officer’s evaluation was based on contemporaneous evidence and that he considered protesters’ rights and less drastic options eg. smaller assembly.
Condition banned protest from everywhere other than Marble Arch. S 14 does not allow banning of protest.
Burden is on the Prosecution to prove that defendants heard the condition, regardless of whether they were minded to obey it or not. Bodycam inconclusive.
In the case of Defendant 1, the officer is heard saying that he will give her a couple of minutes (he stated 5 minutes in his evidence) to consider, but he proceeded to arrest her after 30 seconds. He could not have known whether she was considering moving or not. Bodycam does not show that officer bent down to talk to her, this is denied.
In the case of Defendant 2, she was an onlooker who decided to join the protest a few minutes before the arrest, but had no idea about s 14. When being taken away she is heard saying “Am I being arrested? And, to someone else, “I don’t know why I am being arrested”. The officer testified that although he believed she had heard him, it was “possible” that she had not.
Defendant’s had genuine belief that risk is imminent and action proportionate & necessary.
Some of the points raised by the Defence might have given scope for a more sympathetic ruling, but the DJ accepted the case for the prosecution entirely, in particular that the Defendant’s had no intention of moving and had pretended not to hear. She did not agree that the s 14 condition had banned the protest. On necessity, she said that the defence was “very far” from proving the immediacy of the risk (Defendant 1 had referred to 12 years, and Defendant 2 to 3 years before catastrophe, although both had referred to people dying now due to pollution).
The defendants expected their defences to succeed, which may have been over-optimistic. In future it may be fair to warn rebels that the courts almost never accept the necessity defence, as there is a policy view that it would open the floodgates.
Other defendants who state that they did not hear may find that their defence is disbelieved if they also declare their commitment to civil disobedience.