Civil Liberties

1 March 2009News

On 5 February, the Court of Appeal quashed Ministry of Defence bye-laws banning “camping in tents, caravans, trees or otherwise” near the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire.

The case, brought by the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp (AWPC), hinged on whether the ban on camping violated rights to freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed by articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, now part of English law.

In delivering the court’…

1 March 2009News

On 12 February, after a surprisingly brief trial (the judge cut the presentation of complex evidence down to one day), peace activist and former Nottingham University student Hicham Yezza came closer to being deported from Britain after a jury found him guilty of lying to immigration officials about the expiry of his visa – “securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means”.

Sentencing is due on 6 March, at which point the government is likely to resume its campaign to…

1 February 2009Review

Free exhibition at the British Library, Euston Rd, London, NW1, runs until 1 March 2009. Mike Ashley, Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights, British Library Publishing Division, 2008; ISBN 978 0 7123 5029 7; 144pp; £15.95

This timely British Library exhibition and accompanying book reflect the civil liberties debate moving into the mainstream and allow an important opportunity to reflect on the history of the struggle and to value what has been achieved so far.

On the one hand it emphasises the importance of codifying rights on paper (laws, manifestos etc…) and the power of this in sustaining ideas over time. It starts with the Magna Carta, the most significant provision of which was brought into…

3 November 2008Comment

Sitting in front of a panel of MPs and lords for the second time this year, Peace News abandoned etiquette and spoke plainly. The problem with giving evidence about the law on protest we said, is that parliament, the judiciary and the police have failed to take the action they should have - against the illegal invasion of Iraq, or those causing devastating climate change, for example.

In such circumstances, it is difficult to be forced to discuss “the policing of protest”, when…

3 September 2008News

In Westminster Magistrates Court on 25 July, an admission was made by the prosecutors that lent weight to the belief that the Serious Organised Crime & Police Act (SOCPA) can no longer be used against protestors near Parliament.
Barbara Tucker was appearing accused of causing alarm and distress to Alan Duncan MP by haranguing him outside Parliament for voting for the Iraq war.
In the prosecution case summary appeared the remarkable statement: “Owing to changes in SOCPA…

1 September 2008News

On 8 August, at Southwark Crown Court, I successfully challenged the use of section 44 of the Terrorism Act (2000), which enables a constable to “stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist”.

I was appealing against a conviction from Westminster magistrates’ court for “obstructing a police officer”. I had been observed on CCTV inserting a camera memory card into my mouth during a s44 search.

This happened outside Downing Street last September, during…

1 May 2008News

Campaigners challenging restrictions on protest around Parliament, who deluged the Home Office with responses to its consultation on the issue, have been rewarded by a government announcement that the most controversial sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) will be scrapped. However, while the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill fully repeals sections 132-138 of SOCPA, justice secretary Jack Straw left the way open for restrictions to creep back in.

While…

16 April 2008Feature

Police have intervened across the country to prevent screenings of the new campaigning film On the Verge about the Brighton-based anti-arms trade group “Smash EDO”. Police action succeeded in preventing the film's premiere on 17 March. Over the following days, there were reports of police and council intimidation of cafes and community centres in Southampton, Bristol, Bath and Hereford that had planned to show the film.

The film bills itself as “the story of one of the most…

1 April 2008News

On 8 March, Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp (AWPC) read in The Independent that we were packing up our camp for the last time; famous people were mourning our loss and messages of support were flooding in.

This followed the judgement on 6 March at the High Court in a judicial review, brought by AWPC, of the legality of three Military Lands Act Byelaws introduced (as part of a package with SOCPA) in 2007, one of which prohibited camping.
We had argued against this, on…

1 February 2008News

Despite heavy police presence and last minute restrictions, about 150 activists participated in an anti-vivisection demonstration against Sequani Limited in Ledbury, Worcestershire, on 15 December. Sequani tests pharmaceutical drugs, chemical compounds and medical devices on animals.

Five people were arrested as they tried to block one of the main roads by locking-on with arm tubes. They were detained for 10 hours before being released on bail, until February 2008.

On the…

1 February 2008News

Not only did the Nepali democracy movement manage to effectively de-throne the hated King Gyanendra (see p4), but an historic ruling in December saw the Supreme Court legitimise gay rights in the Kingdom. The landmark judgement came after four activists from the Blue Diamond Society - Nepal's only organisation fighting for the rights of sexual minorities - filed a public interest litigation back in May 2007.

Not only did judges order the enactment of new laws protecting the rights…

1 February 2008News

Saturday 12 January saw a brilliant number and diversity of protest and campaign slogans displayed in the centre of Aberystwyth.

Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network invited the public, local organisations and political parties to join the nationwide day of response to the Government's consultation paper, “Managing Protest around Parliament”.

The paper proposes “harmonising” the conditions that can be imposed on marches and assemblies.

Harmonisation is widely believed…

1 February 2008News

Campaigners against the government's identity cards scheme sometimes warn that it will become Labour's Poll Tax. There may be more truth to this than people realise.

For the past two years Labour's Scottish Executive in Edinburgh has carried out an ID card experiment on the million elderly and disabled people of Scotland. Deeming this a success, Labour is now rolling the thing out in England.

Most will be familiar with Transport for London's Oystercard - a chipped “smartcard”…

3 December 2007Comment

In 1795... there were treason trials and transportations, while the threat of execution was stayed only by juries who refused to condemn their countrymen for their opinions. ...the actual London populace - faced with unemployment and shortages of bread as the French war continued - were far less amenable to the usual state slogans. “On the day the King went to open the parliament... the crowd which was immense, Hissed and groaned and called out No Pitt - No War - Peace Peace, Bread Bread.”…

1 December 2007News

In another serious loss of our ancient freedoms, some civilians have been given the right to break into our homes, namely bailiffs executing warrants for the removal of our belongings to defray unpaid fines or other civil debts.

This happened in 2005, when the Domestic Violence, Crimes and Victims Act (2004) came into force. Thus we read in “Schedule 4A, Section 3”, “An authorised officer may enter and search any premises for the purpose of executing a warrant of distress issued...…