Dan is the man

IssueSeptember 2008
News by Dan Viesnik

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 the DSEi arms fair. Irene Willis was conducting a silent vigil and blockade for victims of the arms trade, and I was her legal observer and support person.

During the one-and-a-half day appeal hearing, the two police witnesses gave evidence which conflicted with the CCTV footage. The bench ruled that it was not satisfied the search was carried out for a legitimate purpose, and that inconsistencies in the evidence prejudiced the case. The appeal was therefore upheld.

The Gillan and Quinton case, supported by Liberty, went before the Lords in 2006. It seemed to effectively give the police carte blanche to use s44 against protestors.

Hopefully my case shows that the courts won’t always stand for abuse of anti-terrorism powers.