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SOCPA challenges continue

The week of anti-Trident demonstrations in mid-March saw arrests made under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) both outside parliament and at Aldermaston.

Campaigners from Aldermaston Womens Peace Camp (AWPC) and Block the Builders brought Parliament Square to a halt on the day of the Trident debate (see story in news section). After four hours the last was released and then arrested - with eight others - for obstructing the highway and participating in an unauthorised demonstration around Parliament under section 132 of SOCPA. They appeared at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court on 27 March.

Aldermaston trespass

Juliet McBride, also from AWPC, was arrested on 12 March after spending two hours on a highsecurity fence surrounding the site where the new Orion laser is being built. Juliet was held for more than 10 hours and charged with Criminal Trespass under Section 128 of SOCPA.

A number of SOCPA trials are currently underway. On 15 March, the trial of Sylvia Boyes and Helen John was adjourned at Harrogate Magistrates Court after it was questioned whether Menwith Hill base should have been included under the new SOCPA legislation that makes all trespass a criminal offence within 'designated areas' around military bases and other sites. The district judge adjourned the trial until 17 April so lawyers could look into this legal point. Both were arrested on 1 April 2006 as they entered Menwith Hill US spy base in North Yorkshire to challenge the law on the day it came into force.

Barbara's victory

Barbara Tucker, who has been protesting in Parliament Square alongside Brian Haw almost continuously since last year, became the subject of wholly disproportionate bail conditions denying her the right to enter a 1km area around parliament earlier this year.

On 8 March, the judge at a crown court hearing lifted all conditions and allowed her to return and peacefully protest around parliament.

Mil and Maya

Finally, Maya Anne Evans and new PN co-editor Milan Rai, who were arrested in connection with the “Remember Fallujah” peace camp last November, will be on trial on 10 April (see Events, p12).

They're also taking their earlier SOCPA convictions to the European Court of Human Rights.