My lawyer exuded politeness as he worked through his list of questions. “So Chief Inspector, would you describe the area of Northwood as a semi-rural district?” The public order bronze commander didn’t pause to think. “No, I would describe it as a busy urban district.”
The immaculate Matrix Chambers barrister immediately picked up the chief inspector’s witness statement “Would you read the last sentence from the fourth paragraph?” The inspector realised he had walked into a trap, his face reddened as he quickly read the sentence: “This highway is a main thoroughfare running through a semi-rural residential district.”
By the time the bronze commander left the witness box he had conceded that the Section 14 which had been issued to arrest and prosecute us had not actually been emplaced correctly. I turned to Adam: “Wow, hope I never come up against you.” He smiled humbly: “That went much better than planned.”
The inspector hadn’t taken a seat before the judge ordered a break to the trial of the Northwood Six. We jubilantly filed out of Court 1 at Watford Magistrates and congregated in the lobby. It was more exciting than LA Law and it was only the first morning of a two-day trial for a Public Order offence.
The other five were representing themselves on charges of causing serious disruption to the community by taking part in a die-in outside the Northwood military base on the second anniversary of the massacre of a wedding party in Haji Nabu that killed 47 Afghan civilians.
It was more or less an open and shut case. We had indeed blocked the road outside the military base and the six of us had returned to the highway after being removed. There was a flicker of hope after the obliteration of the chief inspector’s evidence but the case continued as the judge upheld the grounds for our arrests.
It was the afternoon and I was standing in the witness box feeling rather tired and hoping the experience would be over quickly. The CPS lawyer powered through her questions making notes on my answers as she went: “So would you say that by blocking the road you were causing traffic to be diverted thus causing disruption?” I was in an trusting mood and had completely forgotten the golden rule of never giving a yes-or-no answer to a leading question.
The questioning continued and I slowly undid all the hard work of my lawyer by conceding that I was wilfully blocking the highway. I returned to my seat with the thought that perhaps being completely open and trusting is not the best policy in a court of law. I felt queasy.
The next day the other five gave their evidence in the witness box. My lawyer handed me a note – “She’s brilliant.” Angie Zelter was effortlessly traversing international law and arguing necessity as a defence to our actions. The judge seemed to be getting impatient with our cause. She was probably starting to wish she had thrown the case out when she had the chance.
Despite presenting arguments ranging from international law, to the moral, factual and religious the judge found us guilty and fined us each £50 with £270 costs. Despite the hassle of having to spend two days in Watford, the six of us were definitely brought closer in fellowship and had established a strong foundation for further actions.