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Human Rights Act Victory for Fairford Coach Action

Fairford Coach Action / fwd | 08.12.2004 16:09 | Cambridge


Anti-war protestors are today celebrating a Court of Appeal ruling which
held that the police acted unlawfully in detaining them for 2½ hours without

The Court of Appeal ruled today that police violated the Human Rights Act
when they illegally detained 120 protestors en route to a demonstration at
RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire. Giving judgment, Lord Chief Justice Lord
Woolf stated that, 'the passengers were virtually prisoners on the coaches
for the length of the journey…[W]e are not persuaded that there were no less
intrusive possible alternative courses of action here.'

At the Appeal hearing in October, Gloucestershire police argued that they
were in fact protecting the protestors' right to life by detaining them and
forcing their return to London. In his witness statement, Chief
Superintendent Kevin Lambert, the officer in charge of policing the protest,
stated that, 'had a member of the public penetrated the defences and been
killed or injured by one of the armed personnel guarding the B52
aircraft…the public reaction and political consequences would have been
extremely damaging to the coalition partners'. Helen Wickham, a coach
passenger, said: “I think it is deeply worrying that Gloucestershire police,
confronted with the possibility of US troops shooting unarmed protestors,
chose to defend the US use of lethal force and pursue a political agenda.”

This ruling, which reaffirms a High Court ruling in February, will impact on
the policing of future demonstrations and will have implications for the May
Day 2001/Oxford Circus cases against the Metropolitan Police early next

The ruling was welcomed as a confirmation of the limits of a draconian power
which Parliament has never debated or sanctioned. However the protestors
feel that the judgment should have gone further and ruled that the police
also denied them two other human rights: freedom of assembly and freedom of
expression. Jane Laporte, the named claimant, said: “the right to protest is
something we celebrate when we see it exercised abroad, but this fundamental
democratic freedom has been relegated to a privilege that can be taken away
on the whim of a police officer.”

Last March, the protestors and their coaches were searched for nearly two
hours and forced back to London under a heavy police escort “to prevent a
breach of the peace.” The police argued that this was justified because the
protestors were, in their view, “well-armed”.

However, in the original High Court ruling in February, Lord Justice May
commented that, “for practical purposes none of the articles seized were to
be regarded as offensive. Two pairs of scissors would not make much
impression on the perimeter fencing of the air base.”

John Halford, the solicitor at Bindman and Partners representing the group,
said today that, “the police action in detaining these protestors was and
remains a grotesque abuse of power. What was at stake here today was
nothing less than the right to protest in the UK. That this right can be
taken away when no crime had been committed and on the flimsiest of pretexts
lays the foundation of a police state.”

Jesse Schust, one of the coach passengers, said: “It is particularly ironic
that the police violated our human rights by detaining us, when we sought to
demonstrate against an illegal war that has devastated Iraq and left over
100,000 dead.”

The detained coach passengers are prepared to take their case to the House
of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

For more information on Fairford Coach Action, phone Jane Laporte on 07817
483 167 or Jesse Schust on 07814 587 361 or e-mail

(A formatted version of this press release is available at the website)

Notes for Journalists

1. Fairford Coach Action is the name of the group of more than 80 passengers
who have collectively decided to pursue a Judicial Review case against the
police's actions on 22nd March 2003. Full background information is
available on the website. Visit the site for links to the full judgement,
related web articles, statements of support, and testimonial statements from
coach passengers.

2. Interviews with passengers from the coaches can be arranged (please
enquire - see contact details above). Dramatic, high-quality, digital video
footage and photographs are also available. To use this footage on TV or in
film, contact Catherine Bonnici of Journeyman Films
( Tel: 020 8941 9994 Fax: 020 8941 9899).

3. Professional photos of the coach detention are available. Guy Smallman
was one of several accredited journalists who were on the coaches. He has a
selection of pictures from the day. Contact Guy Smallman 07956 429 059 with
enquiries. (These photos are in a suitable format to be wired directly to
the picture desk).

4. The solicitor representing the case, John Halford, can be contacted at
Bindman & Partners on 020 7833 4433.

5. The Fairford coach case is listed in Amnesty International's report:
Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's Concerns in the
Region, January – June 2004, and was mentioned in Liberty's dossier on the
policing at RAF Fairford. Liberty made a submission to the Court of Appeal
supporting the passengers' appeal. Other supporters include Ken
Livingstone, David Drew, MP (Stroud), Lynne Jones, MP, Caroline Lucas, MEP,
Jean Lambert, MEP, and Mark Thomas (see website for quotes).

6. On 22nd March 2003, three days after the start of the US/UK war on Iraq,
a demonstration organised by the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors (GWI),
attracted over 3,000 protestors to the airbase. Groups travelled to
Fairford from 37 locations across the UK. American B-52 planes flew from
RAF Fairford airbase to bomb Baghdad (see
) and Fairford was the site of excessive policing during the war on Iraq.
(Within 52 days (from 6 March 2003), police conducted over 2000 anti-terror
searches in the vicinity.) GWI, Berkshire CIA and Liberty issued a dossier
showing how stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 were misused by
police. For the report "Casualty of War - 8 weeks of counter-terrorism in
rural England" see and The Government estimated the added
cost of policing RAF Fairford was £6.9 million. The airbase continues to be
upgraded for use by US Stealth (B2) Bombers, greatly expanding the US
capacity to "invisibly" deploy tactical nuclear weapons anywhere in the
world within hours. Further info at and

7. The main defendant in the case is The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire
Constabulary; the two interested parties are the Commissioner for the
Metropolitan Police and the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.

8. The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in October 2000. It requires
the police and other public authorities to avoid breaching key European
Convention Human Rights Articles save where legislation makes this
impossible. Amongst the key rights are Article 5 (deprivation of liberty
must be justified in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law and on
one of the five grounds listed in paragraph (1) of the Article), Article 10
(freedom of speech and expression) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly).

9. At common law a constable may arrest a person without warrant whom he or
she reasonably believes will commit a breach of the peace in the immediate
future, even though at the time of the arrest such person has not committed
any breach. This power is subject to a number of strict restrictions,
however: the belief must relate to an act or threatened act harming any
person or, in his presence, his property, or which puts a person in fear of
such harm; the belief must relate to the likely actions of the particular
individual or individuals against whom the power is used; and when the
particular individual is acting lawfully at the time the power is used, the
threat of his committing a breach of the peace must be sufficiently real and
imminent to justify the use of such a draconian power.

From the Press Team at the Fairford Coach Action

Fairford Coach Action / fwd
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BBC full of shit?

08.12.2004 17:28

The bbc seem to have been at a different court hearing from whoever wrote the above.

Can anyone offer any other sources to confirm the above version of events?



08.12.2004 17:57

Not quite a victory really though is it. One point out of three as opposed to the 2 points originally. We still got turned back and harassed all the way into central London ( including being followed through Hyde Park by the FIT team and into a pub under police watch.) How the police have managed to spin this is quite amazing -it just goes to show that they like to protect murderers and intimidate, beat up and slander people who have the ethics to protest.

Interesting the call to mainstream media. The BBc report it now but were not interested when the Met blocked off the M4 and laid a riot squad 'trap' at Euston or threatened us with violence at Shepherds Bush Green.

Still angry


08.12.2004 18:32

>>The Court of Appeal ruled today that police violated the Human Rights Act

many recent protesters have tried to use the HRA in UK courts but without success. it may not be a total victory for FCA but it is the first success of its kind i can remember and therefore a victory. is that enough? is it justice? no.

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10 December - an anniversary of failure

09.12.2004 10:45

>>On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has become a universal standard for defending and promoting human rights. Every year on 10 December, Human Rights Day marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration. On Human Rights Day it is celebrated around the globe that "All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms". The UN General Assembly [...] is expected to proclaim a World Programme for Human Rights Education. The first phase of the Programme, to run from 2005 to 2007, is to be devoted to human rights education in the primary and secondary school systems.

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