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Titnore - did police act illegally?

Tree hugger | 01.11.2005 23:16 | Ecology | Repression | London | South Coast

POLICE have come under fire for the way they handled Saturday's
protest against the Titnore Woods development in Worthing, West Sussex, in which one man was arrested.

In what was widely seen as a heavy-handed response to a local campaign with a lot of support, they used draconian public order laws to try and ban the demonstration and cordon off the Titnore Lane area.
Among various incidents, one couple who live in Titnore Lane itself were blocked from returning to their own home when the protest had ended.
They were manhandled by police and after a long delay were eventually only allowed up the road with an escort of two police on foot, with video camera, two police motorbikes with flashing lights, and an unmarked police car.
When they reached their home, a police helicopter arrived overhead and circled three times.
They said: "It was bad enough at the roundabout with everything happening, but when we got back to our own home and there's a helicopter circling oveerhead, we thought 'what the f*** is going on!".
Meanwhile, some observers now believe the police acted illegally in it handling of the protest.
Firstly, the force claimed before the event that organisers of the Vigil for the Death of Democracy were legally obliged to inform the police in advance, whereas no such obligation exists for a static assembly.
Secondly, they invoked Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to place restrictions on the event which are only available if they reasonably believe they are necessary to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community.
As far as the first two cases apply, there can be no justification for suspecting any "serious" disorder or damage - previous incidents around the campaign have been trivial.
As far as "disruption to the life of the community goes", surely a protest of this kind on an important local issue is part of the life of the community and not in any way a disruption of it, let alone a serious one!
The serious disruption to the life of the community in fact came from Sussex Police who, seemingly for political reasons, intimidated people in an attempt to frighten them away from attending and stop them expressing their views in what was always a perfectly legitimate and peaceful way.
* The arrested man, charged under the public order legislation for not obeying restrictions, will be appearing before Worthing Magistrates Court on Wednesday November 9, from 9am, and support is welcome

Tree hugger