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socpa court case adjourned today at bow street

rikki | 19.01.2006 00:42 | SOCPA | Free Spaces | Repression | London

the trial at bow street magistrates court today of mark barrett was adjourned to the end of march amidst some confusion. he was in court for taking part in an unauthorised demonstration outside parliament on 28th august last year.

on a warm sunday afternoon on the weekend of the notting hill festival last year, a group of a dozen or so people held a picnic and a 'banner-making workshop' on parliament square. this attracted the attention of various ranks of officer starting with community support, and ending some time later with one of the four inspectors in charge of the whole of london that afternoon.

after some debate, 'inspector hart' informed the picnicers and banner-makers that he believed they were actually demonstrating. as the picnicers began to sluggishly pack up their cardboard, paints, glues, sticks, cakes, teapots and so on, the inspector lost patience and ordered the arrest of mark barrett.

five months later, mark was due in court this afternoon. around half a dozen members of the mainstream press attended, and outside the court before the hearing, they took photos of the re-enactment of the arrest, complete with tea and cakes. bruce kent (cnd) showed up to witness the trial, and everyone climbed the ancient flights of stairs to court three at the top of the building.

the case was due to be heard at 2, but it wasn't until ten past that an usher informed us that district judge anthony evans would be hearing another case first.

this turned out to be a short extradition hearing that involved a few minutes of submissions about doctors' reports and the need to set dates for a further hearing. the poor couple involved must have wondered why so many members of the press and other assorted socpa supporters were suddenly interested in their plight. they and their lawyers shuffled out of court for a while to discuss dates, and then at about 2.40, we heard that the judge now was minded to hear the case of paul boateng! we all wondered what the labour mp was going down for, and then realised it was a different paul boateng. it was decided mr. boateng's case would not be finished in the time it would take to set the extradition hearing dates, and so we sat for nearly half an hour until the couple and their solicitors came back in and fixed their dates.

by now it was 3.10, and at last judge evans called mark barrett to the dock. he apologised and explained that some 'emergency cases' had had to be heard, and that there was now no time to hear mark's case. the prosecution had called four police winesses including inspector hart, who had all been waiting outside the court with their big bag of evidence. there was some conversation about whether their presence would be necessary at a future date, and although mark, who had decided to represent himself, suggested their statements could just be read out, the prosecution pointed out that mark's solicitor's, bindmans, had written a letter raising points about unsatisfactory arrest interview tapes, and lack of cctv footage covering the arrest, and so some cross-examination may be necessary in order to ensure a fair trial.

so by 3.15 it was decided that mark would appear again on the 31st march at 10am (when the police were next available) and we all left having wasted an afternoon. perhaps on the 31st it will be necessary to re-enact the re-enactment fo the press once again - who knows?

yet another farcical episode in the history of this farcical law.

(one side note for your entertainment - apparently the four officers called to give evidence had appealed for a different court date as it clashed with their annual leave and would cock-up their holiday plans - the court had decided the case must go ahead today, and so they had to turn up. i guess they were probably even more pissed off than the rest of us then. possibly the first sign of justice i've seen at bow street in recent times)

for coverage of the original 'banner-making tea party' where the arrest occured, see

for a report on last week's trial of four socpa defendants, see

for more info about regular sunday picnics at 1pm on parliament square, see

this sunday 22nd at 1pm, there will be a mass 'demonstration' at parliament square. this could be viewed more as a test of the english language rather than the law, and it is requested that no-one brings any political banners, badges or slogans. instead, there will be a picnic (bring food&drink to share), and a mass of people all 'demonstrating'. the demonstrations are currently set to include origami, cake icing, puppetry, circus skills, kitchen appliances like carrot slicers, drumming and so on .............. i think you get the idea!

the event will be filmed, and there is a possibility an entire film-making workshop will be attending, demonstrating how to make films.

please come along, join in and demonstrate something, perhaps a mathematical proof, perhaps your command of a foreign language, perhaps some juggling or drumming skills. be imaginative and playful - come and join the fun.