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Serious Crime Act a farce as police refuse to arrest demonstrators

mini mouse | 22.01.2006 17:54 | SOCPA | London

Police are in a state of absolute confusion over when and whether to implement SOCPA Section 132. Sometimes they arrest you, sometimes they don't....

This man is not a demonstrator (today)
This man is not a demonstrator (today)

This woman was a demonstrator (August 2005)
This woman was a demonstrator (August 2005)

Not a demonstrator (today)
Not a demonstrator (today)

Arrested for demonstrating August 8th, in court tomorrow
Arrested for demonstrating August 8th, in court tomorrow

"That banner's not a protest, it's a statement of fact".

So said the solitary copper in Parliament Square today when I asked him why he wasn't arresting Gary Smithers, standing loud and proud with his banner reading "Parliament Square belongs to the people".

"That's my opinion anyway".

Asked what it would take to make him illegal, he pointed out a different banner (Terrorism is not just taking bombs and committing suicide) "or he could start shouting or something".

"Then I'd refer it up to a senior officer"

So how come he could decide that Gary was not committing an offence, but he'd have to get a senior officer to declare that he was?

"Look, there's a lot of CCTVs pointing at this square. and there's a lot of senior officers looking at them right now. We're being asked to make political decisions, and I just don't want to do that. I'm leaving that to someone else."

Clearly SOCPA Section 132 is becoming an embarrassment all round. Designed to get rid of peace campaigner Brian Haw, it was famously mis-written allowing him to become the only person in the world legally able to demonstrate without permission.

But what does "demonstrate" mean? The scarcity of visible police in Parliament Square today was a refusal to pick up the semantic gauntlet thrown down by activists there in force to demonstrate activities as diverse as cake decorating, puppetry and taking a nap.

Childish stuff you may say. But even that young copper could work out that this kind of activity wasn't normal behaviour and that what was going on was clearly a demonstration, even under the terms of the Act.

"What they want is to get arrested", he said. "The organisers will probably crank it up to try and provoke a response".

That is what neither the police nor the Home Office want to see. They had another four convictions last week, five more appear at Bow Street Magistrates this week, one probable agent provocateur has been exposed ( and the press are up in arms over a conviction for ringing a bell!

Still to come is the glorious case of a woman arrested for wearing the sign reading 'I am not the serious, organised criminal' - so the last thing they want joining the queue is someone on a charge of demonstrating the art of icing a cake.

As a senior officer told me last December, things need to be brought to a head. The police simply don't want to implement what he described as "a crazy law" (see

mini mouse
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Seems MPs are dicussing this stupid act after all

23.01.2006 22:19

I didn't know it at the time of writing the article, but it seems even MPs are finding this act stupid.
Here's an extract from Hansard:

mini mouse


Hide the following 10 comments

The Serious Crime Act is anything but a farce!

22.01.2006 20:24

You REALLY don't get it, do you.

Blair, like Hitler, has NO INTEREST in arbitary power whatsoever. Instead, the powers he gathers around himself (in ever increasing numbers, at an ever increasing rate) are collected for VERY specific purposes.

The new laws that limit or ban protest in the media sensitive part of the UK are there for REAL SIGNIFICANT use in our near future, NOT for fencing with the Guardian reading, Fair-Trade buying 'no-threats' of today.

The limited prosecutions are significant NOT because of who, how, when or why the victims were chosen, but because any new law needs to be 'blooded' and the judiciary made familiar with its implimentation. If the courts won't apply a new law (like that'll ever happen in the UK, given the tribal group that dominates there), Blair needs to know that as soon as possible.

Now the law is active, and has been successfully applied, the LAST thing Blair wants to do is risk bringing it into disrepute before he is ready to properly and usefully benefit from its power. You see, legally, 'breaking' a law in the UK can NEVER set a legal precedent. When Blair 'cracks down' on the protests he wishes to eliminate with ten's of thousands of uniform thugs, armed with batons, CS gas, tasers, and guns, those protestors that are TOTALLY supressed will not be able to boo-hoo their way to success by refering to picnicers and carol singers and others that the police did not bother.

This is not a game. Blair is preparing for genocidal war with Iran that will not kill the hundreds of thousands as with Iraq, but will exterminate MILLIONS. Understand Blair's ability to ruthlessly control or eliminate protest in the light of the imminent World War that Blair is about to trigger.

Of course, I fully understand that Blair's New Reich agents have fully infiltrated these 'playtime' protest games, and are using their influence to create useless actions that are buying Blair all the time he needs. However, I know that many of you are as genuine as it is possible to be, and only hope that by considering the opinions of myself and others, you are able to 'raise your game', and find some success. However, know this... those that have told you that there is a purpose in 'protesting' with innocuous, ridiculous, or 'statements of fact' banners come straight from Blair's New Reich Psychological Operations teams, and are rolling around in laughter that anyone would be stupid enough to listen to such advice.


Great stuff

22.01.2006 21:12

It's so inspiring to see the imaginative ideas people have come up with for challenging this stupid law. Sorry I couldn't be there.

Do you have any pics of the cake decoration, puppetry etc demonstrations? I'm also looking forward to seeing the results of the fast-turnaround video editing demonstration on the web, if it went according to plan:


Different rules?

22.01.2006 23:40

OK, I admit it. Our legal system this side of the pond only somehwat resembles yours. But I thought I understood most of the significant differences.

'Twilight" --are you telling us (and other folks should comment if this is correct) that a defense of "selective neforcement" has NO legal significance in Britain.

Seems to me that these are early days -- courts tend to work slowly when it comes to interpreting new laws. Seems to me that already one or two mistakes (from the point of view of the authorities) have already been made regardless of the verdicts so far and that what we are seeing now is precisely the fear of losing borderline cases and then the whole shootign match.

Lighten up and learn to use ALL the tools in the bag including ridicule > Sure, another approach would be to accumulate a few tens of thousands of people to make a mass protest that could not be ignored and hit at the law that way. But that "serious" attack on this bad law would NOT mean that these others are worthless and should not ALSO be taking place. What is your problem? Is it that these people are protesting the bad law in and of itself -- without necessarily being associated with your other causes?

mail e-mail: stepbystpefarm

A pox on that house

23.01.2006 07:19

There is nothing more plainly shameful than Blair's attack on the right of Britons to stand before their own Parliament and to speak about politics. Does anyone remember him fumbling through The Red Flag at the Labour Party conference on TV a couple of years back? He never did know the words.

Citizen X

Advice for Twilight

23.01.2006 10:29

"However, I know that many of you are as genuine as it is possible to be, and only hope that by considering the opinions of myself and others, you are able to 'raise your game', and find some success."
Did you go to Oxford, Twilight? See yourself as officer material, perhaps? Think that the rest of us are just poor unenlightened proles who can't think and decide for ourselves without the benefit of your superior wisdom?
You're Blair, aren't you? You attack what you fear most in yourself...

The Unknown Worrier

reply to simon - fast video turnaround

23.01.2006 10:59

as there was great demand for computer time at the rampart centre with the well-attended video activist weekend, we didn't get to finish capturing footage until well after 8pm last night, but despite this we had a an intensive editing session, and created a short 4-minute film of yesterday's 'demonstration' ready to show before the evening was out. it was well-received by the packed audience for the rampart film night.

as we had all had such a fruitful but intense and long weekend at the video activist workshops at rampart, we then finally relaxed and enjoyed some vj-ing. the short film will be encoded later today and posted on inymedia for all to see.

i see that one of the cameramen involved (and a regular contributor of fast-turnaround reportage to indymedia), doug, has edited his own footage and tried to post an ipod-friendly version here today, but he appears to be having problems with posting this type of codec (despite our mind-bogglingly deep workshop on codecs and encoding), so this may appear in a different form later as well.


RE:Seems MPs are dicussing this stupid act after all

24.01.2006 00:08

This was from October last year, and was a standing committee which didn't alter the new law at all. I'm not sure if it could have done either. I think the vote at the end of this showed a majority in favour of the new measures.
Basically it doesn't look likely that MPs will change anything at the moment.

Brian B

Watch the video - When is a demonstration not a demonstration?

24.01.2006 02:45

The video edited in two hours and shown the same day has now been uploaded in a slightly touched up form with a bit of music, credits and a little tighter snipping here and then.

View for yourself... for preview quality

or go to for screening quality download

ps. those of you with mobile phones, ipods or psp etc will have re-encode yourself for now as indymedia uploads currently don't allow the required mime types

by rikki, doug, selene and more

Required mime types?

24.01.2006 07:59

I successfully uploaded an ipod file but the clickable link did not appear. Surely all that is required is an automatic link to any uploaded file, regardless of codec. So it won't play on some computers but that is better than nothing at all. In this case millions of people have iTunes, which my iPod (.m4v) version would play on, if it was allowed. Incidentally, the 18Mb iPod video is superior in appearance to the 9Mb Windows and Quicktime versions I did upload.



27.01.2006 17:37