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brian haw court hearing - he can stay with restrictions for now

rikki | 30.05.2006 14:04 | SOCPA | Indymedia | Repression

this morning brian appeared before a bow street magistrate charged under socpa legislation. he was released on unconditional bail until july 15th and continue his albeit severely restricted demonstration until then. the case will challenge the draconian restrictions imposed on him.

brian haw appeared in front of judge timothy workman this morning at bow street's number 1 court.

he was charged with failing to comply with conditions under the socpa act as set out in letters on the 9th and 16th may from superintendent terry at charing cross police station. the conditions he is alleged to have breached included a limit on the total size of his display of 3m x 3m x 1m, having no items within other containers, having items laid out in such a way as to make it possible at a glance to see that nothing suspicious was there, and always being present or having someone known to him present at all times such that no object could be added to his display without his knowledge.

the crown prosecutor made a joint application for adjournment. he said that although there may be little or no contention over the facts of the case, the defence were likely to put forward arguments about the proportionality of the conditions requested with the human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression in mind. he suggested that the defence should present a skeleton argument in 21 days (by 20th june), and the crown should then have 14 days to respond. this would then mean a pre-trial hearing would take place on the 11th july to decide how long the case would be likely to take and to fix a time to hear it.

before deciding, the judge wanted to check what brian's plea was, as it would be silly to continue the process if brian was pleading guilty. his solicitor, laura higgs from bindman's, said that brian did not want to enter a plea today as a large part of his property had been taken by police in the dawn raid last week, including legal papers and evidence pertaining to the alleged offence. brian himself pointed out that if he had successfully burgled the police station and removed eveidence, the case would not be likely to proceed until the police could come up with the evidence. his was the reverse position as they had stolen evidence from him.

the judge suggested that brian could issue a 'police property act' summons against the police over this matter, but that for now, the judge would enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

a letter from the met police had asked the crown to push for bail conditions on brian which would hold him to the conditions laid out by them in the letters of the 9th and 16th. the defence argued that he is currently complying with the conditions, and that if he did not, the police would have the remedy of issuing a further summons. adding the strength of a bail condition would effectively mean he might be prosecuted twice for the same offence.

the judge agreed with this and remanded brian to appear at the court again on the 11th july on unconditional bail.

outside the court, there was a bit of a mad press scrum, with lots of stills photographers and camera teams from sky, bbc london, and channel 4 in attendance.

in parliament square, supporters who had gathered were happy that the police attempts to add bail conditions had failed. the demonstration will continue in its present form while legal arguments are resolved.

solicitors have made some sort of agreement with charing cross that brian and supporters can have some of their personal belongings back.

brian is currently due to appear at horseferry next month in connection with an 'unauthorised' demo said to have taken place on mother's day. however, at that time, the high court had not yet reached the decision that the socpa law applied to brian, so it seems unlikely the case will succeed. solicitors are trying to have it dropped as it really is a waste of everyone's time. however, as the police seem happy to spend £150,000 per year on brian (in answer to a libdem mp's questions in the house) and £28,000 on their recent night-time raid (although the ever more disingenuous commissioner sir ian blair lied to green mep jenny jones about this amount), who knows?

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