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SOCPA - stage managed trial of brian haw and barbara tucker

rikki | 30.03.2007 01:12 | SOCPA | Repression | London

district judge wickham had clearly decided on a course of action before hearing any evidence in an 'inquisorial' hearing at horseferry road today. she found barbara tucker and brian haw in contempt of court and she set fines rather than imprisonment for explicitly stated political reasons.

on monday 26th march stephen jago was attending an arraignement hearing relating to socpa offences. as he has been repeatedly denied legal aid, barbara tucker went along as his 'mckenzie's friend' - a lay legal advisor and supporter recognised in law as able to speak on his behalf.

she was surprised to find herself listed at the court, and on inquiry discovered that four socpa summonses had been sent to an address that she no longer lived at. strangely the summonses were only dated the 26th anyway! her current arrangement with the court is that all documents be sent to her solicitor direct and the court has agreed this. she has not lived at the address on the summonses for some time and the court has been fully informed and updated.

she phoned her solicitors in a state of distress about this, and they advised she ask the court for an adjournment of two weeks. she saw the court clerk who told her she could ask judge evans for an adjournment.

judge nicholas evans spotted her in court and although effectively she had no reason to be there other than for jago's hearing, he took the view that as she was there she could enter pleas for her cases anyway. the summonses were not read to her, she had no prior knowledge about them, and yet she was being asked to plea. when she refused (as recommended by her lawyers) judge evans declined her proposal for an adjournment and said he would "enter pleas for her" of not-guilty.
as she was not represented, she didn't have the benefit of a lawyer standing up and saying "with all due respect my lord, i don't believe you can lawfully do this", so instead she did the best she could as a lay person and said "this is dishonest! who do i complain to? this is wrong!". judge evans told her to sit down and be quiet, and continued with the plea entering.

brian haw was in court and he decided to also ask judge evans to adhere to legal procedure. he said "this woman is being bullied", "i want these proceedings dealt with properly", and when judge evans then began to leave the court room without further comment, added " you will be answerable for this".

at that point, barbara and brian were surrounded by serco officers and manhandled out of the court and to the cells. brian was particularly assaulted and had his wrist damaged.

an hour later, barbara discovered that in her absence and in the absence of any legal person on her behalf, the prosecution had arranged for the four cases against her to be made 'sine die' which means they will not be tried until a later date of the prosecution's choosing.

the cps have previously 'sine die'd a case where she was held in police custody for 30 hours and she alleges she was virtually tortured. she wants cases heard in open court and a fair trial - she doesn't want dodgy cases kicked into the long grass for the prosecution to use at a time of their choosing. but it seems judge evans had reached a deal with her prosecutors without either her or her legal representatives present. this can't be correct?

in british law, there is normally a prosecution lawyer, a defence lawyer, witnesses, and a judge. in her own words, judge wickham called today's proceeding an "inquisitorial" hearing rather than an adversarial hearing. in effect this means she was acting both as prosecutor and judge.

judge evans was not called to the stand. instead a miss austin (the legal clerk) gave evidence against barbara and brian, and under cross-examination from bindman's mr o'callaghan, her statement clearly had some discrepancies and holes.

before defence witnesses were called to testify, judge wickham was asked whether they could refer to written statements they had made since the events on monday. although judges shouldn't mingle with the court staff, witnesses, or defendants she then made a bizarre sort of accusation, asking whether these statements were the ones being handed out to all in the public gallery and to members of the press. when mr o'callaghan replied he had no knowledge of that she muttered under her breath "well you wouldn't, would you". this wasn't looking like an unbiased judge to me!

as an independent reporter well-known to barbara and brian, i certainly hadn't received one of these statements, and i asked four other press reps and none of them had seen them either. it seems miss wickham had made up her mind about something that simply hadn't happened!

so the trial continued with barbara tucker making a measured but empassioned statement from the witness box. she gave the court some examples of the victimisation, harrasment, and abuse of process that has been inflicted on her for more than a year because of her decision to peacefully protest in the area near parliament about genocide. she described that faced with no legal representation, no knowledge of the new allegations against her, and under instruction from her own solicitors, she had simply refused to plea, and that she had believed judge evans's actions had been unlawful.

brian haw also backed up her evidence and said he'd wished that cctv was installed in the court, as all they had done was to question and challenge the acts of the judge that from legal advice given them by solicitor's they believed was unlawful.

stephen jago also appeared on the stand and verified this version of events.

the bindman's defence summed up that the only dispute might be over a few of the words used, but that the general behaviour had to be viewed in context. since brian and barbara hadn't had the benefit of legal representation that day, they were acting in the best way they could. given the circumstances, he said he would have challenged the judge himself, but would probably have said "with respect sir, i don't think you are right" and "i will be taking this matter up in the court of appeal", but as barbara and brian aren't legally trained, their words instead were "this is unlawful" and "you will be answerable for this". he also questioned the technical process of a contempt proceeding. a judge MUST warn of contempt first, and then further warn that the defendant will face detention in the cells . there was no clear evidence that judge evans had done either, as he ran from the court before the security guards closed in and assaulted brian haw.

mr o'callaghan also pointed out that there was no question of barbara or brian being abusive or violent at any stage. but miss wickham focussed on the allegation that brian had said "you will pay for this" although all three defence witnesses denied this on oath and miss austin agreed in court she couldn't be sure of the exact words. mr o'callaghan suggested that even if these words had been used, it was in the clear context of a threat of further legal repurcussions as opposed to a violent threat you might hear from two people fighting in the street.

but as it had seemed to me from the start, miss wickham had made up her mind, and in her judgement she said she had "no doubt that brian haw shouted these words". she said that barbara's "contempt" was a small contempt, refusing to sit down, but brian's was more serious.

next she stated she "was not prepared to make martyrs" and so would fine rather than pass a custodial sentence. she asked for proposals and mr o'callaghan said they'd be unlikely to be forthcoming, so she set them herself. barbara faces £50 fine and £50 costs to be paid within 28 days. brian faces £250 fine and £50 costs to be paid within 42 days. both would have collection orders applied if they do not pay.

since neither have seizable assets, if they do not pay the fines they may be liable to imprisonment under the collection orders. thus the state will have the power to imprison these peaceful protestors, but rather cleverly not for protesting, nor even for 'contempt of court', but rather for non-payment of a fine - conveniently twice removed from the issue of protest (and thus not martyrs).

was this a political trial?

brian stood up in the dock and then crossed the court, loudly accusing miss wickham of being corrupt. it looked rather like 'contempt of court' to me, but for absolutely clearly political reasons miss wickham just smiled benignly at him and let him continue. meanwhile he now has a conviction and a fine for what appeared to me a lesser and certainly less-proven misdemeanour.

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