Earlier, on 1st November, a not guilty verdict was similarly returned for a defendant arrested at the massive Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh. After the Procurator’s questioning of police witnesses produced bizarre evidence focusing on the colour of clothing worn by the black bloc and the alleged possession of yellow industrial gloves by the defendant, the Procurator abandoned the attempt to prove Breach of the Peace and Possession of an Offensive Weapon (the yellow gloves).
Sources close to the Fiscal's office indicate that in these and other G8 trials the Procurator Fiscal (the Prosecuting authority in Scotland) realising the weakness of the evidence, actually did not wish to press charges. However, the sources report, orders came down "from on high" that all G8 cases were to be pursued.
Tommy McIntyre of the July 2005 Solidarity Group told Indymedia: “These cases were a complete waste of public resources and everybody’s time. Many hours must have been spent by both sides preparing for the trials. Prosecution and defence witnesses had to travel to attend, and had to be paid travel expenses. In one case the defendant and defence witness had to journey from the south of England. All this for cases which both sides knew would almost certainly collapse. How long are the authorities going to continue with such farcical trials? We call for all G8 charges to be dropped.”
Currently more G8 trials are scheduled for Edinburgh in December and January, largely cases arising from the Carnival for Full Enjoyment on 4th July and the spontaneous demo in Edinburgh on 6th July after the police obstructed the departure of buses for Gleneagles.
The July 2005 Solidarity Group is aiming to have legal observers present at all G8 trials, not only the Edinburgh cases but also the continuing trials in Perth and Glasgow. Tommy McIntyre of the Group appealed: ‘ We are asking for support from people who want to give solidarity to those arrested for the ‘crime’ of demonstrating for a better world. There are many ways people can help, from legal observing, to helping distribute our posters and leaflets, to giving donations to meet expenses such as travel costs.’ The group can be contacted at July2005solidarity (at) yahoo.co.uk
POLICE STORIES VARY WILDLY
In the Biotech demo trial police witnesses Constable Fleetwood and Sergeant Young from Dalkeith claimed that the defendant had been lying in the road in front of the entrance to the Roslin Institute, and had refused to stand up and move. They denied the defence case that the defendant had in fact been standing at the side of the road, that the police had come up to her, told her she was ‘the first’, and then immediately arrested her.
Unfortunately for the prosecution case the two policemen’s stories varied wildly in at least one important respect. Constable Fleetwood stated that the defendant had been the only person lying on the ground when she was arrested, then changed his version to estimate that perhaps one, two or three demonstrators were lying down; meanwhile Sergeant Young reported that ‘the vast majority’ of the demonstrators, up to 25 people, had been lying on the ground when the defendant was arrested.
Immediately following Sergeant Young’s evidence, the Procurator Fiscal abandoned the case and a not guilty verdict was returned.
An interesting point emerged in connection with this trial – the definition of Breach of the Peace in Scottish law has apparently recently changed, and it is now extremely important, if not vital, for the prosecution case to prove that people had been put in a state of fear and alarm by the defendant’s actions. Thus even if someone actually was, for example, blocking the entrance to a premises they may not be committing a breach of the peace if nobody was alarmed or scared by this.
The July 2005 Solidarity Group can be contacted at July2005solidarity (at) yahoo.co.uk and c/o 17 W Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA Scotland
Legal information for G8 defendants can be found at www.g8legalsupport.info