News from Lynne Jones MP

I issued the following press release on 08.12.04

COACH-NAPPED PROTESTORS “VIRTUALLY PRISONERS” RULES COURT OF APPEAL

Anti-war protestors are today celebrating a Court of Appeal ruling which held that the police acted unlawfully in detaining them for 2 hours without arrests.

The Court of Appeal ruled today that police violated the Human Rights Act when they illegally detained 120 protestors en route to a demonstration at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, reaffirming a High Court ruling in February.  Giving judgment, Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf stated that, 'the passengers were virtually prisoners on the coaches for the length of the journey…[W]e are not persuaded that there were no less intrusive possible alternative courses of action here.'

Selly Oak MP, Lynne Jones has been supporting the protestors’ action, since her constituent, Brenda Burrell, came to her surgery to complain about extreme measures being taken by the Police against lawful demonstrators at RAF Fairford.   The MP said:  “Ms Burrell and her fellow protesters were repeatedly searched under the Terrorism Act 2000.  I have obtained Home Office figures which show that the demonstrators were searched 2132 times under the Terrorism Act over a seven week period in March/April 2003 but as a result no arrests were made.  This is harassment and clearly evidence of the inappropriate use of anti-Terrorism legislation.”

On today’s ruling the MP said:  “The ruling is welcome confirmation of the limits of a draconian power which Parliament has never debated or sanctioned.  However I am disappointed that the judgment did not go further and rule that the police also denied them two other human rights: freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The right to protest is a fundamental democratic freedom which in this case was relegated to a privilege taken away at the whim of the police.”

David Blunkett recently had to withdraw claims made to a Commons Committee that demonstrators at Fairford were armed with ‘cudgels and swords’.   In September 2003, Mr Blunkett told MPs he ‘entirely supported’ police actions at Fairford and anti terror measures were used to ‘prevent people with potentially dangerous weapons…from achieving their goals’.  Now in a Parliamentary answer to Lynne Jones the Home Secretary has stated that contrary to his understanding at the time, no ‘cudgels’ were found.  However, his ‘understanding at the time’ appears to be in question as in a previous letter to Lynne Jones the Home Secretary had stated that he was ‘speaking metaphorically’ when he referred to the ‘cudgels and swords’.

Lynne Jones said “The right to protest in the UK when no crime has been committed must be protected, and I hope that the detained coach passengers will take their case to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.”

E N D S

For further details please contact

Fairford Coach Action: press@fairfordcoachaction.org.uk
www.fairfordcoachaction.org.uk

EDM 1684 on the inappropriate use of the Terrorism Act is reproduced below:

EDM 1684 16.09.04

USE OF SECTION 44 OF THE TERRORISM ACT (2000) TO SEARCH DEMONSTRATORS AT RAF FAIRFORD

Jones/Lynne

That this House notes that according to Gloucestershire police, during the two periods of authorisation covering 6th March to 27th April 2003, stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 were used on a total of 2,132 occasions in the vicinity of RAF Fairford whilst by contrast, during the same period there were only 56 searches pursuant to stop and search under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; also notes that in correspondence with the honourable Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, the Home Office states that no one was subsequently arrested or prosecuted as a result of the 2,132 searches under the Terrorism Act; therefore questions why section 44 was used for stop and search purposes by police and concludes that the 2,132 searches of demonstrators under the Terrorism Act amounts to harassment of people demonstrating against the war on Iraq.

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