Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Crown's appeal

I am going to comment on the Crown's request for an appeal, and what I think of their reasons.  The Crown has offered four points to their appeal.  I will look at each of these in turn.  This is a purely personal view, and I have no legal training so anything I say could be (and probably is) wrong in law.

Ground 1

"The prevention of crime defence contained in the 1967 Act was not available to the defendants on the facts of the instant case.  The defendants’ real motives for acting as they did were to disrupt the activities of the arms fair, while drawing attention to their conscientious objection to the sale of arms and military equipment to certain overseas states. This provides no justification for obstructing the highway."
I wonder how the prosecution to their views about our "real motive".  All eight of us went on the stand and the prosecution had the opportunity to ask us any questions that they liked.  They could have asked about our motivations while we were on the stand.  Certainly I was not asked about this, as can be seen from the judgement.

Clearly, I had gone to protest against the arms fair and hoped we would get some publicity (by the way we are doing well see our press coverage), however that does not mean that I was not trying to prevent crime.  If I had seen a mugging there I would have intervened (and maybe got some good publicity).  My motivation for stopping the tank was to prevent crime.

But, my real concern with this one is that the prosecution seems to believe that without any evidence they can assert motivation.  If they have mind reading equipment then it is clearly faulty, and anyhow we should be told.  If they don't then how can they know what any of our real motivations were?

Ground 2

"The learned District Judge was wrong to have characterised the defendants’ conduct as constituting “force” for the purposes of section 3 of the 1967 Act."
I must admit I love this one.  The prosecution is saying that we did not use enough force! If we had more force then we would have this defence.  By the way, this from a prosecutor who said that if ww were acquitted we would feel entitled to blow up planes on the runway if they were carrying arms, or arrest anyone wearing a DSEI badge in case they were selling arms illegally. (would we be able to charge them with joint enterprise?).  That is one of the few places where the court broke out in laughter.

I thought that the judge dealt with this rather well, based on Adam Payter's submission including:
"Lord Hoffman in Jones & Millings assumed for the sake of argument that “chaining oneself to railings” constituted force for the purposes of argument (§71)."
 "As observed in the case comment on Birch v DPP [2000] Crim LR 301, “if it would, in certain circumstances, be lawful to use force, it would be very odd indeed if it were unlawful, in the same circumstances to do less harmful acts which would be crimes in the absence of a defence. If, for example, it would be reasonable in certain circumstances to drive into an intending assassin's vehicle to prevent him committing murder, it could hardly be unlawful to obstruct his passage along the highway by parking across the road. The answer seems to be that section 3 is a partial codification of the common law, and that the common law would still justify reasonable acts, other than the use of force, in the prevention of crime.”"
But it would certainly be odd if it is acceptable to use force to prevent a crime, but to do less and not use force would make it a crime.

Ground 3

Evidence to support the opinions of the defendants as to the legality of the acts in question was irrelevant and inadmissible.
I do not think that the expert evidence (I assume that is what is being referred to here, though I guess there is some reason for doubt as it doesn't actually say what evidence is irrelevant - perhaps the prosecution believes that the defence should not be allowed to submit any evidence?) was irrelevant.  It went to the very heart of the case, by showing that not only were we right subjectively (ie in our own opinion) to believe that crimes would be taking place at DSEI, but that objectively (seemingly in law that means a view held by a reasonable person - at least that is how it appeared to being used in court) crimes were taking place.

I am not competent to discuss the admissibility or otherwise of the evidence, but as at one point the prosecutor seemed to be saying that we needed objective evidence that crimes were taking place then it to rule out that evidence would be odd indeed.

Ground 4

The learned District Judge was wrong to have concluded that the type of force used was objectively reasonable, in the circumstances as the defendants perceived them to be, as there was no immediate and instant need to act as they, and it is unclear what crime was being prevented, or who was committing it.  
Ah yes, having told us in Ground 2 that we were not using enough force the prosecution appears to be admitting that we were using force, but now it is excessive.  So we were not using enough force, but it was excessive?

I am not sure how else we could have tried to stop these crimes.  We were prevented from attending DSEI and stopping the crimes in there. The police, HMRC and National Crime Agency were doing nothing, so I don't see what less we could have done.

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