Met’ show that they are pro abuse…..again. Anatomy of a court case.
Four activists were in court for 3 days in October 2010 for an action against a company selling fur. They were found guilty of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
The protest took place on 5th November 2009 at the Kensington Olympia Exhibition Centre at The Spirit of Christmas Fayre. The London Fur Company had a stall at the fair, they make all their money out of fur and have no retail outlet-they sell most of their products at events such as this one. Five activists made their way to the fayre and up to the London Fur Company stall (which trades as Wild Divine). Two of them glued their hands together around a shelving unit (but had a debonder for quick release whilst another chained herself to a clothing rail. A fourth activist then attached herself to this person. The fifth was there simply as a legal observer and was standing back, filming what was happening. The protest consisted of holding posters and attempting to hand out leaflets, informing passers-by about the fur trade in general and chanting.
The whole protest lasted around 15 minutes before the activists were manhandled out of the building. Police arrived and (an hour and a half later) the police received a phone call from New Scotland Yard telling them to arrest the activists as , “we can’t have people like that disrupting any events like this. They were then arrested under section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986 (intentional harassment alarm or distress-intentional because they had intended to attend the event).
A year on, four of the activists were taken to court (the fifth has disappeared-the four includes the activist who was filming). They had been charged with Aggravated Trespass (trespass on land with the intention of interfering with a lawful activity) and section 5 of the Public Order Act -harassment, alarm and distress using threatening , abusive, insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour.
One witness (staff at the London Fur Company) gave her statement to police on the day that the trial began (12th October 2010). There were three witnesses who worked for the company and one witness who was security at the fayre.
Several police witnesses were called despite only being there during the arrest and not the incident. The defendants themselves submitted footage of what had happened (the prosecution had no footage themselves) as they believed it showed their innocence. A guest appearance was made by DC Ken Norman from New Scotland Yard who was in charge of the case, despite not being involved in the arrest-he likes “personally taking on cases” of animal rights people and had “personally taken on a case” of one of the defendants . After two days the judge dropped the Aggravated Trespass charge. The defendants gave evidence about the alleged section 5 offence. At the end of the third day the judge decided that they were guilty of the offence.
Note; section 5 is the least serious offence in the Public Order Act. Most people get small fines or absolute/conditional discharges for this (if it’s their first offence).
Only one of the four defendants has previous convictions (AR related but not anti-fur related) and the others had no convictions. The judge decided it appropriate to make them pay £500 court costs each and £300 fines (£400 for the person with previous convictions) plus the usual £15 victim surcharge (for victims of crime). This is £815 each, £915 for the person with previous. A little harsh??
On top of this all four defendants received a two year (the judge initially wanted it to be three years) Restraining Order (the new ASBO??) prohibiting the defendants from:
a) “entering any premises where fur is being sold or displayed or exhibited for sale including retail shops, wholesale premises and trade and retail fairs. Except in multiple department stores where you are prohibited from entering the fur department”.
b) “attending any event in the open air where fur is being sold or displayed nor exhibited for sale “, this is to protect London Fur Company and fur traders generally“.
If the activists do anything that’s prohibited they will be guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment of six months or a fine up to £5000 (or both). In a Magistrates Court or by imprisonment up to five years or an unlimited fine (or both) in Crown Court.
Considering that it was the first offence for three of the activists and they were in court over one single offence (not a number of offences that mounted to harassment , for example) this is a bit extreme.
On the first two days of the trial two representatives from the British Fur Trade Association were taking notes in the public gallery (including one activists name, DOB and address) and on the third , no-one from the BFTA but between eight and ten trainee security guards from Harrods who stayed for the first hour.
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