SOCPA – is superintendent terry mad?

Original article taken from Indymedia 15th October 2006

desperate to keep the ever more bizarre and crazy actions of charing cross police from being discussed in a court of law, superintendent terry (left) seriously tried to have a peace protestor sectioned under the mental health act yesterday rather than charge her with an offence where real evidence could be scrutinised in a court of law.

followers of issues around the serious organised crime and police act (socpa) on indymedia, will be aware of past attempts by superintendent terry’s charing cross gang to rid the streets around parliament of political protest.

one woman, barbara tucker, has borne the brunt of this extended campaign. she has been ‘reported’ for socpa breaches more than sixty times, but because she originally ‘notified’ the police of her ongoing single-woman protest against government genocide before she started, the police themselves have breached the socpa legislation by refusing to give her ‘authorisation’.

ok, maybe it’s not quite as black and white as that. they claim that her notification did not fulfil the requirements of the act as it was made by email and it doesn’t give a set time and place, instead notifying that she would protest anywhere in the designated zone at any time until this government has gone. but since the law was framed in such a way as to attempt not to breach human rights, it is arguable that her notification does actually comply with the wording of the law, and the police are clearly concerned about this, because despite sixty ‘reports’ of the offence, not one has yet been properly tested in court.

instead, it looks rather as though barbara has been subjected to an unlawful campaign of spurious arrests, occasional beatings, unlawful detentions, and more recently attempts to get her incarcerated on a more permament basis without trial.

i’ve reported previously on some of this, so i won’t go back over all the detail (you can read more background at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/09/350008.html and http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/09/350217.html), but i’ll briefly recap this particular strand of socpa history.

on august 5th, the day of the national stop the war ‘lebanon’ march past downing street, barbara was arrested for ‘obstructing the highway’ outside downing street. she appeared on bail at charing cross police station the following month, and asked her friend steve jago to go with her as a witness. he was invited into an area out of public scrutiny, but then told he couldn’t accompany her any further.

he had his camera forcibly removed and was seriously assaulted. both steve and barbara were then charged with ‘obstructing an officer in the course of their duty’. unfortunately, police cannot provide any cctv footage from inside the station of the incident, and are relying on police witness evidence alone. draw your own conclusions.

barbara’s solicitor was told barbara was being charged with this offence and then left the station under the impression barbara would soon be released on police bail, but instead police held barbara overnight and took her to what amounted to a secret hearing the next morning for the original ‘obstruction of the highway’ offence.

fortunately for barbara, the serco staff were appalled that she didn’t have the representation she requested, and called her solicitor on her behalf. the police were calling for barbara to be remanded in custody at holloway for a more than a month pending trial (unheard of for a highway obstruction charge). the solicitor arrived in time, and that idea was thrown out after her intervention, but police then went for conditions on bail banning barbara from anywhere in the designated zone.

once again, the solicitor showed the illegality of this request, but barbara ended up with conditions limiting her to parliament square. these conditions were thrown out of court the following week by a different judge.

during barbara’s detention at charing cross, they had access to legally privileged information and correspondence that she had with her relating to her defence case on two socpa charges that at last were coming to court. she was actually on her way to a meeting with her solicitor, and expected the bail appearance to be a mere formality rather than the nightmare of 23 hours in the cell and a closed court hearing that it became. it was clear the police went through these documents, casting doubt on the possibility of a fair trial.

so, yesterday afternoon, she had to attend charing cross again, on bail for the ‘obstructing a police officer’ charge, and learning her lesson from before, she took her solicitor along with her. this turned out to be very fortunate.

first, she was thoroughly searched, including outer layers of clothes removed and turned inside out, her shoes removed, her feet examined, and so on. then, superintendent terry himself turned up (he was the senior officer at the station over the weekend). terry states that he is concerned about barbara tucker’s mental health, and is ordering her to submit to an assessment under the mental health act. he warned her that if she refuses, then she can be forced to submit, and held for up to 72 hours.

thankfully, as barbara had her solicitor there, she took advice, and they agreed to formally refuse the assessment, and demand that any ‘forced’ assessment take place with the solicitor as a witness to any questions asked and the replies given.

although a mental health team had been arranged at the station, the police backed down, and the solicitor witnessed the police writing ‘nfa’ (no further action) on barbara’s file. the police then attempted to bring in a police doctor, but when the solicitor again challenged this, the police backed down once more.

after several hours effectively keeping her in detention again, the police did the only thing left to them and finally charged her for the ‘obstructing a police officer’ offence setting a date next thursday 19th 11am horseferry road.

so once again, the legality of the entire police harrassment of barbara and her single-woman peaceful protest against genocide remains out of court. they are doing what they can to bring other charges against her (they’ve dropped an ‘assaulting a police officer’ charge, but the ‘highway obstruction’ charge is still pending). and still no socpa case against her has been heard in court.

i am sure barbara will be back in the designated zone very soon, sporting her brilliant pink ‘bliar’s genocide’ banner, and i only hope that police on the ground will ponder the madness of superintendent terry before following any further orders to intimidate this peaceful and very brave campaigner as she continues to highlight the ever-growing realisation that blair is the only real serious organised criminal in the designated zone.

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