SPEAK 16 win court case

Original article posted on the SPEAK website 30.05.07

The fourteen SPEAK supporters still facing public order charges arising from the Encaenia ceremony demonstration on June 21st 2006 arrived at Bicester magistrates court today (Weds 30th May) to hear the judgment in relation to the remaining charges against them.

The previous four weeks have been taken up with a trial which went well beyond the bounds of a public order case. It was clearly another attempt to silence the SPEAK campaign by the back door.

In fact the prosecution case rested only on the witness statements of serving Thames Valley police officers; the same officers who had been exposed engaging in conversations which showed a clear conspiracy between TVP and Oxford University to engage in a ‘dirty war’ against SPEAK supporters.

The judge took the unusual step of delivering her verdict before reading out a 43 page judgment on the case. Justice Wright began by commending the SPEAK defendants for their unfailing good humour during a difficult trial which included having to listen to serving TVP officers who had used the most foul language to describe them.

Then she acquitted all defendants of the remaining charge of ‘breaching section 14’ and two other defendants of ‘inciting’ others to breach section 14. Two defendants were found guilty of one count of ‘assaulting’ a police officer and one count of ‘obstructing’ a police officer, but under the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this case they were granted an ‘absolute discharge’.

After almost one year during which the campaigners were barred from entering Oxford to exercise their legal right to protest we had won the legal argument. However, the real message from this case was to be revealed in the 43 page judgment.

The judge spent over an hour reading her judgment and its revelations about the conduct of Thames Valley police and in particular senior officers and left no doubt in anyone’s mind that the police had paid only ‘lip service’ to facilitating legal protest and too ‘little weight’ had been given to the rights of protesters.

The judge refuted claims from officers who gave evidence that the conversations that had been recorded on a dictaphone amounted to ‘tongue in cheek’ or ‘banter’ between police officers at the end of a busy day. Rather, Justice Wright said the unguarded conversations went well beyond tongue in cheek or banter and also reminded the court that the officers were still on duty when their conversations were recorded.

The judge made constant reference to the police evidence being ‘inconceivable’ in relation to the imposition of public order warnings on the 21st June 2006 and more disturbingly the clear intention of TVP to persecute supporters of the SPEAK campaign as demonstrated by the comments on the dictaphone tape.

This was a judgment that we all hope will go someway to addressing the unbridled attack that is currently taking place against everyone who wishes to SPEAK out against powerful and unaccountable institutions like Oxford university and TVP.

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