Westside Action

a motley crew of anarchists and activists from Bristol, Bath and South Wales

Archive for March, 2010

Letter From COP15 Accused, 19th March

Dear All,

First of all, Noah and I wanted to say a massive thank you for all the solidarity, the actions, articles, petitions and messages of care that have been organized in solidarity with our trial. Although we know that political repression of this sort targets all activists, it does feel very isolating being the people picked out and charged.  Every single action of solidarity has made this process easier for us and reminded us that we are not alone. So thank you!

We have had several victories, some beautiful court moments, and a very stressful week in court. Our case was extended for three more days- which will not happen until August. Noah and I are both sad that the trial is not over but relieved to have not been judged yesterday. I have included english versions of some of the danish press coverage on the case below to give you a better idea of what has been going on in our trial.

We were originally given two days in court for our trial (the tuesday and friday just passed). We had been charged with organizing violence against the police, gross public disorder, systematic destruction of property and gross disturbance of public infrastructure. Two of these are charges associated with danish terror laws. The police said that we did this from the period of october to december 2009 but that these things were mostly to be carried out in copenhagen during the period of the 11th to the 18th of December. They said that the alleged actions we are accused of mostly failed because the police managed to stop them- in part by arresting Noah on the 11th and me on the 13th of December and keeping us in prison for the rest of the COP (and three more weeks- just to be sure!).

On the morning of the first day in court our lawyers argued for the case to be dropped. They explained that charges in Denmark usually have to include some description of what people are accused of doing, including things like how they were doing it, where, when…anything really. They successfully removed one of the terror charges (gross disturbance of public infrastructure) and got the police prosecutor to admit that none of the things we were accused of had any relation to what happened on the streets in Copenhagen during the COP 15. So now we are just accused of attempting actions, not actually carrying anything out!

It was at this point that the police prosecutor introduced the crystal ball defense. No more details than “something bad was supposed to happen at some point somewhere in Copenhagen” could be supplied by the police because they couldn’t look into their crystal ball when they charged us! In a spectacular display of confidence in the charges she then asked the court to note that she had not actually written them herself!

The court decided to continue with the rest of the charges regardless, but after two days in court I am wondering if they regret that decision. The ‘evidence’ for the non-specific things we are accused of organizing is spurious at best and in the worst cases produced bursts of laughter from both judges and spectators in court. They have trucked out tiny bits of conversations from tapped phones between other people and asked us to interpret them,  radically reinterpreted what we and others have said on the phone (from over three months of our private conversations that they recorded) to the point where even the judge objected. They used notes from brainstorms, scribbled notes from media report backs, and outlandish conjecture to try to demonize us.

My personal favorite is a note i made about big bolt cutters. Instead of asking to interview her during her three weeks in prison (although they said one of the reasons i was kept was for further investigation), they chose to leave until court to ask what was meant by this note in my confiscated personal note book. I explained that it was prop for a demonstration that was a huge two meter tall paper mache bolt cutter. It was to be used on the day of the climate no-borders day of action as both a humorous and serious way to say it is illegitimate to cage human beings. The prosecutor tried to throw doubt on the honesty of my reply until two of the audience in court went to pick them up from a local social center and brought them in for the court to see. Everyone but the prosecutor laughed.

The state of the evidence would really be hilarious if the case didn’t carry such serious consequences both for us personally and for Democracy in Denmark. We are the first of a series of cases against people accused of organizing. It seems that the Danish state is using us as a test case for new anti-activist laws they have passed, the extension of terror legislation to cover any form of political protest and to establish the ability to try people for things that never actually occurred.

Noah and I were both picked up and arrested on the side of the road while riding our bikes by ourselves, threatened, isolated and kept in prison for over three weeks of ‘preventative detention’. The personal impacts of this have been huge. Even scarier though is the potential effect this has on everyone’s ability to speak up about things they care about in Denmark. If they manage to criminalize protest to the extent that going to meetings, organizing speakers for a demonstration, or being a media spokes person can land you in jail, then what sort of world will we be living in? If they manage to say intense surveillance and monitoring of activists and their lovers and friends is legitimate, and arrests should be made on crystal ball suspicions of potential actions- then we have moved from even the sham of liberal democracy to a society more reminiscent of 1984 than any of us would like to admit.

It is clear also that this is not just happening in Denmark. Since our arrests we have heard of countless political prisoners facing the hard end of political repression. After our experience of injustice and repression in Denmark we feel very personally that it is so important that all of us speak out and not let this repression continue.

Free all political prisoners, drop the charges for the Cop 15 defendants and all people arrested during the COP15, and end political repression NOW!!!

Love, solidarity and actions for a better world
tash and noah xo

Why We Don’t Like The Police (and Can’t Stand Coppers)*

The Cardiff 3 -Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Anthony Paris

In a recent national-network meeting I recently attended, a young-ish person expressed his puzzlement and his anger at many of his fellow activists hostile attitude to the Police.

A recent newspaper story reminded me where a large part of my antipathy to the Police  – and by extension – to The State grew from. It was an article regarding the case of Neil Hurley, convicted in 1994 and given a  life sentence for the murder of Sharon Pritchard, who was bludgeoned to death and left naked in a playing field near her home in Croeserw, near Maesteg, South Wales. Several witnesses who gave evidence against him at trial subsequently claimed that they were coerced by officers from South Wales Police into making false statements against him. There was no direct or physical evidence linking Hurley to the crime. Despite this, the body supposedly  responsible for ensuring that miscarriage of justices – The Criminal Case Review Commission – have not yet seen fit to review his case. This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen anymore…

Of course, this brought back memories from the late 1980’s to the late nineties when case-after-case of miscarriages of justices were revealed  –  most infamously the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four – that were eventually “rectified” at the Court of Appeal. For many of those victim to the miscarriages, their conviction may have been overturned but many of them had spent anywhere up to 27 years in prison –  for which there is no possible adequate compensation (not that the financial compensation offered to those was in any way proportionate to their suffering  – and to add insult to injury around 25% of the compensation was normally deducted for “board and accommodation” –  I kid you not).

While it was the West Midlands Crime Squad who became most infamous for their “fitting up” and torture of suspects, South Wales Police, as the case of Neil Hurley demonstrates earned them  an equally bad reputation.

Despite the lack of any direct or physical evidence linking Hurley to the crime, South Wales police saw him as an obvious suspect  – i.e. one that through fabricated evidence would be easy to secure a conviction, due to his previous (alleged) poor character. This is a pattern familiar to anyone with knowledge of the  numerous false convictions that have been revealed in the last couple of decades. The number of people with learning disabilities, or mental illness who were stitched up and used to falsely convict others for high-profile murders is truly disturbing. Previous convictions, normally for minor offences may have also marked you out for a framing. Race and Class were of course also determining factors.

Another case, The Cardiff 3, shows how the Police used people in a vulnerable position to get false convictions.  Over 13 Police Officers (Let’s name the scumbags: Police Constable John Howard Murray, Detective Sergeant Paul Stephen, Detective Constable Paul Jennings, Wayne Pugh, Graham Mouncher, Richard Powell, Thomas Page, Michael Daniels, John Brian Gillard, Peter Greenwood, John Seaford, Rachel O’Brien and Stephen Hicks)  have been summoned to court for the fabrication of evidence used in the Cardiff 3 trial which resulted in Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Anthony Paris serving four years for the murder of Lynette White.

However, so far only three people have actually been jailed for perjury which led to the false convictions. They are not coppers, but witnesses who were bullied into making false statements by the Police. There was evidence that one of them, Leanne Vilday had been subject to particular pressure from police who coerced her to give evidence against the Cardiff Three, and that she was threatened with jail, losing custody of her young child, should she fail to give the evidence the filth sought.

Despite the undisputed role of police bullying and intimidation – Gaon Hart, prosecuting, stating in court that “it is clear that the defendants were harassed into lying” – all three witnesses were convicted on the basis that duress was not available as a defence.

In the cases of Birmingham Six, Guildford Four no Police Officers have ever been convicted. We’ll see what will happen with this one, but we won’t be holding our breath.

There are so many things about these cases that makes the blood boil. As with many of the miscarriages that have come to light, the convictions are for some of the most revilled crimes –  both inside and outside prisons. Sexually motivated murders, child murder, bombings of civilians etc. This of course adds to the agony of being in prison for what you have not done – as the rest of the prison population hates you and your family’s home on the outside is a likely target of attack.  Even once freed from prison  –  the Police in these cases, rather than apologise have given ‘off the record’ briefings to the press that they were in fact the right people-  they just didn’t have the evidence to prove it.  – despite what the court of appeal had decided. On release, these people should live a life of unparalleled luxury and happiness. Sadly, this is far from the case.

Take the case of Ellis Hill, one of the “Cardiff Newsagent 3” (not to be confused with Cardiff 3). In 1987, Michael O’Brien, Ellis Sherwood and Darren Hall were wrongly convicted of the murder and robbery of Cardiff newsagent Philip Saunders in 1987.

In 2001, Ellis Hill two years after he was released and a few days before his first daughter Catrin was due to be born, he suffered a stroke.

The stroke was a result of the drug habit he picked up behind bars but has since shed. It has left him with epilepsy, impaired speech, limited use of his right arm and, according to social workers, unable to be trusted to look after his own children in case he suffers a fit.

Neither does he have full control of his compensation money. When South Wales Police paid him a measly £200,000 for his 11 years in prison, the cash was held by the Court of Protection because it was argued the stroke had left him unable to look after his own financial affairs. He now has to apply in writing through solicitors in Cardiff to access any of it. Because of his illness, his partner was told to leave him in day centre. Afterwards, when they were living in Barry, Yvonne was told to leave him at a day centre during the week. For a man who had just been released from prison after 11 years, a day centre was too close to another institution. He didn’t want to go. She didn’t want him to have to. Yet they were dubbed “uncooperative” when they said no.

Of course, some would say these cases are isolated, a quick trawl on the internet would say otherwise.  The culture to cover-up for your colleagues, to issue false statements to the media  about the character of people who have been wrongly jailed,  or even killed by the police (e.g. Ian Tomlinson) is  still widespread. How else would you explain that no British Police Officer has been jailed for the dozens deaths in custody?

No Justice, No Peace…

*A paraphrase of a ‘Rodney P’ Track