A Matter of a Bollard…

Guilty verdict at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court – 19 August 2008.

Harrogate Magistrates’ Court
19 and 20 August 2008

R v Lindis Percy
Alleged offence: s.69 ‘aggravated trespass’ (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) x 2

This case arose out of three incidents at Menwith Hill last year. Lindis Percy was charged with breaching a s.69 notice which had been issued by David Harding (Ministry of Defence Police Agency officer) at the regular Tuesday evening demonstration last July. The demonstration has been held every week for nearly nine years now.

There were two offences to be heard by Mr Sanders (District Judge from Cheshire in the Wirrell). The case was orginally set for three days but on the first day it became clear that it would not be necessary to call all 9 prosecution witnesses as there were three CCTV videos which were shown and many of the points had been agreed. This cut down the case considerably.

We had argued that the notice issued by David Harding was not valid and that the area at the main gate was part of the highway. The essence of section 69 says that if an officer reasonably believes that a person trepasses on land in the open air with the intention of disrupting, obstructing or intimidating lawful activity then an offence is committed and a notice can be issued. Once issued the person must not come back to the land within 3 months.

District Judge ruled today (Tuesday) that Lindis was guilty of breaching the notice twice. He ruled that the notice was valid and that the area in question was not part of the highway. She was given a conditional discharge (12 months) and ordered to pay ¬£300 costs. Mr Sanders said that the offences were at the ‘lower end of the scale’ and implied some criticism of the MDPA. The demonstration had been peaceful. There had been only ‘minor’ insignificant obstruction of the traffic. He said that the kicking of a bollard was intended by Lindis to be obstructive (this was not Lindis’s intention).

The ‘guilty’ verdict therefore rested on the fact that Lindis had kicked a bollard, ostensibily put in the middle of the main gate area for safety reasons by the MDPA so obstructing the police officers (s.69 ‘obstruction’ clause). Because the notice was validly given the second offence was therefore proved.

Section 69 (‘aggravated trespass’) has been persistently used against Lindis by the Ministry of Defence Agency officers at various US bases round the country since this draconian Act came on statute in 1994. It was never meant to be used to include peaceful protest. Section 69 is difficult to challenge as the officer only has to ‘reasonably believe’ that an offence has, is about to or is likely to be committed. An appeal has now been lodged on a specific legal point in the Crown Court.

Thank you so much to friends who came to court and to Richard Reed for representing Lindis.

Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases

Appeal withdrawn
At York Crown Court on 6 March 2009 Lindis Percy instructed Henry Trory (representing Barrister) to withdraw this appeal on the grounds that the legal argument advanced (and advised) orginally could not be sustained. No costs were involved.