The Criminalisation of Protest
In 1993 the National Association for Victims of Stalking was launched by Evonne Leonora Von Heussen, a victim of stalking and mother of a teenage daughter who was suffering the same harassment at the time.
Following from this campaign, which gained media and government attention, were several attempts to get various laws passed in parliament, despite the government severely underestimating the numbers of people who were the victims of stalking and similar abuses and the effects that such activities could have on a person.
In 1997, an act was drafted, claiming to be written in order to “protect persons from harassment and similar conduct”. It was called the “Protection from Harassment Act” (PfHA). The media talked about “stalking” and the legislation was descibed as a law “designed to protect vulnerable people”.
At this point, not many people would have known that it was to become such a controversial piece of legislation.
Self-proclaimed “egalitarian” and former Harrow-on-the-Hill schoolboy turned Army Lieutenant, (Arthur) Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden is the notorious solicitor behind the PfHA and its subsequent use in curbing protest. Director of Lawson-Cruttenden Solicitors, he seems to have made a large amount of money from a number of clients (mainly well-known companies and corporations) over the years by (mis)using the act to protect businesses.
TLC, as he is better known, drafted and introduced the PfHA after co-drafting the “Stalking Bill” in 1996. He is also the co-author of the “Blackstone’s Guide to Protection from Harassment Act 1997” and the use of the act in courts. In his personal statement on the Sidney Sussex College Alumni page, he writes that he has expertise in “mounting civil representative actions against anarchist groups under harassment and human rights legislation”.
Those represented by TLC and his firm have included Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), Novartis, Beyond Retro, EDO MBM, Oxford University, Bayer, DHL, Harrods, Eli Lilly and Harlan in their attempts to restrict protests by campaigns such as SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), CAFT (Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade), the Smash EDO campaign, SPEAK and others.
TLC has never acted on behalf of individuals in regards to claims of stalking according to an article by Corporate Watch – “Corporate Injunction Experts?” – published in May 2009.
How it all began…
When Huntingdon Life Sciences decided that they wanted to make protesting against them more difficult, they got TLC involved. Using the widely-drafted legislation, he argued in court that HLS and its staff were represented and spoken for by Brian Cass, director of the company. Because of this it was claimed that when HLS were “harassed” by protesters, so were its staff and so was Mr. Cass. Therefore the company should be granted the same rights as any person who was the victim of stalking and similar harassing activities. Yet another example of a corporation enjoying the same rights as an individual while avoiding having the same criminal responsibility and accountability.
While most court orders would only apply to the people specifically referred to in them, TLC stated that “everyone” was a potential harasser and not just one person (or a few) and therefore the orders should apply to those “named and unnamed” and those “unknown”. The orders would now apply to protesters in general instead of a few identified as “trouble-makers” and individually named.
In obvious disagreement with (or perhaps ignorance of) the idea that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” (J. F. Kennedy) Mr. Lawson-Cruttenden, his clients and the High Court have set about using injunctions to limit the times at which protests can take place, the duration of such protests, decide the number of people allowed to take part at any time, whether or not those people can wear costumes, how much noise they can make, what else they may do as part of the protest and whether or not they have to announce their intention to demonstrate in advance to the company in question and the police. Under normal circumstances in the UK you do not need to ask permission or announce this intention to the police or other authority (unless you are planning a protest march). TLC’s idea of having “designated protest areas” was a hit with his clients and a topic of great debate in court when it came to the campaigns targetted.
On top of all of this, no real proof of any actual intimidatory (or other) actions need be provided in order to have an injunction granted, unless protesters wish to take the matter to a trial. Hearsay can be used in court against the campaigns and “evidence” to back up any claims can be merely a witness statement by a member of staff that they felt harassed or imtimidated by the actions of protesters. Protesters have been accused of making threatening gestures, swearing and insulting members of staff even though videos exist of the same protesters taking part in entirely peaceful, lawful demonstrations on the very same protests. Part of the evidence bundle used in a case by Novartis was something about the “ALF battlecry” of “Until Every Cage is Empty!” and the injunctions themselves tend to add in the “ALF” (Animal Liberation Front – a banner under which illegal direct action can be anonymously claimed) as a group that the orders apply to.
Lawson-Cruttenden Solicitors themselves do state that any allegations are untested and unproven, but is it not worrying that restrictive orders can be granted (at least initially) on unsubstantiated claims alone?
Any breach of an injunction can potentially result in punishment of 5 years imprisonment.
In 2005 the SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act) legislation made changes to the PfHA. Where previously an individual would have to “pursue a course of conduct” (meaning they would have to have harassed someone on two or more occasions), the changes brought in by SOCPA mean that a “course of conduct” could be undertaken by more than one person (campaigns , therefore, could be accused of pursuing such a course of harassment).
“The jewel in the crown of any counter-anarchy strategy”
TLC has been described as seeming to like talking about how great his injunctions are and has featured in many articles promoting them as a way of dealing with protest and civil disobedience. For example, in an article entitled “Chaos Theory” (May 2012) which can be found on the website www.newlawjournal.co.uk he talks about his ideas for a “counter-anarchy strategy” to protect the Olympic Games in 2012 and the Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) tactics used by movements such as Occupy (and how the strategy should be civil injunction led). Additionally, in such articles, he plays on the fear that terrorists will target such events by suggesting that terrorists could exploit the chaos caused by people taking part in civil disobedience and NVDA.
It comes as no surprise then that it is claimed he is aiming for “the criminalisation of civil disobedience” as George Monbiot states in his article “The Paranoia Squad” in December 2008.
Despite this, he is quoted in various “letters to the editor” and articles saying things like “freedom of expression is far too important and must include the offensive, the distasteful and the anti-social” – in this case seemingly making a referrence to a High Court judgement by Lord Justice Sedley in 1999 regarding freedom of speech. In the short piece entitled “Free Expression” in The Times newspaper in August 2012, he also says that we “must take strenuous steps to avoid becoming [a controlled and “politically-correct” society].
TLC claims that he is not misusing the law, but “just pushing it as far as the courts will allow” (BBC Inside Out – “The solicitor protesters love to hate”, 2007) but whether it is actually compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights is still being discussed (although unfortunately not within the legal system). It is also yet to be decided for certain whether such an order can apply to “protesters” in general and those “unnamed” or “unknown” or, like most restraining orders, can only affect those who are named in the court proceedings and documents. This may be getting tested in the criminal courts in June 2013, so watch this space.
Things did start to go wrong for TLC back in 2006 when defendants from the Smash EDO campaign beat his injunction after a year-long battle in the High Courts, stating that the PfHA was being misused to restrict the right to protest and assemble freely. He began to receive complaints following this and was sacked as the solicitor acting for Oxford University against the SPEAK animal rights campaign. Unfortunately, companies such as Norton Rose solicitors appear to be eager to “help corporate clients” against the threat of protest.
Lynn Sawyer (who was landed with a huge bill after the first HLS injunction case) says “I envisage a situation where bailiffs are ‘harassed’ by protesters trying to save trees, a worker is ‘harassed’ by a striker holding up a banner, the meat industry is ‘harassed’ by someone campaigning for veganism, a homophobe is ‘harassed’ by a gay rights demo and a travel company claim ‘harassment’ after a visitation by the Disabled Action Network” (“Harassment Life Sciences” Schnews, 29th October 2004).
Is this the future of protest (and potentially everyday life) in the UK?