History of the CJA

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain “anti-social” behaviours. When it was proposed in the 1990s it attracted widespread opposition. Protests took place in London in July and October of 1994 – the second was a march and protest ‘rave’ in Hyde Park and various other campaigns, including internet actions against the government were also launched. The FFACJA (Football Fans Against the Criminal Justice Act) was one of these – http://www.urban75.org/football/campaign.html

The main target activities of the law were squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and free parties. The act was described as “explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture”. The sections which refer specifically to free parties/raves have been described as badly defined* and written in an “atmosphere of panic” following the Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992.

*The Act defines music to include “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

Castlemorton Common Festival was the result of an action by the Avon and Somerset Police in May ’92 when they tried to end the Avon Free Festival, an annual festival which had been held for several years. Thousands of travellers and ravers heading to the area for the expected Festival were pushed into nearby communities during “Operation Nomad” conducted by the police. An estimated 20,000 – 40,000 people gathered on Castlemorton Common and held a free party that lasted a full week. The media interest sparked by this served to increase the numbers in the crowd, making it impossible for the police to close it down.

Various bands spoke out in response to the proposed Criminal Justice Bill, including “Autechre” who released a statement along with their EP, saying:

“Warning: ‘Lost’ and ‘Djarum’ contain repetitive beats. We advise you not to play these tracks if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law. ‘Flutter’ has been programmed in such a way that no bars contain identical beats and can therefore be played under the proposed new law. However, we advise DJs to have a lawyer and a musicologist present at all times to confirm the non-repetitive nature of the music in the event of police harassment.”

Other areas of the law which received great public attention include sections 34 – 39 which substantially changed the right to silence of an accused person and allowed for “inferences” to be drawn from this silence. Sections 54 – 59 gave police greater rights to take and retain intimate body samples. Section 60 increased police powers to stop and search people and section 80 took away the duty imposed on local councils under the Caravan Sites Act 1968 which was to provide sites for “gypsy and traveler” use. The whole of “Part V” covered collective trespass and therefore affected raves, squatters, unauthorised campers, hunt saboteurs, road protesters, etc. Other provisions handled pornography, sexual offences and also reduced the age of consent for homosexual acts from 21 to 18.