Legal observer training

  • Saturday 21st April, 2pm
  • Sumac Centre, 245 Gladstone Street, Nottingham NG7 6HX

Have you ever been at a demo, near a line of police, and witnessed the police do something you’re pretty sure they’re not supposed to do? Baton someone, for instance, or stop and search a nearby protester, or snatch somebody out of the crowd? Ever wondered how you can: a) know what to do, and b) how you can help them?

Now is your chance to find out.

Nottingham Defence Campaign have invited Green and Black Cross to run a Legal Observer training session at Nottingham’s Sumac Centre.

It is a comprehensive training, that will cover:

  • Police tactics
  • Stop & search law & procedure
  • How to support arrests
  • Police ranks & command structure
  • Supporting direction action
  • How to best legally support activists and nail the inappropriate policing afterwards

If you are an experienced activist there will be parts you know already, but the depth we go into should give you more confidence and knowledge of how to deal with the police.

It will consist of 4 hours of training and some well-deserved breaks in between.

Legal Observers are consistently key to helping people at protests, whether that is by handing out key legal advice on bust cards or finding witnesses for arrests.

Come and be part of the essential infrastructure of protests, and get to know your rights while you’re at it!

***

This will also be your first opportunity to get hold of our new pamphlet about the Atos Two case.

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Atos Two: Charges dropped

The charges of aggravated trespass against the ‘Atos Two’ have been “discontinued”, i.e. dropped, by the CPS.

In September 2011, two Nottingham residents, a retired paediatric nurse and a wheelchair user were arrested following a peaceful protest at the local offices of Atos ‘Healthcare’. Faced with an impressive solidarity campaign and having a pathetically weak case, the CPS and Atos backed down.

Supporters of the ‘Atos Two’ are clear however that this case, described as an attempt to intimidate protesters and deter demonstrations, is not an isolated one.

The arrests of Notts Uncut activists just before Christmas and the confiscation of a photography student’s tapes after he filmed an arrest demonstrate that the local force is changing their attitude towards peaceful protest.

This seems to have been confirmed by a police officers’ remark who commented on the arrest of the ‘Atos Two’ by stating that there “had been too much of this sort of thing and we were told to crack down on it”.

Furthermore Atos can be expected to remain a focus for local activists campaigning against public sector cuts and attacks on the welfare system.

Jamie Kennedy from the Nottingham Defence Campaign said: “Atos remains committed to make people’s lives a misery and is one of the many examples why we need much more of ‘this sort of thing.’”

There will be a protest against Atos ‘Healthcare’ and police repression on Friday 3rd February 2012 at 12.30pm in Hockley (Nottingham).

For more coverage, see Nottingham Indymedia.

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Legal info for Notts Uncut demo

Some legal information which may be useful for Saturday’s Notts Uncut action.

Be prepared

Notts Uncut has been protesting against tax dodging companies in Nottingham for over a year and has been one of the most active groups in the city. For the most part, Notts Police have taken a largely hands-off approach to the demonstrations, occasionally threatening people with arrest, but not following through.

At the last Notts Uncut demonstration, the “Christmas Special” on Saturday 17th, however, the police took a much more confrontational attitude. Almost as soon as demonstrators arrived at the meeting point outside Boots, police were confrontational, asking people for their names, addresses and dates of birth. The police then sought to impose conditions on the protest under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. Protesters were told that they could not go within 20 yards of specified stores.

One demonstrator was arrested for failing to comply with the section 14 directions, another for remonstrating with the police about this arrest. A third person was arrested that evening at Bridewell Police Station while they were waiting for the second of the original arrestee to be released.

We do not know if this heavy-handed response was a one-off, because it was the week before Christmas and the biggest shopping day of the year, or if this will be typical of what we can now expect from Notts Police. We believe it is sensible and prudent to plan for the worst case scenario.

Bustcard

We will be around on the day distributing the bustcard (attached below), but you may want to print off one yourselves ahead of time. It is deliberately very short so you can easily carry it with you in case of emergencies. Unfortunately, this means there isn’t much room for legal details. If you want to know more, see this longer bustcard (pdf) produced (primarily for use in London) by Green and Black Cross.

The following includes some more detailed (but still introductory) information on a few areas of the law which might be useful.

Do you have to give the cops your details?

At the Christmas Special, police were asking for people’s names, addresses and dates of birth using stop and search powers, but not actually searching them. The law on whether you have to give your details is a mess.

While the general position is that you do not have to give your details (and it’s often worth arguing the toss), some police forces have tried to use section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 against protesters. This requires that you provide your details where the police “reasonably believe” that you are committing “anti-social behaviour”. (Bizarrely PCSOs seems to have similar – if not broader powers under schedule 4 of the same act.)

There doesn’t appear to be a test case about the use of this legislation and various police monitoring organisations are interested in it. In the event the police try to use section 50 against you, make sure you ask what anti-social behaviour they believe you are committing and keep copies of any paperwork they provide you with.

For a more thorough explanation of the bizarre twists and turns of the law in this area, check out this article by Andy Meinke for more information.

Conditions on protests

The police can impose conditions on on demonstrations under sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. Section 12 applies to marches/processions and section 14 to assemblies.

Under section 12, the most senior police officer at the march can impose conditions on a march, where he/she reasonably believes there will be serious public disorder, serious property damage or serious disruption to the life of the community. Conditions can be imposed which restrict the route, the duration, types of banner and the numbers of participants.

Section 14 gives the police powers to control public assemblies (static demonstrations). A “public assembly” is two or more people gathered together in a public place in the open air. This includes highways, parks, shopping precincts, shops and offices, restaurants, pubs or any other place to which the public have access or partial access. The senior officer at the scene can impose conditions which restrict the place, the duration and the numbers, “as they appear necessary to prevent serious disorder, disruption of the life of the community, or intimidation”.

It is an offence to knowingly breach conditions set under sections 12 or 14.

For a (much) more detailed discussion of the law in this area see the Free BEAGLES briefing

Public order offences

At the Christmas Special, the police used section 5 of the Public Order Act (“disorderly conduct” as a basis for arresting one protester. This covers behaviour which is generally not thought to be criminal. In particular it covers behaviour which falls short of violence or the threat or fear of violence. It is an offence under this section “if a person (i) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour or (ii) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress”. This could include e.g. swearing.

The conduct does not need to be directed towards another person, but you must have intended your conduct to be threatening, abusive or insulting or disorderly or were aware that it might be. There would have to be somebody in the vicinity of another person likely to be caused harassment, alarm (for him/herself or for a third party) or distress by the action.

A high-profile case last year confirmed that swearing at the police is not a crime because they hear such language often. This shouldn’t be taken as carte blanche to begin effing and blinding when confronted by the police. In a public place you can expect the police to argue argue that members of the public in the vicinity are likely to have been caused distress.

Taking photographs

The police will sometimes get agitated if you are taking photographs of them, particularly when they are doing something they shouldn’t. However, guidance from Notts Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) makes it clear they have no power to stop people taking photos in a public place. They have no power to compel you to delete or confiscate images without a court order.

Notts Police have recently got themselves in an embarrassing mess over this after film was seized from a student photographer, so they’ve really got no excuse for trying this on.

For links to lots more information on photographers’ rights, see this page of photography advice compiled by Nottingham Indymedia.

If you are arrested

LDMG have produced an extensive guide on what will happen and what to do if you are arrested: No Comment (pdf). This is an excellent document and well worth reading (copies should also be available from the Sumac Centre and the Sparrows’ Nest or you can contact the Nottingham Defence Campaign).

The key message is in the name: no comment. You do not need to talk to the police about anything. If you are arrested, giving your name, address and date of birth will speed up the process of being released. Any other information may be used against you and once you start talking it can be hard to stop: so don’t say anything, it is easier! If they ask you questions, just say “no comment”, until you have spoken to a solicitor and don’t sign anything.

If you’re arrested you have a right to free legal advice. You can use a “duty solicitor” but we strongly advise against. We recommend you use Banner Jones 01246 560 560 or 0797 3225894 (these numbers are also on the bustcard) who have experience of dealing with protest cases.

Nottingham Defence Campaign

If you are arrested, asked for your details or witnessed an arrest or search, please get in touch. Dealing with the police is often an unpleasant experience and intended to be isolating. The police want to keep us separate because we are at our weakest when we are alone, but we are far stronger if we work together.

Also, don’t forget about the Resisting Political Policing meeting immediately after the Notts Uncut action (Sumac Centre, 2pm), when we will be discussing how different groups in Nottingham can work together to support each other against police repression.

Disclaimer

We are not lawyers and the law is complex and changes regularly. The above is only a very brief introduction to some of the areas of the law which we think could be useful on Saturday. We encourage people to do their own research (for a good start check out some of the information on the LDMG, Green and Black Cross websites).

Bear in mind that knowing and even complying with the law does not necessarily mean that you won’t get hassle off the police. They figuratively and literally get away with murder on a regular basis, but if we get organised they will find it much harder to undermine our effectiveness.

Attached Files: Nottingham Defence Campaign bustcard (pdf)

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Resisting political policing in Notts

Following the arrests at the Notts Uncut “Christmas Special” and in light of the continuing prosecution of the “Atos Two” we believe there is a need for activist groups (and concerned individuals) in Nottingham to get together to work out how we can effectively resist political policing.

To this end the Nottingham Defence Campaign are inviting people to an open meeting at the Sumac Centre at 2pm on Saturday 14th January to discuss how we want to respond.

The meeting will be relatively informal and the agenda can be shaped by the specific concerns of attendees, but likely points of discussion include legal observing and support, court solidarity, further protests and wider publicity.

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Criminalisation of protest in Notts

On Saturday 17th December, two protesters were arrested during a demonstration held by Notts Uncut. A supporter was arrested at Bridewell Police Station later that evening.

Almost as soon as demonstrators arrived at the meeting point outside Boots, police were confrontational, asking people for their names, addresses and dates of birth (which they are not obliged to give).

The police then sought to impose conditions on the protest under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. Protesters were told that they could not go within 20 yards of specified stores. When one demonstrator, unfamiliar with imperial measurements asked what this was in metric she was arrested for refusing to comply with the s.14 directions.

Her husband then tried to remonstrate with the police and was arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. He was then manhandled into the back of a police van.

A call-out was made for supporters to go to Bridewell Police Station where they were taken. A local vicar and the 11 year old son of the arrestees were denied entry to enquire about their wellbeing.

Some supporters stayed at the police station to wait for the arrestees, while others went back to continue protesting. Additional supporters turned up throughout the afternoon and early-evening response to the call-out.

The first arrestee was released shortly after 4pm, but there was an extended delay before the second was let out. The group went into the reception (which they were no longer prevented from doing) to warm up while they waited.

After some time Inspector D. Sharp appeared with a number of other officers and demanded that people leave. He alleged that they were “intimidating” people going about their lawful business (presumably implying that waiting in a reception does not constitute “lawful business”).

Sharp was asked by a number of people present what the legal basis of his demands was, however he refused to give one and arrested one of the supporters.

All of the protesters had been released by about 9pm. The two arrested at the protest have been bailed to return in the new year, but not charged. Their bail conditions include legally dubious restrictions on their right to protest.

This is a major escalation of Nottinghamshire Police’s handling of protesters. Notts Uncut demonstrations have become a semi-regular occurence in Nottingham. Traditionally police locally have had a very hands-off approach to the protest.

The attempt to criminalise solidarity, arresting those waiting for their friends, is a particularly worrying development.

The protest was coordinated nationally with others, as part of the UK Uncut “Christmas Special” timed to coincide with the busiest shopping day of the year. There were also six arrests in London, where Topshop was protected by riot police.

Regular Uncut participants noted that the police officers assigned to the protest did not include any of the familiar faces from previous demonstrations.

It is possible, that this ridiculously heavy-handed response was a one-off, driven centrally. However, yesterday’s policing should viewed in the context of the arrest of the ‘Atos Two’, which catalysed the formation of the Nottingham Defence Campaign. In that case, one of the arresting officers admitted, “There’s been too much of this sort of thing going on and we’ve been told to crackdown.”

We should not be surprised by any of this. We live in a class society in which the police’s primary function is, and always has been, to protect the interests of the bosses. As the imposition of “austerity” heightens class conflict, we can only expect this bias to become more explicit.

In short, we should assume yesterday’s policing is typical of what we can expect from Nottinghamshire Police in the future and plan accordingly. To this end Nottingham Defence Campaign, along with others, will be organising a meeting early in the new year to plan a coordinated response.

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Update re Atos Two

Hello,

You may already be aware of the case against the ‘Atos Two’ (for links to Indymedia coverage please see below).

Following a protest at Atos “Healthcare” in Nottingham on September 30th a retired paediatric nurse and a wheelchair user were arrested and charged with aggravated trespass.

Since the arrest there have been amazing acts of solidarity by many people who e.g. send messages, signed a statement of support, spread the word, came to a solidarity demo outside the court etc.

Massive thanks to everyone!

After pleading not guilty on November 25th, the trial has been set for February 27th and 28th 2012 at Nottingham Magistrates Court.

There will be a solidarity demonstration outside Nottingham Magistrates Court on Monday February 27th from 9am.
http://nottingham.indymedia.org/events/2247

There will be a demonstration in Nottingham against Atos, the attacks on the welfare system and the criminalisation of protests on Friday February 3rd 12.30pm.
Meet at the crossroads Carlton Street; Broad Street; Stoney Street (near Ice Nine). The demo route will be fully accessible though slightly hilly (this is Nottingham after all). The route will be less than one kilometre.
http://nottingham.indymedia.org/events/2247

We are also planning a meeting/workshops to be held in Nottingham on the weekend before the trial (Saturday February 25th) to discuss political policing as well as attacks on benefit claimants. Further details to be announced asap.

We are looking for persons who would like to participate in planning this event. If you are interested in planning/attending/participating please contact nottsdefence@riseup.net

People are of course welcome to stay over for the trial!

We are also looking into possibilities for expert witnesses (e.g.
campaigners, health workers) giving evidence at the trial itself. If you know persons who might be willing to give evidence regarding Atos in court, please contact nottsdefence@riseup.net If someone would be up for this please get in touch soon as the solicitor needs to know asap (essentially before X-Mas).

Further information/updates to be announced asap.
Please circulate this message widely.

Thanks a lot.

Best wishes
Notts Defence
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Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/nottsdefence

Indymedia coverage re ‘Atos Two’

Re original protest and the charges
http://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/2168
Re events at the Magistrates Court
http://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/2207
The statement of support (to sign please email nottsdefence@riseup.net)
http://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/2195

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