Victory for Haringey Anti-Cuts Defendants
September 8, 2011
Two anti-cuts protestors, Nicolas Christian and Jane Laporte, are celebrating as the case against them was dismissed. They had been accused of assaulting a police officer at a Haringey Civic Centre protest in February.
The protest had been called by Haringey Alliance for Public Services in opposition to the council’s proposed £41m cuts to local services, including the closure of three residential homes and four day centres for older people, a 75-per-cent cut in the Youth Services budget, and a 50-per-cent cut to the Parks maintenance budget.
Judge Tempia, sitting at Enfield Magistrates’ Court (in Tottenham), ruled that police officers from the Territorial Support Group were not acting within their duty and used unlawful force in removing the defendants, along with other anti-cuts protestors, out of the building.
The decision came after four days of prosecution evidence, including the appearance of 15 police officers, none of whom could point to any violence threatened or used by either protestor that would justify the riot police’s use of force under their powers to prevent a breach of the peace.
The heavy-handed and violent response by the riot police that night was totally disproportionate to any of the actions by the protestors. They also failed to appreciate the right of local residents to hold their local councillors to account as they voted through cuts that would tear apart services for young people and the elderly.
The judgment is an important decision not only for the two defendants, but also for the freedom to protest in the face of police intimidation tactics. Both defendants received a huge amount of support from friends and family, as well as local anti-cuts campaigners and other community activists, for which they are grateful.
Thanks to the great work of their barristers, David Rhodes (Doughty Street Chambers) and David Wood (Charter Chambers), they managed to win the case on the lawfulness of the police’s actions rather than the specific allegations relating to the individual assaults.
At a time when public funding is under such pressure this case has been a huge waste of resources. However, the tragedy remains the voting through of the most savage cuts Haringey has ever seen.
For more information about the local campaign against public sector cuts, see www.hapsnews.net, the website of Haringey Alliance for Public Services.