fairford coach case pic
A full hearing should take place later in the year.
Bindman's press release, 16 August 2003
Fairford Coach Action Website
See Indymedia Reports + Features:
July 17th 2003
LIBERTY Slams Use of Anti Terrorism Act to Suppress Peace Protests - Did the Home Secretary Lie to Parliament?
March 24th 2003
Fairford Coaches Kidnapped By Police Feature
Legal challenge to mass detention of peace campaigners
Press release, Thursday 26 June 2003
Peace campaigners have launched a judicial review challenge which argues that the seven police forces breached their human rights by detaining and preventing them from demonstrating against the war on Iraq at Fairford air base. The case focuses on events near Fairford this March, but will have a much wider impact since the campaigners argue that the Human Rights Act prevents the from police relying on 'common law powers' to detain would-be protestors.
On 22nd March 2003 three coaches of about 150 peace campaigners set off to join a demonstration outside a US airbase at Fairford, Gloucestershire. The demonstration "Flowers for Fairford" was a day of mourning and protest at the base from which American B52 planes were leaving the UK to bomb Baghdad. The coach passengers detained included several of the scheduled speakers at the event.
Police from seven forces acting under the direction of Gloucestershire Constabulary stopped the coaches outside Lechlade, a small village near Fairford. The campaigners and the coaches were searched, a number of white paper overalls to be worn at the protest were seized as were two pen knives, some plastic toy soldiers, a hammer, a frisbee and a saw. There was one arrest for matters unconnected to the demonstration that day and the person involved was later released without charge.
The remaining campaigners were then invited to reboard the coaches. Once they had done so, officers told them that they believed a breach of the peace would occur at Fairford and the coaches would be escorted away. Once back on the motorway however, the coaches were surrounded by police vans and motorcycle outriders and forced to continue all the way back to London without a toilet break. Attempts to negotiate one by mobile phone with Thames Valley police headquarters and with the motorcycle outriders were rebuffed. A woman passenger on one of the coaches had to resort to urinating into a sandwich box in full view of two vans of police with video cameras. The coaches were caught in a traffic jam in Shepherds Bush enabling most of the campaigners to escape, though some were followed by police and a video made by one campaigner shows others being violently shoved along the road by officers.
The judicial review papers have been served on the police today. They claim that the police's actions breached Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom from arbitrary detention, along with Articles 10 and 11, the rights to freedom of speech and assembly, and Article 8 which requires respect for physical and psychological integrity. In around a month the High Court will decide whether the judicial review should have permission to proceed. If permission is granted a full hearing should take place later in the year.
Jane Laporte, the judicial review claimant said:
"It is vitally important that people can protest freely, especially about a war pursued without legal or moral justification. Up until 22nd March I was sure I had that right. The police apparently thought otherwise. The whole day seemed surreal. I could barely believe that the police so blatantly forced us back to London. Nor could I believe their concerted efforts to prevent the coach drivers from even pulling onto the hard shoulder. The police's actions were an attempt to marginalise and criminalise people who were not happy with simply marching from Embankment to Hyde Park, over and over again."
John Halford a solicitor at Bindman and Partners who represents Ms Laporte said:
"Democracies are founded on the right not to be detained without charge, freedom of speech and the right to protest. These basic rights are more important than ever in times of war, but that is also when they are most vulnerable to attack. This case involves just such an attack, one which is all the more astonishing given that the campaigners wished to demonstrate for peace and had done nothing which would have justified them being arrested or charged. We are looking to the High Court to give a clear and unequivocal signal that heavy handed, draconian policing of this kind is simply incompatible with the human rights standards now part of UK law. The decision on permission is a very positive indication of the courts' willingness to scrutinise conduct of this kind extremely carefully."
CND national press office: 07968 420 859, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Halford, Bindman and Partners: 0207 833 4433, e-mail: email@example.com
Liberty: 020 7403 3888
The campaigners also have a website with photos and links to video footage of the events of 22nd March: