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Parliament Square Protestor Wins Latest Battle With Authorities

Long time anti-war campaigner thwarts latest attempt to rid him from outside parliament

11th May 2005

Brian Haw, the Parliament Square peace protestor, who has spent nearly four years in a continuous anti-war protest vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament (1), has won an appeal against a conviction of 'failing to leave a cordoned area'.

Mr Haw was arrested and his extensive protest display removed in a sudden midnight police operation on 10 May 2004 (2). In December 2004 a magistrate dismissed the charge against Mr Haw of assaulting a police officer. At the trial the counsel for the defence had argued that there had been no evidence of a cordon being properly established and that the police had given conflicting accounts. Despite the supposed security threat the police van did not leave the scene for some time and, just after Mr Haw's arrest, the security cordon was lifted.

When witnesses for the prosecution did not turn up at court this morning the judge determined the case could not proceed and the CPS decided that it was no longer in the public interest to prosecute. The judge granted Mr Haw's appeal against the conviction and awarded him defence costs.

Emma Sangster, a character witness for Mr Haw said that, "Brian's protest has been accepted as lawful since he won his landmark High Court case in October 2002 (3). Rather, it is the actions of the police on more than one occasion that do not stand up in court. The fact that Brian keeps winning cases in the courts demonstrates the justice behind his protest. His is a message that the Government does not want to hear. In their increasingly desperate attempts to silence Brian, the Government now intends to force through a new law, that will effectively stop most protest, whatever the issue, in the heart of London."

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill is currently going through Parliament and will be debated in the House of Lords on 5th April (4). Civil liberties lobby group, Liberty, assert "The right to peaceful protest goes to the heart of the British tradition of liberty. It is an indictment upon the Government that they seek to pass primary legislation which will end demonstrations near Parliament. It is difficult to see how clause 129 can be compatible with Article 11 Human Rights Act (the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association)." (5)

1. Brian Haw has been in Parliament Square continuously since 2nd June 2001 in protest against the US/UK support of economic sanctions in Iraq, the invasion of Iraq and the on-going 'war on terror'.

2. After the incident in May 2004 Mr Haw's protest placards were unnecessarily removed from the site but returned the next day and dumped on the pavement. He sustained wrist injuries and other bruising while being put into a police van and has filed a complaint to the police about the incident.

3. On 4th October 2002 Westminster City Council's High Court proceedings against him for obstruction of the highway were dismissed on the grounds that Mr Haw was exercising his freedom of expression and assembly under the Human Rights Act.

4. One of the measures in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill is entitled 'Behaviour in vicinity of Parliament'. See, clauses 129 to 135.

5. See:

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