Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 54.
HAMPSHIRE POLICE have agreed to pay a total of £17,000 damages to two women who were wrongly arrested while demonstrating at the Twyford Down road protest.
The awards are the latest in a long line to result from policing errors at a demonstration on Bailey Bridge above the A33 bypass at Winchester on May 22nd 1993.
Brenda Puech and Kathryn Tulip were arrested and held for 12 and nine hours respectively for obstructing a police officer but the charges were withdrawn. They argued that the police acted unlawfully because there is no power of arrest for that offence without a warrant and that they were not wilfully obstructing officers.
Tulip said she brought the civil action because she wanted to show Hampshire Police that they could not breach the law and the way to make them think twice was to get back at them through the pocket.
“They were trying to get us off the bridge and it was expedient to them to remove us for the evening. What they did was against the law and they knew it. During the operation there was much communication between the police and the site managers and there seemed to be a lot of cooperation which I found offensive. The police are meant to be impartial but it seemed they saw it as their job to clear the site not to keep the peace between the contractor and the protestors. The way they went about policing was very incorrect,” she said.
Puech said the police’s public apology had vindicated their actions and she hoped the case would inspire other people to fight for their rights and not let the police get away with behaving unlawfully. “I hope this gives others courage to protest without fear of the consequences.”
The next raft of Twyford Down damages cases are likely to come to trial in the late autumn and will involve eight protestors who were arrested at the cutting on March 27th 1993.
Protestors had been moved back to allow trucks to pass and despite complying with police requests to leave, some of the demonstrators were arrested. The jury will be shown police video footage of events in support of the protestors’ cases.
Civil rights solicitor John Davis, who has been handling many of the Twyford cases as well as police misconduct matters arising out of other roads protests, said this type of legal action is difficult to bring.
“To get legal aid was almost a battle in itself because the Legal Aid Board was reluctant to regard the cases as deserving or valid in law so there was a psychological and political rift to contend with and a certain amount of hostility. The attitude seemed to be that here were people putting themselves in front of the establishment, of legitimate power, and if that’s how they want to run their lives then that’s up to them,” said Davis, of Irwin Mitchell solicitors’ Sheffield office.
He said that once legal aid had been granted the next hurdle was the police. “Hampshire Police were never going to take this lying down,” he said.
Davis is concerned that partial media coverage of the Twyford Down protest may be another problem to contend with. An important aim for him in the run-up to the next batch of cases is to try to ensure that the public, from whom the jury will be drawn, receives fair accounts of the campaign.
He said unlawful arrest was one of the very few matters still heard before a jury and it was vital to inform people about the cases so that they could form a balanced view.
“There is a danger that people are being fed a diet of one-sided journalism and it is in the interests of everyone that the people who will decide on the facts are people who are not coming to the case from a stand-point of a prejudiced notion of what went on at Twyford Down,” Davis said.
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