Hunger Strike Victory
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 55.
A campaigner who went on hunger strike over a repressive bail condition being used against Newbury bypass battlers has succeeded in getting it varied by the High Court.
Chris Dench starved for 16 days in protest at the stipulation that activists awaiting court hearings must not tread within 1km of the proposed bypass route. Activists subjected to this condition have been issued with a map of the sausage-shaped exclusion zone - the Newbury Sausage.
Dench decided to contest this condition on the grounds that it restricted his civil rights by preventing him from taking part in any form of protest within the sausage. At court he proposed an alternative set of bail conditions which he would be willing to comply with until his case was resolved but both local magistrate and crown courts refused to accept them.
“This is a typical Tory answer to political opposition - do not answer it, simply get rid of it - and that I feel is an infringement of civil rights and takes away people’s right to legitimate protest. So what I offered was not to trespass on Highways Agency land and not to interfere with lawful activity connected with building the bypass. The High Court saw the logic of my proposition and overruled the other courts,” said Dench.
Dench was arrested and charged with aggravated trespass on August 1st. That afternoon he appeared in court and refused to be bound by the exclusion zone bail condition and was remanded in custody and taken to Bullingdon prison in Oxfordshire where he immediately went on hunger strike. He appeared in court a week later where he suggested his alternative bail conditions.
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