Last day of 'pre-crime' court case over royal wedding arrests

By staff writers
1 Jun 2012

The court case examining ‘precrime’ pre-emptive arrests and violent raids on squats ahead of last year's royal wedding will conclude at the High Court today (1 June).

The results could have an impact on future policing at large events such as the London Olympics this summer.

Police are accused of abusing their powers during the royal wedding with the intention of stifling protest. This is the claim of the plaintiffs in four separate judicial reviews, which are being heard together.

In a hearing beginning at 10:00 am, barristers representing the four groups of claimants will make their closing arguments. They argue that the police acted unlawfully, equated protest with criminality and squats with violent disruption.

Karon Monaghan QC, acting on behalf of 15 claimants who were arrested pre-emptively “to prevent a breach of the peace” said that on the day of the royal wedding (29 April), the police acted with an “impermissably low threshold of tolerance” which had the effect of “the suppression of a dissenting voice.”

Those arrested included four people sitting in a branch of Starbucks wearing zombie facepaint (for a flashmob) and one woman who was arrested for having a flyer about the flashmob.

“The hearing has encompassed everything from the absurd to the Orwellian,” said Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, one of the claimants who was arrested for zombie fancy dress. “In the past four days the court has seen the police use an article from the Sun as evidence and heard how a raid on a squat ostensibly for stolen goods saw the police take all the toothbrushes for DNA.”

She added, “The Met [Metropolitan Police] argues that every 'breach of the peace' arrest was done for our own good before we provoked an inevitable violent reaction from royalists. Personally, I wasn’t even protesting anything. I went along for the zombie flashmob and I wound up in a police cell. It would be laughable if it weren’t so scary.”

Sam Grodzinski, the police’s barrister, said less intrusive policing, such as confiscating the flyer from one claimant wasn’t an option as “handing it over would not cleanse her of those intentions”. In the case of a minor arrested pre-emptively for “criminal damage” because of two marker pens in his backpack, Grodzinski said confiscating the pens was not an option as “he could have bought more”.

The raids on squats have also come in for criticism. According to the defence, the police used extremely crude political profiling to conclude that people growing vegetables at Grow Heathrow and mending bikes in Camberwell were intent on disrupting the wedding. The police have long been accuse of raiding the squats largely for the sake of disrupting attempts to plan activism at the time of the wedding.

Police do not deny that there was an ulterior motive for their raids, but insist that this was not unlawful. Neither the paint bombs, nor the stolen bike parts for which the police had search warrants, were found.

The case will be a suspended judgement as the judges consider many hundreds of pages of evidence.

[Ekk/1]

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