● Prosecution grovels as key witness fails to show
● Judge refuses to adjourn to September; crown folds
● Humiliation for state tactics aimed at repressing protest
by Anindya Bhattacharyya for rs21 at Westminster Magistrates Court
There were extraordinary scenes outside court today as the crown case against the Antifascist 5 rapidly dissolved into a puddle of its own ineptitude. But the scenes inside court were equally strange and astonishing.
► rs21: transcript of video interview with Søren Goard
► Guardian letters page: The criminalisation of anti-fascist protest
► Hugh Muir: Another bad day for the CPS as anti-fascist prosecution collapses
► Brighton Antifascists: 27 April 2014 poster
We knew things had gone wrong from the moment the prosecutor opened his mouth. He instantly proceeded to grovel before the judge and request an adjournment. A witness, a key witness, a cop, a very senior cop – a certain Chief Inspector Williams – could not be located.
There had been a problem with the casework and the caseworker, you see, and there was confusion because there were two Section 14s, one north of Parliament Square issued by Chief Inspector Denby and one south overseen by CI Williams.
And which chief inspector issued the Section 14 that had led to mass arrests on 1 June 2013, you may ask? Well the crown had “ascertained that it was Mr Williams who was the subject of these proceedings”, the prosecutor said.
And the good CI Williams was on annual leave and could not be contacted.
By this point the details started to get fuzzy. The prosecution was forced to recount every single incompetence in their preparation. An opening note was missing. Key statements were undated and unsigned. The defence had asked for so-and-so. “The crown failed to comply with that request.”
At one point it seemed the entire court with the exception of judge and prosecutor was giggling openly. Seemed, I stress. Of course in reality everyone proceeded with due sobriety.
Even the judge’s eyes were beginning to roll. We adjourned briefly to check if rescheduling next week was a runner. Eventually word came back: no. We were looking at September or October earliest, over a year after the arrests of Dan Jones, Sandy Nicoll, Søren Goard, Jacob Wills and so many others.
All attention turned to the judge. The “state of the crown’s case was very poorly prepared from the opening note”, she declared. This was intertwined with some sharp comments about how cuts had affected the state of photocopying facilities in the courthouse. Austerity reaches everywhere these days.
And then: bang – the judge refuses the prosecution application for an adjournment. And then: bang – the prosecutor gets up and says that minus Williams, the crown has no evidence to present. Again: bang – all charges dismissed, the judge declares. Justice for the Antifascist 5: delivered.
0100 UPDATE: Amy Jowett notes (via Defend the Right to Protest) that “it was clearly stated” by the prosecution that there was no serious violence on the demo”. The only serious incident of violence we know about is my leg being broken by a police officer. She adds that two of 280+ arrested at the September Tower Hamlets demo still face serious charges, and that her case against police is ongoing.