Inappropriate use of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
Harrogate Magistrates Court: R v Lindis Percy
Lindis Percy, co-founder of CAAB, was arrested under section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 - use of Dispersal Powers - Anti-social on 8 March 2016 at the weekly Tuesday pm demonstration at NSA/NRO Menwith Hill (started in 2000 and in its seventeenth year in July). She was demonstrating in the way previously agreed with North Yorkshire Police (NYP) and the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) and implemented over the previous two years. She was later charged and bail conditions were imposed.
This was the first time this law had been used by the NYP and the MDP at Menwith Hill and represented a betrayal of the trust built up over the previous three years, following eight years of struggle to maintain the ‘right to protest’.
Although the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act has a clause which allows peaceful assembly, the use of Dispersal Powers at Menwith Hill could have serious implications for the policing of other demonstrations. It was important to bring this to court to rule on whether the MDP could use Dispersal Orders. It was also abundantly clear to Lindis from the start that the officers did not know what they were doing and erred many times in law.
Lindis defended herself. Throughout the lead up to the trial (14 September 2016) the Crown Prosecution Service caused many delays by ignoring Directions by the Magistrates to disclose documents and CCTV - see our last newsletter (No. 60, Summer 2016) for more details. CCTV of both incidents was not forthcoming despite many requests and three applications by Lindis for an Intervention hearing. The CCTV recordings were finally produced on the first day of the trial but heavily edited and not dated or timed.
It was abundantly clear who was in charge of this case – the ‘third party’ (the American authorities). Brandon Halstead (the US Judge Advocate from Menwith Hill) appeared at several hearings, instructing Beth Richardson (the Crown Prosecutor). At trial he sat behind her.
Lindis made an application for the CCTV to be produced in a credible format and for Brandon Halstead to be cross examined in the witness box about the CCTV. He said he could not appear in the witness box as he had to have permission from the US authorities. He was in total charge of the CCTV. The Magistrates refused the application but did allow Lindis to ask him questions where he was sitting. There were no MDP officers in court. Lindis had requested at the first hearing in April and on the day of the trial that the case be heard by a District Judge as there were complex points of law to be argued. This was denied.
The case ended a day early on a point of law. The result was that the Magistrates agreed on a simple point of law, argued by Lindis. Beth Richardson offered no evidence and Lindis Percy was awarded costs.
The case established that the MDP cannot use Dispersal Orders again – at least at Menwith Hill. This was because the Magistrates ruled that the area where the Tuesday demonstration takes place was private land and DOs can only be used in a public space. Lindis had argued that the land in question had restrictions – the RAF Menwith Hill Byelaws 1995. The case should never have come to court.
This is what a Dispersal Order as issued at RAF/NSA Menwith Hill looks like:
Letter published in Talk Through June 2016. Talk Through is the magazine of the MoD Police. Natalie Laing, a US Civilian contractor, was invited on a number of occasions to meet CAAB Supporters but she did not reply to the invitations.