Steph Pike was in court today, giving a strong plea of Not Guilty against a crime that should never be a crime – peaceful and unobstructive protesting as part of Manchester’s UK Uncut group, a group formed to raise awareness of corporate tax dodging and help push forward other possibilities than the massive and deep cuts that we all face. This is a group that not only has the highest calling, but also has shown again and again that it can protest peacefully and sensibly with the support of the public.
Steph, however, was arrested and charged, not with what she was lead to believe was aggravated trespass, a charge she could easily defend against with it’s fairly ridged structure, even with it’s wide open wording, but with a far more worrying crime, a pre-crime as it were:
“Failure to comply with a direction to leave when the police have reasonable belief that you may commit aggravated trespass”
Broken down, this means that:
1) She failed to move on a police order (not illegal on its own unless under specific circumstances)
2) That the police had reasonable belief that a crime of aggravated trespass was to be committed
The idea of a police officer having the power to move you on from a protest on the basis that a serious crime is in danger of occurring (i.e. a riot) does not seem too unreasonable – however this law is far from that. This law, which is punishable by upto three months in prison, is if you are in danger of “ obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity” – a far cry from the violence and terror of a riot or other serious crime.
And what did she do, you ask? She stood in a bank window, wearing a suit with a sign saying “FAT CAT BANKERS”. Is this kind of public conscience rasing work what we want to be criminalising as a socity? Much less with a possible three month prison sentence.
Read more at Defend The Right To Protest about this case
The aggravated trespass law
The action in question – standing in a window, now a precursor to a crime