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George Monbiot on another misuse of UK government’s “sweeping powers”

with 2 comments

From The Guardian

The villagers have marched, demonstrated, and sent in letters and petitions. Some people tried to stop the company from cutting down trees by standing in the way. Their campaign was entirely peaceful. But the power company discovered that it was legally empowered to shut the protests down.

Using the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, it obtained an injunction against the villagers and anyone else who might protest. This forbids them from “coming to, remaining on, trespassing or conducting any demonstrations, or protesting or other activities” on land near the lake. If anyone breaks this injunction they could spend five years in prison.

The act, parliament was told, was meant to protect women from stalkers. But as soon as it came on to the statute books, it was used to stop peaceful protest. To obtain an injunction, a company needs to show only that someone feels “alarmed or distressed” by the protesters, a requirement so vague that it can mean almost anything. Was this an accident of sloppy drafting? No. Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, the solicitor who specialises in using this law against protesters, boasts that his company “assisted in the drafting of the … Protection from Harassment Act 1997″. In 2005 parliament was duped again, when a new clause, undebated in either chamber, was slipped into the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. It peps up the 1997 act, which can now be used to ban protest of any kind.

Mr Lawson-Cruttenden, who represented RWE npower, brags that the purpose of obtaining injunctions under the act is “the criminalisation of civil disobedience”. One advantage of this approach is that very low standards of proof are required: “hearsay evidence … is admissable in civil courts”. The injunctions he obtains criminalise all further activity, even though, as he admits, “any allegations made remain untested and unproven”.

Last week, stung by bad publicity, npower backed down. The villagers had just started to celebrate when they made a shocking discovery: they now feature on an official list of domestic extremists.

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2 Responses

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  1. “Protection from Harassment Act 1997″.

    ” They came for the animal rights protesters but I did nothing because I was not an animal rights protester : now they have come for me …”

    Pat Rattigan

    October 30, 2009 at 9:03 am

  2. I am not an environmentalist, and I do not believe in anthropogenic climate change, in fact I think that the people pushing climate change the hardest are the real fascists and are out to cull the population – after all, they say so publicly.

    But that aside, I agree that whatever the cause for civil disobedience and protest, in a democracy, these activities must be protected.

    We are losing our democracy in this country.

    Anyone who wants to stand up and fight should come to the British Constitution Group conference tomorrow at Friends Hall in Euston Road, London.

    https://www.thebcgroup.org.uk/conference/

    John Morton

    October 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm


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