The prosecution witnesses were two of the police officers who had arrested us. Their stories conflicted but there were some points worth noting. Firstly, we were followed and covertly videoed all day and marked out for arrest by ‘evidence gatherers’, despite being clearly marked medics, and doing nothing more than hand out water and treat people. We were called ‘instigators’ and ‘ring leaders’ by the police giving evidence, and they claimed that we were ‘egging on the violence’. Presumably the evidence gatherers had concrete proof of our role as ring leaders to justify sending in a snatch squad for us – so why was the only video evidence submitted footage of us standing around in a pen, giving someone some water and chatting? Could it be that the evidence gatherers had no proof of anything, except our role as organised medics? And still pointed us out to a snatch squad?
The police evidence was confusing, and I had trouble following it, even though I was the subject of the incident in question. Apparently, despite the overwhelming (but strangely absent) evidence against us, the snatch squad that surrounded us had no intention of arresting us – they’d broken through police lines to ask us to move (officer 1). Or maybe they moved into the pen to arrest us (officer 2). Or maybe they just didn’t know.
So we’ve established that there was a snatch squad sent in for us. A snatch squad of “a whole unit followed by two further units” (officer 1). No, it was two officers (officer 2). Let’s look at the video evidence. Here’s a clip, taken from the BBC and submitted by the prosecution. As well as showing my medic partner being hit across the face as her hands were held behind her back (Did you really mean to show that in court, officer?), you can see the two of us surrounded by at least 25 riot police. To be fair, two tired-out street medics with a backpack full of dried apricots and water are quite the threat, so it’s lucky all those extra coppers were there.
Where was I? So the snatch squad came out for us – could I mention at this point, that no evidence was submitted of any grounds for sending the squad out for us, and no charges were brought for anything preceding our arrest. We were accused of refusing to move, shouting abuse and linking arms…. during our arrest. I’m no lawyer, but I was under the impression that violently arresting people, then prosecuting them for screaming in pain (sorry, screaming abuse. Police – “they were shouting ‘we are not resisting’”) isn’t entirely fair.
The police claimed that they were forced to use authorised pressure point holds and wrist manoeuvres to separate us. The fact that these were used after we were separated and being held on the ground didn’t seem to be important to their evidence. Still, the fact that they admitted using these techniques on us was unexpected, and possibly interesting reading for those who accused us of lying or exaggerating in our interview with Indymedia after being released from custody.
The police giving evidence said that they recognised the medic patches we were wearing, but had no idea what they symbolised. The prosecution claimed that a black cross on a red background was completely unrecognisable, whereas a red or green cross would be immediately obvious. The fact that I was in fact wearing a large duct tape red cross on the medical kit on my belt was not mentioned until I gave evidence. Despite the police statements, the Sheriff accepted that we were medics.
Video evidence was used in court – there were 6 or 7 clips, some taken from the BBC and Sky News. It consisted of:
-us standing around talking to a legal observer
-us standing around giving water to someone
-random riot porn
-then two particularly memorable clips; one just before we were arrested, standing around in a pen. The second was us mid-arrest, on the floor and surrounded by riot police. From the same camera. So that would be one continuous clip that showed the whole arrest (and thereby proving our innocence), with the bit where we were attacked by the police edited out, then, with the segments before and after submitted as two separate videos.
Our defence lawyers didn’t see the video evidence until the day of the trial, so we were given the choice of going ahead with the ‘edited’ video, or delaying the trial to give them time to try and get the rest of the footage. Bearing in mind that every time we had to travel to court, we spent at least £80 on train fares, plus other expenses, and had to take almost 3 days off from studying/working, we had little choice but to take the risk and carry on with the trial.
There were two other street medics, one a qualified doctor, waiting to give evidence, but they weren’t needed in the end, so it was just me and my medic partner that gave evidence. What can I say, except that we told the truth, which you can read in our Indymedia interview here –
The Sheriff acquitted us within a minute of the final speech by our solicitors, making two points. Firstly, both my medic partner and I were commended as excellent witnesses. Secondly, he noted that there was no evidence of a breach of the peace, and even if, during our arrest, we had actually done what we were accused of, we would have been perfectly entitled to do so, because there was no reason for our arrest.
Our trial raises a number of issues.
1. How much money was spent on this trial, and how better could these thousands of pounds have been spent than on the monitoring, assault and prosecution of two medics?
2. At what point did evidence gatherers feel that enough proof of us standing around talking had been filmed, and recommend our arrest?
3. Who authorised the arrest of two clearly marked first aiders?
4. How were bail conditions that amounted to deportation deemed in proportion to the alleged crime of sitting in the road?
5. Why are the police such bad liars?
A final point, to all activists reading this. I can’t stress how important it is that you keep all footage and photos of arrests that you might have. We appealed for footage of our arrest, and had a very low response. In the end we only had videos submitted by the police, which had been handily edited to remove the parts that proved our innocence. It is important to have good images of protests, sure, but please work beyond looking at your pictures to find good stuff for Indymedia, and think if your footage can be used to help activists get off unfair charges. In the video evidence in court we could see at least 10 people filming our arrest – where were these people when their footage was urgently needed? Please remember this, and please keep your eyes open for evidence call-outs and legal support requests. Ta.
And of course THANKYOU to Indymedia, and for everyone who has supported us since our arrest and through our trial. I know that we have both been proud to be a part of Action Medics UK, who have had our backs the whole time. A specific thanks to all the medics who put us up, helped with transport costs, took time off work to be witnesses and travelled the length of the country to show support in court. Thanks are also due to the G8 Legal Support team, for coming to both our pre-trial hearing and trial, keeping in touch via email while we were on bail and working tirelessly to help everyone who got nicked out. Thanks thanks thanks for everyone who was waiting outside the court back in July, and all those who showed solidarity these last few months. When it comes to arrests, any one of us could be arrested at a demonstration these days; such is the arbitrary nature of the police. As we’ve seen, even people you’d presume to be unarrestable, like medics or legal observers, are becoming targets, and we need to stand together.
Solidarity for all G8 defendants still awaiting trial, best wishes from the two of us.