Useful online legal resources

January 23, 2013 by combehavendefenders

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This week has already seen four people appearing in court on charges stemming from the campaign, and a fifth will be appearing later this week. Two more people have already had trial dates set, and a further five will be in court at the end of the month.

The CHD is currently trying to help folk to navigate the court process, and as part of this we are directing people towards some of the useful online resources that are available.

Specifically, the invaluable Activists’ Legal Project has some great short briefings on the trial process, the most common offences that activists are charged with, and the potential repercussions of a conviction (see their resources page for downloadable PDFs of all of these).

Veteran activist Michael Randle‘s excellent little book “How to defend yourself in court” is now sadly out of print. However, he has kindly given us permission to reproduce and distribute Chapter 13 “Running a ‘political defence'” (see below).

More info about trial dates – and ways for folk to support the defendants – will be posted to the site soon.

(Click on each image to view a magnified image of each page)

first pagesecond pagethird pagefourth pagefifth pagesixth pageseventh pageeighth pageninth pagetenth pageeleventh page

Michael tells us that the following material – which should have appeared on p. 100, immediately prior to the heading ‘ Getting Information and Support’, was accidentally omitted from the printed version:

The Case of Jean Hutchinson and Georgina Smith

On 23 July 1986, two Greenham women, Jean Hutchinson and Georgina Smith were convicted at Newbury Magistrates’ Court on a charge of entering RAF Greenham Common without authority.  They appealed to Reading Crown Court against conviction on the grounds that the byelaws were invalid.  The Court agreed that the women had raised a bone fide challenge to the validity of the byelaws, but concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the question.  The two women then applied to the Divisional Court for judicial review, seeking and order – in legal jargon an order of mandamus  – requiring Reading Crown Court to determine whether or not the byelaws were valid.

Their case was heard on 31 July along with another case against Ian Lee.  Lee, in this instance, had been convicted at Devizes Magistrates’ Court under the Bulford Range Byelaws, but, in an unusual move, the prosecution sought a judicial review of the decision in its favour so that the legal issues at stake could be heard by a higher court.  The Divisional Court allowed both applications and ordered the two courts to determine the validity of the byelaws. At the rehearing of the women’s case, Reading Crown Court found that the Secretary of State, Mr Heseltine, had exceeded his powers under the Military Land Act by making byelaws that take away or prejudice the ‘rights of common’ and allowed the appeal.  (Under the rights of common, 62 commoners had the right to graze cattle, dig up gravel and take firewood from the area covered by the byelaws.  Although neither of the women claimed commoners’ rights, the failure of the byelaws to make provision for these rights rendered them invalid.)  Following this success, Newbury Magistrates’ Court adjourned more that 100 Greenham byelaw cases sine die – that is without naming a date, or in plain English, indefinitely.

The saga, however, did not end here.  In October 1988, the Director of Public Prosecutions won an appeal by way of case stated at the Divisional Court. The Court accepted the argument of counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions that those parts of the byelaws which went beyond the powers of the Military Land Act could be separated from the other regulations and that the latter remained valid.  (Known as the principle of ‘severance’.)  Finally, on 12 July 1990, an appeal by the women was heard in the House of Lord where five Law Lords ruled that the Greenham Common Byelaws were indeed ultra vires the Act and that the principle of severance could not be applied in this instance.  Georgina Smith was represented at the House of Lords appeal; Jean Smith presented her case in person.1

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