Justice for whom? Fortnum and Mason vs the 99%
This piece first appeared on the Red Pepper blog
Before the credit crunch, the last run on a UK bank was in 1878. The directors of the Bank of Glasgow were jailed. Likewise many of those responsible for the 1929 Wall Street Crash were sent down.
Not so today. After the banking collapse of 2007/8, not a single financier has been found guilty of a crime. We are expected to believe that in the cocaine fuelled corridors of the city, not one of the choices which wiped the savings of millions was fraudulent: that everything done by these masters of the universe was cock up.
The same cannot be said for those who complain. Today, along with nine others, I was found guilty of ‘entering Fortnum & Mason and demonstrating’. I was given a conditional discharge for six months and ordered to pay £1000 of the prosecution’s legal costs. Over the last year, many of my friends have been fined, jailed, or beaten to a pulp by the police for such crimes as hanging banners from bridges, or having the audacity to be a journalist reporting on a protest.
In whose interest does the Crown Prosecution Service decide how to allocate its time and resources? In whose interest do the police police? To use the language in vogue: is it the 99%, or the 1%? How many hours have they spent over the last year or so trawling through footage in an attempt to prove that this peaceful protester breached that controversial law? Or that that peaceful protester may have crossed the fuzzy line around this equally contentious piece of legislation?
I maintain I committed no crime. But even if you wholly accept the case that the CPS presented- after days spent trawling through CCTV footage in an attempt to prove something more – all I did was go into a shop and facilitate a meeting. How does this compare with recklessly endangering the livelihoods and lives of millions? How does that compare with defrauding millions in order to make yourself billions? If the police have the time to intimidate protesters entering the city, why didn’t they have time ensure those who work there don’t commit fraud or embezzlement?
In our Fortnum and Mason case we have the benefit of outstanding, passionate and hard working lawyers. They have fought for us every inch of the way, and will fight with us all the way to the High Court. Once there, we hope to win. But we should be clear. Even if we are successful there, we will have been found not guilty by the same legal system which imprisons our friends, which criminalises protesters, and attempts to humiliate those who stand up to power; the same legal system which has done nothing whatsoever to bring to justice those responsible for our economic collapse.
Even the crime for which we were on trial – aggravated trespass – was invented in 1994 with the intention of criminalising protest. The nature of the charge meant that there was no jury – just a lone judge. We might chant that the streets are ours, but the courthouse clearly is not. And whatever ruling it comes to, it is not where our battles will be won. So, we will see you on the picket lines and on the streets.
“aggravated trespass with intent to intimidate” – I genuinely did not know such a law existed, and of course it should not exist. The outcome is so disproportionate, so unnecessary and utterly unjustifiable. It is beyond absurd.
It’s the kind of law that makes you realise these buffoons make it up as they go along. It needs to be “tested” and exposed for the nonsense it is.
Sorry to hear about the judgement – what a waste of time and taxpayers money for everyone concerned, not least the police officers. Do you suppose they or anyone cared about your ‘meeting’ in F&M (‘cept a few shoppers perhaps)? Can you clarify if it’s the ‘the establishment’in general you are shouting about, or some particular individuals in the financial sector? If the latter, then why don’t you do the research and name and shame them personally, yourself and with your comrades, the Met doesn’t have the resources to do so. Tamsin Leakey.
It must be quite astonishing to be the subject of one of these trials, trying to link what is happening to concepts of justice and equivalence.
Thing is, they are not meant to be about justice, but about deterrence. Not logic, but emotion – pricipally fear of what might happen if this sort of thing catches on.
It’s pretty commonplace for people under threat to lash out against the perceived threat. What’s interesting is that this case, like the Facebook “incitement” case, like the jail term for stealing water, suggests that there is a real sense of unease and uncertainty among those who make the laws; they seem to think the social order is under serious attack, otherwise they would adopt a far more liberal and relaxed attitude.
Their attempts to intimidate opponents will probably have the opposite effect, as so often happens. It creates a sense of injustice, and therefore anger. To that extent, it’s self-defeating.
This is a disgraceful verdict. The benefit of the doubt always goes in favour of wealth and power it seems.
Are there any implications for the wider UK Uncut movement and the tactic of occupying a shop up until the point the police inform you it will be aggravated trespass if you don’t leave?
Do you have a defence fund established to meet your legal costs? If you do I would be happy to contribute.
Outrageous judgement. I hope this becomes a cause celebre in the fight against the erosion of civil liberties in our time by the Mother of Parliaments.
Proud of you all.
The Fortnum Occupation was an outstanding action; a great inspiration to the movement; and in hindsight we see it was a tributary to the occupations now washing across the world. I know of many who wish to have been in that meeting in F&M, which you facilitated, even knowing of the consequences. The honour and strength of this movement is growing, and it now seems unstoppable. I doubt that the FM145 will lack solidarity and material support — and if it looks like you do, you only have to tweet.