When does carrying leaflets become a crime?

The story of a case being dropped mid trial because they had 16 UK Uncut leaflets, rather than the CPS’s criteria of 20 leaflets…

I spent 2 days in court on trial last week, only to find out that the reason I was there was for a few leaflets and a theatre ticket!

It may seem ridiculous that one could be facing up to 3 months in jail for having a few leaflets on them, but that is in fact why many of the people from the March 26th occupation at Fortnum & Mason are there (among other crimes such as reading poetry, and having protested before!) And in my case, the leaflets in question were irrelevant to the case!

Court got off to a false start with Judge Evans being ill, and negotiations were made regarding when the hearing could take place. 3 days later we got started, almost. The prosecutor spent much time trying to work the DVD machine, in the end the machine was deemed redundant and we had to move court rooms. First was the prosecution, witnesses were called – F&M staff on the first day, and police on the second – it was difficult not to laugh out loud at the hyperbolae and the bear-faced lies; “There were easter eggs flying everywhere” and “Intelligence gathering was not the aim, just a side-effect”. (I paraphrase.)

Half way through the second day, The prosecution had called their final witness, Detective Inspector Matthew Hearing. He brought our ‘guilty possessions’ to show the Judge. As a stroke of luck, the prosecutor used the wrong wording for my evidence, causing me to frown, my barrister noticing this, asked to see my evidence (which she had not seen before) – discovering that the police had ‘miscounted’ my number of leaflets, or rather counted irrelevant leaflets and a theatre ticket in addition to the 16 contentious Occupy leaflets I had had on my person. The ‘charging threshold’, ridiculous as it may sound, was to try those who had 20 or more UK Uncut leaflets on them at the time of arrest. I guess we will never know if this was a deliberate manipulation of the evidence, or just incompetence – neither of which reflect very well. It being clear that I was 4 leaflets shy of what the prosecution deem as guilty – they had to let me go. Well lucky me, but the remaining defendants are still there. Those 4 flimsy leaflets are what stand between me and my friends who are still on trial.

So a year has now passed, thousands of pounds have been poured into this farce of a trial, into attacking a form of protest that has successfully brought tax evasion to the forefront of conversation. What about spending our money on going after the politicians, tax dodgers and bankers who are ruining the economy, and taking away our jobs, libraries and public services? So, what have I learned from this experience? After being lied to by the police, had a ride in a police van where they boasted about their malpractice, been held for 24 hours and been tried over theatre tickets – I can confirm that any last naive flicker of faith I may have had in our legal system has been snuffed. If the idea is to dis-empower people from protesting, they are failing. For every time they throw something in our faces, we get harder, more resilient and more enthusiastic.