Page 5, 7th October 1994

7th October 1994
Page 5
Page 5, 7th October 1994 — Paul Donovan interviews two people whose lives will be affected by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.
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Organisations: Home Office, Lourdes Church
Locations: London

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Paul Donovan interviews two people whose lives will be affected by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.

Tom DAVIES IS A member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Wanstead and on 9 October he will be among the thousands of people protesting against the Criminal Justice Bill.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church is situated directly opposite the Mill Link Road construction site. In August 1993, Tom began tocampaign against the road: "The enormity of the work became clear as houses were destroyed and swathes of land enclosed with eight foot high fences. I saw the road as an absolute threat to the community in this area."

It was due in large part to Tom's Christian commitment that he became involved: "We have a Christian responsibility to get involved and help each other out, not just stand by whilst people's homes are trashed and their human rights abused in order to build a new road that will reduce journey times to central London by a few minutes."

Last December Tom Davies was amongst a group of some 300 people gathered on Wanstead Green to protest against the removal of the 250-ydar-old chestnut tree and the advance of the Link Road construction.

When the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law this type of peaceful protest will become criminal activity. 'This type of peaceful protest that has been the bedrock of democracy in our country will be outlawed."

The protest could be construed as criminal trespass under the new law and result in three month prison terms for the protesters, Even leafleting could be ruled illegal under the legislation.

According to Tom Davies the main aim of the Bill is to outlaw the lifestyles of a number of people, and to restrict protest to letter writing. Tom Davies is determined to resist the onslaught on his right to protest. "As Christians we must stand up for what we believe. Jesus was not crucified for standing by while others' rights were trampled."

Deirdre Collins works in adult education in the Westminster Diocese and is a veteran miscarriage of justice campaigner.

Deirdre was closely involved in campaigns for the Birmingham Six, Judy Ward and most recently the East Ham 'Ikvo. As an active justice and peace worker she has played a crucial role in mobilising support among Catholics for innocent prisoners.

"Peaceful vigils for innocent prisoners, whether outside the Home Office or prisons, have become regular events for miscarriage of justice campaigners. This form of protest has its antecedents in Church justice and peace networks."

Under the Criminal Justice Bill, if campaigners assemble for a vigil they will be liable to be arrested for trespass and could feasibly receive prison sentences. Trespass has been a civil offence in this country for hundreds of years.

Miscarriage of justice campaigns also involve organising socials with a view both to increasepublic awareness about the case and to raise funds for the campaign. In theory, clause 58 of the bill which is directed toward raves could effect such events.

"If our socials are held in the open air with music and with 100 people attending them, we could be breaking the law."

In addition to the restrictions on the activities of miscarriage of justice campaigners in their pursuit of peaceful protest, parts of the bill itself could further miscarriages of justice. According to Deirdre, whilst at the moment there are hundreds of innocent people in prison the abolition of the right to silence could multiply these numbers into the thousands.

The stop and search provisions and the enhancing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to include powers relating to gathering information for terrorist purposes and possession of articles intended for terrorist purposes are all seen as bad news.

"These new measures amount to a steady erosion of our civil liberties and could well spell further miscarriages of justice in the long term," she said.




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