“PLINTHMAN”  ACQUITTED OF ALL CHARGES

  • Protester who stood on Winston Churchill’s statue for 48 hours acquitted of charges including performing a sex act on the statue
  • Judgement latest in a series of failed prosecutions by CPS of Occupy Democracy protesters
  • Police officer admits he “followed Freeman all afternoon” as part of intelligence gathering duties after his release on bail

Images of Danny Freeman outside court: http://www.demotix.com/news/8352073/acvitist-danny-freeman-trial-westminster-magistrates-court#media-8352057

The trial of a protester for his actions during the October occupation of Parliament Square by Occupy Democracy [1] ended today with District Judge Snow aquitting him of all charges at Westminster Magistrates Court.

danny-victory

Image copyright Josh Blakely. Danny Freeman celebrating victory outside Westminster Magistrates Court. 

Daniel Baker – also known as Danny Freeman, founder of the group Love Activists – was moved to climb onto the statue of Winston Churchill after he witnessed the heavy handed policing of peaceful pro-Democracy campaigners and remained there for 48-hours despite the police denying him food and water. 

Police arrested a number of people for providing or attempting to provide him with food and water including poet Martin Powell [2]. Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was threatened with arrest after attempting to feed Freeman an omelette [3].

Freeman initially faced charges of criminal damage to the statue of Winston Churchill caused by the residue from sellotape used to secure a placard in place. Additional initial charges included failure to comply with the by-laws governing Parliament Square Gardens and the theft of a policeman’s hat. However, no evidence was offered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court today for any of these charges.

The trial proceeded with two charges. A Public Order offence for behaving in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and criminal damage to a fence by climbing over it into the grassed area of the square.

The CPS alleged Freeman had bent down in front of Winston Churchill, simulating a sexual act.

Freeman stated that he was leading protesters in morning yoga sessions from his position on the statue with stretching and controlled breathing exercises. The routine culminated in a pose where he crouched down which is where the misunderstanding about his actions had taken place.

Witness testimony was provided by a Police Inspector who had been assigned to the demonstration who testified that he had seen Freeman simulate a sexual act. A second witness who works as a Heritage Warden for the GLA testified that she saw Freeman on the statue and that she had seen him lead an exercise session.

The prosecution asked if the Heritage Warden had a clear line of sight to the statue which she did, but did not ask the witness whether she had seen the alleged sexual act.

The failure of the GLA Heritage Warden to testify that she had seen the sexual act being performed on the statue gave District Judge Snow sufficient doubt that the act had occurred.

The second charge of criminal damage to a metal fence was alleged to have happened after Freeman had come down from the statue and was released on bail. He returned to the square where Occupy Democracy protesters had formed a human chain on the outside of the six-foot high fencing erected by the GLA.

Freeman admitted that he followed another, unnamed protester into the square after having been given a lift over the fence by fellow occupiers. He denied that he caused any damage to the fence and District Judge Snow accepted that he did not cause damage, or know that he would have by doing so.

Freeman was acquitted of both charges.

During the trial a police officer admitted he “had followed Freeman around all afternoon” as part of his “intelligence gathering” duties after the defendant’s release on bail.

Outside the courtroom Freeman said: 

“I am relieved that this trial was heard fairly. I wanted to protest after seeing how brutally other people were being treated by the police and I wanted to exercise my human right to protest”

Occupy London legal advisor, Matthew Varnham said;

“The CPS have serious questions to answer for their pursuit of yet another prosecution against a peaceful protester. So far all 16 cases that have gone to trial have been dismissed.” 

“I call on the CPS to reconsider their pursuit of upcoming trials on public interest grounds. Enough tax-payers money has been wasted, with a policing operation close to £2 million and many hundreds of thousands of pounds undoubtedly spent on taking peaceful protesters to trial. This should end now.”

Occupy Democracy held a ten day occupation of Parliament Square last October to highlight the democratic deficit in relation to issues such as NHS privitisation, austerity cuts and fracking. The Greater London Authority, led by London Mayor Boris Johnson, responded with a disproportionate and heavy-handed policing operation 

Before fencing off the square the Metropolitan Police the police arrested protesters en masse for the crime of sitting on tarpaulin. The subsequent trials of these arrestees resulted in either acquittals or the offences being dropped. A trial set to hear the crime of holding a banner in Parliament Square without prior written permission of the London Mayor was dropped by the CPS at the last minute and last week the former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats, Donnachadh McCarthy was acquitted of assault charges.

ENDS

[1] Occupy Democracy is a social movement for a democracy free from corporate control that works for people and planet. 

Our six core demands are as follows:

  • reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of  those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
  • major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
  • a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
  • the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
  • that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
  • a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ_1OCEgtdw

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNsARFuuwLc

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