I arrived home on Monday to find Dirk literally dancing a jig of unholy glee in the kitchen. He’d received a letter from Kent Police withdrawing the charges made against him at his arrest at the Climate Camp last August. He’d been arrested (see Meridian news video here) for obstruction because he refused to be stopped and searched, along with every other camper, on his way in and out of the camp, his point being that the police couldn’t possibly suspect him of being a terrorist, which was the law that police invoked to justify the searches. He was then arrested, held for eight hours on his own and then turfed out in a midnight thunderstorm to make his way home to Lewes, since he’d been banned from returning to the camp near the Kingsnorth power station.
Dirk had decided to represent himself at the court hearing in a fortnight since we couldn’t afford a solicitor yet felt it was important to hold out for justice. Our neighbour and friend Jonathon, who is a High Court barrister, helped Dirk prepare a case. Jonathon pointed out that not only had Dirk not breached the peace but that the police had breached his peace in going about his business, and had no right to search him, let alone arrest him.
As part of the preparation for the court case, Dirk had obtained several witness statements and character references, and had written to the police asking them to provide eight police officers as witnesses, along with their notebooks. Several other people arrested for contesting the stop and searches have been let off, we now hear.
Because it was a fiasco. Norman Baker, our MP, visited the Climate Camp and narrowly missed being pepper-sprayed by a very aggressive police presence. He wrote to the head of Kent Police complaining about their intimidation tactics and also researched a claim that 80 injuries had been sustained by the police during the week of the climate camp. What were the injuries, asked Norman? Bee stings and headaches.
Dave Morris (of McLibel fame) who, with Dirk, contested the police’s right to stop and search, has since called for a Judicial Review into the police presence at the peaceful Climate Camp. One of the things I love about the attitude of climate activists is that they use ingenuity and intelligence in creating magnificent, self-managed and playful events such as the Climate Camp, but that there is also a high level of knowledge of legal rights and support. I have been brought up to believe that one of the mainstays of a democracy is the right to question authorities peacefully, and not be harassed by a police force in doing so. That belief was vindicated this week.