Freedom News

ACAB’s legal roundup of 2022

A seasonal round up from your friendly ACAB Magi. No gold, frankincense or myrrh but three key messages from the year in the courts:

1. Sentences are getting waaaay harsher.

2. The court system has slowed to a crawl.

3. The days of “no jail for peaceful protestors” are finished.


“You lot say that every year” we hear you cry. Indeed we have. Because it’s been true since the 1960’s. BUT this time we really mean it! Firstly there has been the PCSC Act making things worse all round but beyond this the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on government orders have upped the ante in the key area of public order law. To illustrate: in the aftermath of the 2011 August Riots 12 people were sentenced for actual Riot, section 1, the most serious offence in the Public Order Act 1986. So far 41 people have been sentenced for the 2021 Riots. That might surprise you if you didn’t notice any riots happening. Which is true because there weren’t any. Not real riots anyhow, just big scuffles. We regularly update on the Bristol Kill The Bill demonstration but consider the Mayhill ‘riot’ in Swansea. Twenty Seven people were prosecuted for a wake that got out of hand and resulted in no serious injuries. The 18 adults done are sharing 83 years of jail time for this. And they all got a discount for pleading guilty. On the bright side one person pleaded not guilty and was acquitted. Therefore that person got a ‘zero years’ sentence, no criminal record and aren’t in jail at all. Could be a lesson there folks.

Courts in Treacle

Justice delayed is justice denied and clause 40 of the Magna Farter promises that no one will be delayed justice by the Crown, if you go in for that kind of guff. A perfect storm consisting of years of cuts to the justice and legal aid budgets, the Covid pandemic, pay dispute with defence barristers (Strike! Yay! Top work from the Briefs) and the incompetence of the CPS has resulted in unprecedented delays in the court system. Just changing all the QC’s to KC’s on the headed notepaper has cost several million. While cases in the Magistrates courts are now back to their pre-Covid levels of delay and incompetence more serious cases before the crown courts are going to be FUBAR for the foreseeable. To look at some protest examples a trial for the stock exchange demo in February 2020 by the Green Anti-capitalist Front is now set for March 2024 while the Sevenoaks Station protestors opposing Generation Identity will get their day in court in February 2023 only 4 years 10 months after the incident. These are a bit exceptional but the average for getting a trial in front of a jury is now around a year. The only way to jump the queue is to get remanded in prison before trial which means it must be held within 6 months.   

Jail for “peaceful protestors”

In 2018 three anti-fracking protests were jailed for truck surfing. The Court of Appeal overturned these sentences saying that they should have got community service. This upheld a long tradition of “going soft” on principled peaceful troublemakers. Lord Burnett the Lord Chief Justice (aka Judgy McJudgeface) didn’t rule out ever jailing Peacenicks but it was a surprise in January to see him upholding (if reducing) a jail sentence for James Brown who had glued himself to a plane. The floodgates have opened. People have been jailed for contempt of court for breaking injunctions against protest, remanded to await trial or sentence for pouring poo on monuments and even imprisoned for throwing soup on paintings and gluing themselves in art galleries. XR and its derivatives are far from bring the State to its knees, which requires at least a General Strike rather than a General Rag-Week, but somehow they’ve been made into a great threat but with wider consequences for more meaningful agents of social change. You might think that a crackdown on the Peaceful will have a beneficial radicalising effect upon them and others. Alas it don’t always work out like that. In general “repression to protest is like wind to fire, it extinguishes the small but inflames the great” and we’re far from great at protest in this little island.

So a happy New Year to all our readers and may you avoid the clutches of the Law in 2023. But remember, Atheism helps those who help themselves and helps those who are organised and clued up double. So make sure you are.

Andy Meinke

Image: Guy Smallman

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