Yesterday (13/07/10) the appeals of 10 Gaza demonstrators were heard. Contemplating the consequences of the appeals process I cannot help feeling disappointed with the lack of compassion exhibited by the court and angered by certain aspects of the defence’s argument.
Two 6 month reductions for two year sentences, two reductions of 8 months on 18 month sentences, one 3 month reduction in a 2 year sentence, three people had no reductions whatsoever and one had their custodial sentence quashed. It goes without saying that little gains are still significant and that those who achieved this for those affected by the State’s (i.e. the Police, the CPS and the courts) should be applauded. However, it leaves a bitter taste.
The argument of the defence was simple. Judge Denniss used the precedents of Bradford in extremely different circumstances and, therefore, the mould of sentencing was unnecessarily harsh. However, the main appeal judge supported overtly the use of deterrent sentencing and was very sensitive to the position of the police, supporting their right to not come to any harm, irrespective of the sustained criticism the policing on the day has received. Monday 12th July’s Channel 4 News report had no effect on the position of the courts in regard to policing. When the defence were asked why the protestors were violent with the police a mumble of ‘kettling’ was proffered as a contributing factor; not the charge of the Hype Park underpass or the wanton use of police batons. It is shocking that a day after Ashley and Russell Inglis were compensated for police brutality that the court’s view is still so asymmetrical. That the police’s violence was at the very least reciprocal seemingly eluded the defence. The protestors were guilty and as such were indefensible for their actions. The police were just the unfortunate blockade. Obviously, the defence’s key aim was to mitigate the consequences of the State’s decisions. However, when asked by the judge why the police were a target, it would help to contextualise the tensions.
One understands that to a great extent the defence’s hands were tied, especially this far into the process. 29 people have been or are in prison as a consequence of their involvement in the protests of January 2009. There are hours of footage that the public have not been allowed to see that was instrumental in the prosecution’s case. However, the policing of those demonstrations has come under such heavy scrutiny that the shift in policing following the death of Ian Tomlinson is palpable. Such issues need to be raised before one can see justice as being done to the Gaza demonstrators who were unjustly locked up for standing up against Zionist brutality and British complicity.