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Hunt Saboteurs Assoc.
For more detailed information on
legal issues affecting hunt sabs, especially the Criminal Justice Act, see our
PUBLIC ORDER ACT
1986The 1986 Act extends police controls over public
processions and marches and creates for the first time controls over public
assemblies. It abolishes a number of common law offences, including riot,
violent disorder and affray and replaces them with a wide range of statutory
public order offences. Included as "sections" of the Act are :-
Section 1 Riot;
Section 2 Violent Disorder
Section 3 Affray
Section 4 Threatening
Section 5 Causing
Harrassment, Alarm and Distress (sometimes referred to as "disorderly conduct").
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1994
Although sections of this act were specifically targetted
at sabs, with the aim of criminalising us, in practice it has proved to be a
dismal failure. Most of the cases brought in the first season collapsed and the
Act has not stopped a single sab. In the first season of the CJA, sabs hit over
1,000 hunting days, saving thousands of lives. For more information on the
failure of the CJA, see our report legal pages.
Briefly, the relevant sections of the act are:
Section 68 - this limits the
right to protest by creating a new offence of aggravated trespass. This makes it
an offence to trespass on land where a lawful activity is taking place where a
person does anything which is intended to disrupt, obstruct or intimidate
people so as to deter them from engaging in that activity. The offence
carries a maximum penalty of three months in prison or a fine up to ú2,500.
However, the heaviest sentence so far imposed is a ú200 fine.
Section 69 - this creates a
new criminal offence of disobeying the orders of a police officer who has
directed a person to leave land if he/she "reasonably believes that a person
is committing, has committed or intends to commit the offence of aggravated
trespass". (Note - The civil rights group Liberty state that both Sections
68 and 69 are "badly drafted and unclear, making it difficult for the citizens
to be confident of staying within the law").
Section 68 - Aggravated Trespass
A person commits the offence of
aggravated trespass if he/she trespasses on land in the open air and, in
relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to
engage in on that or adjoining land in the open air, does there anything which
is intended by them to have the effect :
- of intimidating those persons or any of them so as to deter them or
any of them from engaging in that activity;
- of obstructing that activity; or
of disrupting that activity
Section 69 - Powers to Remove a Person Committing Aggravated Trespass
senior police officer present where people are suspected of participating, about
to participate or having participated in an aggravated trespass may direct those
people to leave the land. This power also applies where two or more people are
trespassing on land with the common purpose of intimidating others so as to
deter them from engaging in lawful activity or obstructing or disrupting lawful
activity. Where such a direction has been given and a person knowing that this
direction has been given and applies to them either :
they commit an offence.
- fails to leave the land as soon as practicable; or
having left re-enters the land as a trespasser within three months of
the day the direction was given,
RIGHT TO SILENCE
This is only a brief treatment of the changes to the
right to silence. A much fuller and more informative article is available on our
Previously, when questioned by police a suspect could invoke their right to
silence, by either actually remaining silent when being questioned or simply
replying with "No comment" responses to questions. In April 1995 this right was
abolished in that if a person decides on this course of action when questioned
certain assumptions could be made from it.
Section 38 of the CJA 1994 states that a person cannot be committed for
trial, have a case to answer or be convicted solely on the grounds of failure to
answer questions, but the court may "draw adverse inferences" from :-
failure to mention facts
when questioned (see Sec 34 of CJA)
failure to give evidence at
trial (Sec 35)
failure to account for
objects, substances or marks present at the time of arrest (Sec 36)
failure to account for
presence at a particular place or time (Sec 37)
Despite this, past history has shown it to be in your own
interest to remain silent or give "No Comment" as an answer to ALL questions
put to you in an interview after your arrest. The police are only looking for
information to convict YOU. Don't make their job easy for them.
PERSONAL SEARCHES IN THE STREET UNDER THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT
When can a police officer stop and search you?
When they have reasonable
grounds for suspecting that you are carrying on your person or in a vehicle one
of the following:
Any offensive weapons or
Any articles made or adapted
for use in burglary, theft, taking of a vehicle or any property obtained by
Drugs An offensive weapon is
any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to persons; or any
article which is intended for such use by you or some other person. The police
officer does not have to be certain that you are carrying one or more of these
thing, but there must be some concrete basis for the police officer's suspicion
which relates to you. The mere fact that you are dressed in a particular way or
are a member of the HSA is not in itself sufficient grounds for suspicion. If
the officer does find any of the items above on you or in your vehicle they may
seize it. It goes without saying that you should not be taking any of the
above items out sabbing with you anyway. They are not needed for saving the
animals' lives and so they have no purpose on a sab.
What information should you be given about any search?
Before the search
the police officer must tell you:
The reasons why you are to
His/her name and station.
If not in uniform, the
officer must prove their identity as a police officer.(e.g., warrant card)
That you are entitled to a
copy of the search record within twelve months, if you ask for one at the police
Can a police officer stop and search you anywhere?
An officer can search
you in any public place or any place to which the public has access (e.g.
How thoroughly can the police search you in a stop and search?
officer may not ask you to remove any of your clothes in public except for an
outer coat, jacket or gloves, even if the street is empty. If the officer wants
to search you more thoroughly you may be detained for a few minutes in order to
carry out the search, but no longer than is reasonable. The police can't detain
you in order to find grounds to justify the search.
A more thorough search, e.g. the removal of a T-shirt may only take place out
of public view and by an officer of the same sex as yourself, it may also not
take place in the presence of any other person who is of the opposite sex.
Can the police use force in order to search you?
The officer can use
reasonable force to detain and search you if necessary. The police are only
allowed to use force if you have been given a chance to co-operate but have
refused. If excessive force is used you may be able to claim for compensation
for assault later.
Are you entitled to a record of what happens?
Whenever a search has been
carried out the officer must make a note of what happened, on the spot if
possible, later if not. The search record must include:
Your name, or if you
withheld it, a description of you.
Where a vehicle is searched,
a description of it.
The object of the search.
The grounds for making it.
The date and time it was
A note of any injury or
damage to property resulting from it.
The identity of the officer
making it. You are entitled to see a copy of any search record relating to your
search within a twelve month period.
Searching your vehicle
An officer may search anything in or on your
vehicle as well as the vehicle itself once they have decided that they have
reasonable grounds mentioned above. If your vehicle is left unattended when a
search takes place the officer must leave a note on the vehicle telling you:
What has happened
Which police station the
officer is from.
That you may claim for
compensation for any damage done during the search.
That you are entitled to a
copy of the search record within twelve months, if you ask for one at the police
Power to search once arrested
A custody officer may seize and retain any
item. Clothes and personal effects may only be seized if the custody officer has
reasonable grounds for believing that they may be evidence relating to an
offence. Where anything is seized, the officer must tell you the reason for the
seizure unless you are violent; likely to become violent or incapable of
understanding what is said to you. Always get receipts for any property seized.
Can the police retain property which they have seized?
for the purpose of a criminal investigation may be retained for use as evidence
of an offence at a trial; for forensic examination or for investigation in
connection with an offence. Anything may be retained in order to establish its
lawful owner, where an officer has reasonable grounds for believing that it has
been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence.
Seizure of property before arrest
The general rule is the police can't
seize your property unless you are under arrest and it is evidence of an
offence. However, a police officer has a duty to prevent a breach of the peace.
Where they have grounds for believing that a breach of the peace is occurring or
is imminent they may do whatever is reasonable to prevent it. This would include
seizing any property which they believe will be used to cause a breach of the
peace. Once the threat of a breach of the peace is over they must return any
item unless you are arrested or reported for summons and the item seized is
evidence of an offence.
ACTIONS AGAINST THE POLICE
Our "close working
relationship" with the police often means that you may be involved in incidents
or arrests which you feel aggrieved about. The key thing here to remember is
that nothing is ever likely to change unless you attempt to do something about
it. You can go out sabbing week after week and constantly be confronted by
police tactics that you feel to be unwarranted, unnecessary and down right out
of order - but unless you get your arse into gear and take action on these
issues then really you've only got yourself to blame.
So, here is a basic guide to taking action and all the details you need to do
Complaints against the Police
If you feel that a police officer has
behaved wrongly or badly, then you are the one who must make the complaint.
First, decide what you think the officer did wrong. For example, was s/he rude
to you? Did s/he use unnecessary/excessive force on you or your property? If so,
you have every right to complain. What to do:-
- Write a full account of what happened and send it to the Chief
Constable of the force to which the officer concerned belongs; or if the
officer is a senior officer above the rank of Chief Superintendent, to the
officer's local police authority.
- You can go to any police station and tell them you have a complaint to
make. An Officer there will take down the details from you.
- Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can give advice on whether you
appear to have a valid complaint and how to go about making it. Or you can go
to a solicitor if you wish.
Your complaint should include full details:- What exactly happened? -
What was done? - What was said? When did it happen? - Where did it happened? -
Was it seen by someone other than yourself and the officer? - Do you know how
they can be contacted? - Do you have proof of any damage?
Suing the Police
Most people want to sue the police because they have
been wrongly arrested, assaulted by the police or prosecuted for something they
didn't do. Here are some things you should know about these types of action:-
Wrongful arrest - Unlawful arrest and detention is called false
imprisonment. The police must justify any arrest and detention, so if you think
they have acted outside their powers it is worthwhile getting further advice.
False imprisonment can happen on the street, in your home, in a police vehicle
and of course at the police station - in fact any place where the police control
Assault - This is much wider than many people think. You are
assaulted as soon as someone touches you without lawful reason to do so, and/or
when they put you in fear of violence. Of course, it includes being punched and
kicked and being subjected to illegal body searches. If you are assaulted by the
police it is important to see a doctor straight away and for your injuries to be
noted. You should also take photos of any injuries, if possible.
Prosecuted for something you didn't do - This is called
malicious prosecution. You have to prove that the police had no reasonable cause
to prosecute you and that they had a "wrongful motive" in doing so. You also
usually have to win your case, which means either (a) any charges were dropped
before the case went to court, or (b) you were acquitted in court.
Other complaints - You can also sue the police for negligence,
trespass to land and goods, and a few other civil wrongs.
Suing the police takes place in the normal civil courts such as the County
Courts or High Courts. You are suing the police for compensations for the wrongs
done to you. It may, though, take two or three years for the matter to get to
court...but the possibility of a cheque at the end of it is always a good
incentive to pursue the case to its conclusion.
What to do - As soon as possible after the incident write a
full statement of what happened. It is essential not to put this off as
important details are easily forgotten. Include, if possible, the names and
numbers of any police officers involved. Send this, with a covering letter
giving a brief outline of the situation and a note saying that you are wanting
to begin a civil action, to a solicitor. Also include your custody record (if
applicable) - write to the relevant police station and request a copy.
If the solicitor agrees that you may have a case and that s/he can take you
on, you will probably receive a set of legal aid application forms, depending on
your income. It is important to fill these in and to return them as soon as
possible so that work on your case can begin (presuming you are granted legal
aid in one form or another). It is advised that all individuals taking action in
relation to the same incident should us the same solicitor and keep in touch on
progress in the case.
Please contact the HSA for details of sympathetic solicitors who are
experts in these areas.