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Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 01:06:38 +0000
From: Reclaim The Streets (by way of (Road Alert!))
Subject: "TRUTH RIP" - GANDALF convictions

The article below is taken from last weeks SchNEWS. This outrageous verdict has serious implications for many campaigners; including this email information list... but to quote from SchNEWS: "As far as we're concerned, it's business as usual."

> From all at Reclaim the Streets.




Today three editors of Green Anarchist (GA) Noel Molland (24), Steve Booth (38) and Saxon Burchnall-Wood (24), are starting a three year sentence convicted of `conspiracy to incite criminal damage'- simply for reporting on direct action in the pages of their organ. A fourth man, Simon Russell, editor of the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALF SG) newsletter, was found not guilty.

After a trial ( nicknamed `GANDALF'- GA aND ALF) lasting nearly three months and costing 2 million pounds the jury took an incredible four days before delivering a verdict that has sent shock waves through the world of alternative press.

"This ludicrous sentence is just trying to scare us into silence, but the last thing the defendants would want is for people to stop taking part or writing about direct action. As far as we're concerned, it's business as usual."
- Jo Makepeace, SchNEWS

The trial was the culmination of Operation Washington which, according to police, had been running for two years, and at its height involved 60 cops. Throughout the course of 1995/6, 55 raids were made across the UK, with people getting their doors kicked in for such trivial reasons as buying a GA t-shirt mail order and writing to one of the defendants while he was on remand!

> From the very beginning the trial quickly degenerated into a farce:

* One defendant, Paul Rogers, was severed from the current trial when his barrister resigned rather than call a secret state witness

* The extensive use of Public Interest Immunity orders meant that many documents couldn't be shown to jury or defence

* Judge Selwood, an ex major general in the army, at one point described Green Anarchist as "the most contemptuous document I have ever seen in my entire career ".

* At one stage Sgt Gunner, one of the Operation Washington team, was sent on a week long all expenses paid `fact finding' trip to Italy because he believed that someone in Italy had receieved a letter from a defendant that was relevant to the investigation!

* One of the defendants was accused of the `crime' of putting a report about the Justice Department on the internet. In fact it was North American ALF SG co-ordinator Darren Thurston who did and the court agreed legal aid to fly him in from Vancouver, Canada. However on arrival at Heathrow, he was immediately deported as an `undesirable alien' on advice from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police! (that country's equivalent of the Special Branch)

And as one defendant pointed out to SchNEWS: "It's no co-incidence that Portsmouth was chosen- a highly conservative military dependant area with the second highest conviction rate in the country."


The case has highlighted the whole issue of Britain's conspiracy laws which according to StateWatch are "the most repressive in Europe." According to the prosecution, even just reporting the facts about animal liberation or eco-defence actions constitutes incitement, let alone printing opinions in favour of these. As you can imagine many believe the conspiracy/incitement laws to be a bit of a `catch all', with its heavy penalties making it a useful tool in surpressing direct action after the failure of the Criminal Justice Act.

The implications could affect the whole of the alternative media - during the trial magazines such as the Lancaster Bomber, and early issues of Do or Die - the journal of Earth First! were held up as material likely to incite.

As the statement of solidarity - signed by over 300 groups and individuals pointed out "It is vital that the press - alternative, independent, radical, liberal and establishment - unite to defend the basic freedoms under attack in this case: freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is not for the police to determine the limits of our discussions........ It is not the reporting of direct action which incites further direct action; environmental degradation, animal abuse, economic injustice, attacks on freedom, weapons exports, nuclear weapons, lack of democratic process - these, among many others, are the inciting factors."

What Now?

All three are immediately to appeal their convictions; meanwhile the CPS are attempting to bring Paul Rogers to trial next year, while Robin Webb who was acquitted last December is facing an appeal by the Crown Prosecution to prosecute later this month.

Prison address: Write to the 3 `guilty' men at: HMP WINCHESTER, Romsey Rd, Winchester, SO22 5DS. As we went to press, the 3 hadn't been issued numbers, but the prison told us mail would still get to them. - contact Green Anarchist BM 1715, London WC1N 3XX for more details.

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