Monday 7 March 2011

"It seemed as if the police could arrest people for just being there"

London’s Metropolitan Police have been accused of handing out an excessive number of cautions for aggravated trespass to students who took part in the 10 November protest against an increase in tuition fees, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance and other cuts to education.

The law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, who represent a “significant number” of students arrested in the protests, claim that the offence of aggravated trespass is easily committed and is "being used by the Met to criminalise people for exercising their right to protest".

"Conduct falling within the category of aggravated trespass can literally be anything that is potentially disruptive, such as playing a musical instrument," said Ruth Hamann, a lawyer for Hodge Jones and Allen.

Some 150 people were arrested over the course of the student protests, most of whom still await a police decision on their fate.

Hamann also voiced concern that the TUC demonstration on 26 March against public sector cuts, which is predicted to involve tens or hundreds of thousands of people, could see more arrests.

The Guardian reports one 20 year old student from Newcastle, Rees Johnson, as saying he would no longer attend protests out of fear of being arrested once again. "It seemed as if the police could arrest people for just being there," he told the Guardian. "If I found myself in trouble again, I wouldn't be entitled to a caution, so I won't be going to any more protests."

Full report in the Guardian here.

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