The firm regularly represents people accused of offences allegedly committed during protests. Historically we have been the firm of choice for animal rights protestors but our protest work extends to other areas.
Most recently, we have been representing hundreds of those arrested during the April and October 2019 Extinction Rebellion protests in central London. The offences for which people have been arrested have been relatively minor (usually obstructing the highway, breach of section 14 Public Order Act 1986 and public nuisance) but the volume of such arrests has been extremely challenging for all concerned. The firm has shown that it has the resources to cope with literally hundreds of requests for assistance at the police station in a very short period of time.
The Extinction Rebellion cases from April 2019 are making their way through the Magistrates Court in the second half of 2019 and where funding permits either by way of legal aid or private funds, we are representing a number of those challenging their charges before the court. We expect an influx of cases into the courts in early 2020 from the October demonstrations and stand ready to assist as many people as we can.
The firm is regularly asked to represent persons accused of committing offences in relation to animal rights protests and campaigns. Such offences can range from relatively minor public order cases tried in the Magistrates Court to serious criminal offences which can only be tried in the Crown Court and which attract very lengthy sentences should the individual be convicted.
In recent years the interest of the Government in those who actively object to the abuse of animals in research has increased significantly. In 2005 the Government created several new offences in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (“SOCPA”). Such offences include harassment in relation to such protests, intimidation of persons connected to animal research organisations and interference with the contractual relationships of animal research organisations.
We have been involved in the almost all of the prosecutions under SOCPA, some of which have been significant cases in terms of their complexity and importance for the right of individuals to protest against vivisection. We represented a woman accused of a conspiracy to interfere with the contractual relationships of Sequani (an animal research organisation) before the Birmingham Crown Court. Our client was acquitted following an 18 week trial. She was represented at trial by two of our solicitor advocates while Steven Bird undertook the case preparation.
We have acted for numerous defendants in various linked trials concerning offences of conspiracy to blackmail companies trading with Huntingdon Life Sciences. The cases attracted nationwide publicity and were extremely complex cases involving many thousands of pages of evidence gathered over a number of years.
We have successfully defended several people accused of harassment involving protests outside fur shops in central London. One of these cases was the first prosecution under the harassment provisions brought in by SOCPA 2005 (and as far as we know the last such prosecution!).
We also represented a man accused of conspiracy to commit arson in relation to the campaign against the University of Oxford’s animal research facility. This case involved challenging Low Template DNA evidence in which we instructed experts from both the UK and USA. .
Such prosecutions have political overtones and often involve large numbers of defendants which can make the trials lengthy and complex both in relation to the applicable law and the large amount of documentation produced by such lengthy police investigations.
The firm has acted and continues to act for individuals protesting in relation to campaigns against vivisection, the export and import of live animals, the fur industry and badger culls.
Other Protest cases
Apart from the Extinction Rebellion and animal rights related cases mentioned above, we were heavily involved in representing those arrested at the protest against the forcible eviction of a group of travellers from the Dale Farm site in Basildon in October 2011. Very few of these cases ended with any conviction.
We also acted for protestors involved in the Drax power station protest whereby a train delivering coal to Drax was intercepted and taken over by protestors.
We acted for clients during the student demonstrations in London and for two defendants in a large violent disorder trial which came about from an incident during an anti-fascist demonstration in south east London. Both were acquitted. We also acted for an individual arrested in an Occupy demonstration which again ended without conviction.