A Hull grandmother could be the first peace
campaigner to be served an anti-social behaviour order.
Health visitor Lindis Percy, 64, will be sentenced next week for five offences
including obstructing a police officer and obstructing the highway following a
demonstration outside a US military base.
Mrs Percy is one of the original Greenham Common peace women and has
campaigned against nuclear weapons for more than 20 years.
Now, Harrogate Magistrates' Court may impose the anti-social behaviour order
(Asbo), introduced by the Government to tackle anti-social crime and unruly
It is the first time the Crown Prosecution Service has applied for an Asbo
against a peace campaigner engaging in demonstrations.
Today, Mrs Percy said: "I am surprised and deeply concerned that an Asbo has
been applied for.
"The legislation was not brought in to be used
against peaceful protest.''
Mrs Percy, joint co-ordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of
American Bases, was charged following weekly meetings outside the American
base at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate.
The demonstrations have taken place every Tuesday evening for the past five
years. However, since May last year, Mrs Percy has been charged almost every
week following the peaceful demonstration, with 30 cases being put before the
Of those, seven sample cases were taken forward. She was cleared of two and
convicted of five at an earlier hearing at Harrogate magistrates.
Crown Prosecutor Robert Moore immediately applied for an Asbo against Mrs
District Judge Roy Anderson warned her he was "leaving all sentencing options
open" for her Tuesday, May 17, court appearance.
He will also decide if the Asbo, believed to be on behalf of the Ministry of
Defence Police Agency and North Yorkshire Police, should be granted.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We have taken action to try to limit
the impact she is having. If the court decides to grant an Asbo, great. If
not, we will respect their decision."
Many people came to Harrogate Magistrates Court
to hear Roy Anderson (District Judge) sentence Lindis Percy and
to decide whether to grant the application for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order
(ASBO), ostensibly applied for by the Ministry of Defence Police Agency
(MDPA) and North Yorkshire Police (NYP). A bigger court had to be made
available to accommodate everyone. Many representatives from the media (local
and national) were also present.
At the start of the hearing, Roy Anderson
decided he would rule on the application for the ASBO first. Although he had
been given a copy of the application immediately after the trial on 14 April
2005 (when he had found Lindis guilty of 5 offences - see CAAB Report no. 168
on website), the District Judge asked for a copy from Robert Moore (Crown
Prosecutor (CP) representing the MDPA and NYP). It was slightly surprising
when Robert Moore (CP) said he did not have a copy and wondered if he could
borrow Richard Reed's copy (solicitor representing Lindis).
Richard Reed immediately reminded the District
Judge that he had previously said, when making his decision concerning the
application, that he would be 'striking the excesses of the ASBO application
from his mind'. Also he would be making his decision on the evidence he had
heard and seen (seven CCTV video recordings) during the original trial. In his
summing up at that hearing, Roy Anderson said that the weekly CAAB
demonstrations were 'peaceable but not passive'.
A folder of references was handed to the Judge in
support of Lindis.
Richard Reed read from the Home Office
Guidelines (the process to go through when Agencies apply for ASBOs against
individuals). He said that the application was not appropriate as it did not
pass the first test. Anti-social behaviour has a wide legal definition (refer
to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998). 'It is behaviour which causes or is
likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are
not in the same household as the perpetrator.' He read a section of
the Foreword to the Guidelines by Jack Straw (Home Secretary). Richard Reed
again reminded the District Judge that in his own summing up, he had stated
that the CAAB demonstrations were peaceful.
Richard Reed also said that the Home Office
Guidelines had suggested that if possible, a mediation process should be
attempted to resolve conflicts. He said that a letter had been sent to David
Long (MDPA Superintendent at the American base - Menwith Hill) last year,
suggesting a meeting between himself, Richard Reed and Lindis. The letter was
not replied to. Another letter was sent to Menwith Hill by Richard Reed. After
an inordinate delay, a reply was received saying that discussions were to take
between several Agencies including 'the stakeholder' (ie the American
authorities on base). There was a further delay in responding, which prompted
another reminder letter from Richard Reed. At the beginning of 2005, David
Long wrote to Richard Reed saying that a meeting would not now take place
because of the pending court cases.
Richard Reed also said that the Defence had not
once asked for an adjournment. He said that all the delays in the stages of
the trial were due to the Crown Prosecution Service.
In his ruling on the application for an ASBO, Roy
Anderson said '...None of the incidents was accompanied by aggressive
behaviour, abusive language or threats of violence. Mrs Percy has previous
convictions but they all seem to relate to and stem from her activities as a
peace campaigner. She may, in her relentless expression of her views, be
thought by many to be a fanatic and by some to be a crank. Nevertheless she is
entitled to express these views unless she breaks the criminal law of this
'I am firmly of the view
courts ought not to allow ASBOs to be used as a club to beat down the expression
of legitimate comment and the dissemination of views on matters of public
concern...' Roy Anderson refused to grant the ASBO application.
At this, there was
spontaneous applause from people in the court. The District Judge wryly thanked
those applauding for their approval.
Roy Anderson then went
on to decide the sentence (at a previous hearing on 14 April 2005 he had
found Lindis guilty of one offence of 'obstruction of the highway' and four of
'obstruction of a police officer in the execution of his duty'). He made
the surprising decision to order her to be electronically tagged and to be
curfewed in her home from the hours of 8pm to 6am for a period of 8
weeks. Robert Moore (CP) asked for prosecution costs of £500 for each offence
(total £2500). Richard Reed said that Lindis owed £3,600 to the court which
she continued to pay at £5 per week. The DJ remarked 'that will take a long time
to pay off' and promptly ordered costs against her of £1,000.
Lindis felt moved to
quietly and politely respond to Roy Anderson's decision. He refused to listen
and left the court to a dignified chorus of 'shame, shame, shame'.
Later Richard Reed
(solicitor) faxed an Appeal to York Crown Court against the convictions and
sentence imposed on Lindis. Both the convictions and sentence are now 'on hold'
pending the Appeal. She has therefore not been 'tagged' or 'curfewed'.
CAAB and especially
Lindis would like to thank everyone so much for the wonderful support in court
and also to all the people who kindly submitted references for her. We would
also like to thank the court Usher for being so helpful and for bringing extra
seating into court.