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The ALF SG is always under constant police attention and it was because of this knowledge that I was not that surprised to return home on 16th March 1995, to find that my house had been raided and a number of SG papers and the computer had been seized. The police returned the computer a week later and it was said that they were not interested in me, did not want to interview me and that they were interested in someone else. The obvious conclusion had to be that they were interested in Robin Webb, the press officer, but as the SG was not to be affected I continued to edit and run the SG as I had before. Unknown to me the people who became my co-defendants (with the exception of Robin Webb) had been arrested and interviewed. They were then bailed to appear at another date which was cancelled with a letter stating they were be contacted in the future It later became clear that the police were keeping this investigation on the back burner until they had the result of the egg contamination case at Winchester, which Robin was facing. Within three days of him being acquitted of that, the CPS directed them to go ahead with this prosecution. Robin's case was called Washington, while this was labelled Washington Part 2, which is an indication of the strong links and main target of the operation. So on 16th January 1996 all those who would become defendants in the case were raided and arrested. Many complete strangers to the others. They were Robin Webb, Paul Rogers, Saxon Burchnell-Wood, Steven Booth, Noel Molland and Simon Russell (the author of this article). We were arrested at 7am taken to Hampshire and late in the day interviewed and charged. The charge was a strange one 'Conspiracy to incite others to commit criminal damage'. We were released at just before midnight at Southampton railway station, far too late to get a train. By now the usual support system had kicked in and we were put up for the night by a SG supporter.

We spent most of the night getting to know each other, as most were strangers. I obviously knew Robin, but had never met or spoken to any of the other defendants. Noel had exchanged letters with me/the SG and Robin was in the same boat in this respect. The others were aware of each other but had rarely met - a strange group to conspire together. None of us lived nearer then 30 miles from any of the other, in fact our respective home towns were at Eastbourne, Devon, Reading, Lancaster, Oxford and Cambridge.

Things moved slowly, a defence campaign was set up, all defendants changed to Bimbergs and Co, the solicitor who are probably the most experienced firm in the country when it comes to Animal Liberation cases. The police asked for more time to prepare their case and finally months later the paperwork was served on the defend ants. This consisted of three large boxes, and would make up the majority of what became over 1,000 exhibits in the case.

We appeared in magistrates just before Christmas 96. A week was set aside for the case and we met for the first time the prosecution barrister Mr. Richard Onsloe, he was quickly nick named Onslow, due to speed of his delivery. He proceeded to prove himself a pompous and sycophantic person and started to read through every document in the case. The magistrate soon realised that this would take far longer than a week and asked him to cut it down to relevant parts. It later was rumoured that Onslow was a foxhunter, he was certainly a shooter as conversa tion on the matter was overheard. We had been briefed that the only person likely to get the case dropped at this stage was myself, but everyone 5 case was argued. Mine was simple I didn't know these people in any real respect, except Robin. Any material of his I printed was checked by a barrister for incitement and changed accordingly Robins case was that 80-90% of the material used against him had already been presented in his other case and so the use of it was an 'abuse of process and an oppressive use of the court system. We all had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Desmond Thomas, apart from Robin who had met him before. This man was the head of the cases against Robin and each time he has failed has received a promotion, so he's onto a nice little earner. Apart from that he is obsessed with Robin, and getting him into prison. He also has some very strange ideas, thinking that Robins (and all the defendants) main aim is the promotion of Anarchy. This was obviously true of some of the defendants but there was no evidence to support this idea when it came to Robin and I.

At the end of the week the magis trate said he would rule on Monday, so back we all came. Amazingly he ruled that the case against Robin was oppres sive and so released him. But he committed the rest of us to Crown court, and in my case said he was doing so because of my close connection to Robin (?) and because as I had article checked by a barrister for incitement, he believed that this meant that I wanted to incite (?). Work that logic out if you can but it was the same argument used in Crown Court.

So on 27th August 1997, the remain ing five defendants appeared in Port smouth Crown Court in front of Judge David Sellwood. The prosecution had tried to get the case sent to Winchester where conviction rates are higher but had failed. First day was taken up with legal arguments and the sorting out of what questions the Jury was to be asked. These were:

a) A warning that the case was to be 8 weeks long.

b) Had they seen any published material on the case.

c) Had they, or a friend or relative, been a target of animal right/eco activists.

d) Had they, or a friend or relative, been involved in road building scheme

e) Had they, or a friend or relative, participated in bloodsports (including fishing).

f) Had they, or a friend or relative, ever been a animal rights/eco activist.

g) Had they, or a friend or relative, ever worked for the police or armed services.

h) Did they have reading difficulties

When arguing over these questions the Judge expressed disbelief that fishing could be considered a bloodsport! And it came out later that he went sea fishing. The main sticking point for most of the potential Jurors was the length of the trial, but a fox hunter and a fisher man was dismissed, as was someone who had worked for Compassion in World Farming. Most interesting was the sister of a woman who was await ing trial on another animal rights case. We ended up with 8 men and 4 women with the average age of about 40.

So Onslow launched into his case, or rather pushed off and paddled slowly in the direction of shore. He was aided by junior barrister Ms Lumsdon who due to her appearance was quickly nick named Mary Poppins. The case in a general was that articles in the ALF SG newsletter, Green Anarchist, Lancaster Bomber, Rabbixian Anarchist Times and Eco-Vegan were inciting. The defendants had a tacit agreement to print such articles, and were aware that others were doing so. On top of this it was claimed we passed information for this purpose of incitement and that Green Anarchist Mail order posted out Inciting magazines, such as Into the 90's with the ALF and Interviews with ALF activists. I was accused of pro ducing a web site on the Internet about the Justice Department that was also Inciting. This what took Onsloe until 8th October to say, 26 days.

The very first witness called the Derek Seac, who is Dep. Director General for the RSPCA while Robin was on their council. His knowledge of animal rights was so vast that he had not idea what Animal Aid of CIWF did, but he was very clear in his dislike of Robin.

The police as witnesses were the most interesting, one main character in the case was DI Gunner. He was sent to the south of Italy to interview a man who had been writing to Robin (in front of an Italian Judge), knowing full well that in English law you cannot incite anyone not within the jurisdiction of the court, i.e. the UK. They also went around the country buying copies of the Green Anarchist, as far afield as Scotland! But never thought to try and buy any of the alleged offensive material via mail order, which was the most complained method of supplying the material. They never bothered to check if Saxon had sent magazines he was asked for by a French newspaper, or to ring the providers of the Web site I was accused of placing on the Internet.

At this stage, to cut a long story short, Paul Roger sacked his barrister, and it was agreed that his case be severed from everyone else's. He was released to be tried at a later date.

The case crept onwards. There was discussion of a deal with the prosecu tion, guilty pleas for non-custodial sentences. No firm decision was made to accept this but when it was broached with the Judge he made it clear he was not going to give any assurances as to sentences, but indi cated he was looking in the region of two years, so those plans were dropped.

Three videos were shown, Animal Liberation - The Sequel, a police Video of one of Robins speeches and one made by Manchester Fire Brigade showing the detonation of a number of incendiary devices. Saxon had answered questions when interviewed and the tape of that interview was played. Steve had also answered questions but as the police had amazingly failed to caution him they couldn't use it as evidence. Here it must be made very clear that there is nothing in either interview which could be counted as grassing, both Saxon and Steve just answered questions about themselves and did not give any information which the police were unaware of.

One of the policemen who was called to give evidence was Ron Ash (nickname The Neanderthal, due to his low brow), he raided my house on both occasions and checked most of the SG newsletters for inciting material. When cross-examined he claimed that an article solely about what the SG money is spent on, was in itself inciting, something which the Judge later pointed out was blatantly rubbish legally. He also pointed out articles explaining that the SG didn't sell or post out copies of Interviews with ALF activists or Into the 90's with the ALF, as other examples of incitement! In the police's eyes any mention of such documents was inciting, and any mention of ALF actions was inciting. In fact the main point of their case was that by printing details of any illegal act by animal rights people we wanted to incite further actions.

Last to give evidence was DCI Thomas and was commented on by one of the legal team as 'clinically insane'. He claimed to know that Robin was an anarchist due to his support of economic sabotage, regardless that no anarchist literature was found at his house. He claimed that all anarchists (especially the defendants) followed the philosophy of Guy Debord as promoted in Society of the Spectacle, again not found at any of the defendants houses. Worst of all he couldn't even get the evidence straight and claimed that Saxons brother had written articles in Green Anarchist, which the authorship had already, been admitted by Saxon. This was the man who had instigated and run the case for most of the time.

At this stage we had found the person who had actually created the Web site on the Justice Department I was accused of. It was no other than Darren Thurston, the Canadian ex-ALF prisoner. He agreed to come over to give evidence and so at the weekend I went to Heathrow airport to meet him, as he was to be staying with me. An hour after his flight had landed I was called over the public address system to go to a meeting place. From there I was taken to be interviewed by an immigration office and two cops from the Metropolitan police. The main questions were as to his reasons for entering the country. I later found that we had both told the same story, which was no surprise, he was coming here to give evidence in my court case. I was left to wait until 4.30pm and then told that Darren was to be ejected from the country on the next flight because of his previous animal rights convictions. I got Tim Greene of the phone but even his participation failed to get them to change their mind and so Darren was sent back to Canada.

There was much legal argument over this situation but it was finally agreed that a statement from Darren was to be allowed as evidence. This in effect killed the argument over the Webb site and showed it for what it was an ill-conceived ploy by the police to blame me for something I was obviously not involved in.

The defence opened at 11.55am on October 15th, with Saxon being called to give evidence. His defence was basically that he did not write anything bar the music reviews and one article on for Green Anarchist and did not read the other magazines he posted. He felt that he should be allowed to post them out in the interest of free speech. He stated that he was a pacifist and would not involve himself in violence. The prosecution had from the start labelled ALF actions as violent, even they were aware that no one has ever been hurt by the ALF. A number of witnesses were then called to prove his good, peaceable character.

Next in line was Noel. Apart from compiling the ALF lists for Green Anarchist, Noel published his own mags and was writing a book on the history of the Animal Liberation movement. It was for information on that book that he contacted the SG for information and for prisoner informa tion, so he could write to them as most of the present and current prisoner will know. His defence was one of 'intent', the Judge had ruled that we had to have intent' to incite before we could be found guilty. Noel claimed that he had never intended to incite people, and that his listings and other material had been solely to inform and entertain people.

Steve didn't take the stand and presented no defence, so I was the next to give evidence. My defence was simple, I was aware of the incitement rules and their complications and so I had sort legal advice. After my release from prison for ALF offences I got involved in the SG. When I started to produce the newsletter I was still on parole and so informed my parole office, even to the extent that I gave her copies. She was called and said that she saw nothing wrong with the newsletter. I had also contacted Tim Greene for advice on the issue and he had set up a meeting with a barrister Quincy Whiticker. She advised me on the general problems of the incitement laws and agreed to read through and check all material before publication. We had letters from her showing that she had received articles and her advice on changing them, and the finished article proving that I had edited them as suggested. So it was hard to claim that I didn't change the article on advice. This didn't stop the prosecution claim ing that I wanted to incite. Realising that the barrister had checked all the articles, Onsloe focused on adverts for other mags. Claiming that by reviewing books and mags, which might be inciting we were inciting illegal acts ourselves! I had been informed by Quincy that reviews could not in themselves be inciting as I was not distributing or producing the material in the reviewed material.

I was asked in cross-examination if I supported the ALF. The Judge expressed pressed surprise when I said I most certainly did and that I would have to a be a split personality to run the SG and not support the ALF. I expressed my personal reservations over the Justice Department, but explained that as an organisation the SG would support anyone convicted of JD actions. I also had to explain that by definition, ALF actions were illegal, a concept the Judge had problems understanding. Finally, Tim Greene was called to verify the advice he had given me, and that he had set up the situation for the barrister to check articles.

On October the 30th, the 39th day in court Onsloe summed up his case. We were all guilty of a conspiracy because we had known of the existence of each other publications, and had a few minor links together. The links between Green Anarchist and the SG consisted of, one mention in the mag, the publication of Green Issues prisoners and my letters to Noel Moll and. Green Anarchists editors were guilty because of articles they had printed and by distributing Into the 90's etc. So we had the situation where they were claiming that reality itself is incitement, and we were all guilty by association.

The defence barristers then summed up, reiterating the issues of freedom of speech, what shouldn't be counted as incitement (all of the magazines) and that we had never intended to incite anyway. It was also argued that if there was any conspiracy then there was actually two conspiracies! This strange concept meant that if the jury found there was two conspiracies we would all have to be found not guilty.

During this time a large article had been printed in Green Anarchist on the case and leaflet on the defence campaign notepaper claiming that an effigy of the judge would be burnt outside the court on bonfire night. Both claimed to have been penned with the help and permission of all the defendants. This was not the case but I will not mention here who was responsible for such an irresponsible act.

The Judges summing up took 3 days! He proved himself to have a very poor grasp of the case and even the names of the defendants. We were called respectively Saxon Webb, Saxon Booth, Simon Robin and Simon Rogers. He also had to be repeatedly corrected on matters of fact by the defence team. He went over the case against each defendant and was at pains to add his thoughts on each piece of evidence, even making his own links which hadn't been brought out before. It can only be said that in my case he was fair, for the others he clearly wanted a conviction. He finished on Monday 10th of November, the 46th day in court and sent the jury. out.

And so we waited until Thursday. In the morning the Judge directed the jury to ignore Barry Horne's case Bristol, where he had just been found guilty. At 12.30 he called the Jury back to direct them to come to a majority decision. Before that he had to ask if they had come to any decisions. They had guilty on Noel, Saxon and Steve. They were sent down to the cells and I had to wait until 3.30 when the jury came back with a majority verdict of not guilty.

The Judge sentenced all three to 3 years, saying that he had reduced it a year after hearing mitigation.

The defendants were convicted basically, not on what they had produced, written or dispatched. But on who they were, and what they believed in. It became very obvious that this case would never have been brought against, say a bookshop that had produced such material. In fact a number of bookshops had sold Green Anarchist and a number of the publications complained about, but they were not in the dock. The defendants were either anarchist or animal liberationists and thus were guilty. My narrow escape (at least one, maybe two, of the jury thought me guilty) was due to the fact that I had made clear provable steps showing I was not intending to incite. But I had to prove my innocence, which is something we are not supposed to have to do. I was lucky.

Thanks must go to those who supported us in court, and supplied us with food when we couldn't leave the court. You know who you are.

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