Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The state versus Andrew Murray

Bristol City Council is prosecuting Andrew Murray, national chair of the Stop the War Coalition, in connection with posters that were flyposted onto walls in Bristol. The trial will be at Bristol Magistrates Court on 24th June.

There is no suggestion by the prosecution that Andrew Murray personally posted these up, or even that he was in any way involved in a decision to do so. He is being prosecuted as the head of the organisation allegedly benefiting from the Flyposting. I believe there are 14 counts, each of which carries a possible maximum fine of £2000.

This is the third high profile prosecution by the Liberal Democrat controlled Bristol City Council for Flyposting, and a previous prosecution was also against a different anti-war organisation. (Similarly, in Swindon where I live, it was the Lib Dem councillors who made a big fuss in the local papers seeking for anti-war Flyposting to be prosecuted).

This is a very dangerous precedent, if the leading figures of national political organisation can be prosecuted for events over which they have no control. Not only is it a restriction of the ability to effectively protest, and organise democratic dissent, but it obviously leaves individuals vulnerable to provocation, if opponents and enemies of our movement put up posters in order to get us prosecuted.

The legislation is clearly poorly drafted. Hopefully Bristol’s Lib Dems will see sense before the trial and drop the prosecution.


Phil said...

What's the exact charge - does anyone know? Indymedia says "unlawful bill-posting", but since their page is the only hit on the entire Web for that phrase I don't think that can be the right wording.

AN said...

I would make an informed guess that he is being prosecuted under section 224 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 , that is what councils usually use.

But before that they used to prosecute under section 132 of the Highway Act 1980.

There is a problem that councils are crating a situatin where law breaking is almost inevitable.

If they provided sanctioned sites for posting, like the poster drums common in Germany, then it would solve the problem to everyones' satisfaction.

Phil said...

If it is that bit of legislation, there's a get-out clause - all Murray's got to do is persuade the court that Bristol StWC were flyposting without his "knowledge and consent". He could get off that way, but it would make it hard for Bristol StW to do any flyposting ever again. Sneaky, very sneaky.

AN said...

I'll find out what the charge is.

Anglonoel said...

I thought the Lib Dems were supposed to be anti-war? Self-righteous hypocrites.