Road Raging - Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding

Chapter 15 - Legal Issues

When entering into a direct action campaign there are many aspects of the law you will need to learn. As people's liberty could be at stake, it is dangerous to think that the law does not matter, or is irrelevant. Much of what we do brings you into contact with the police, who will nick you for existing if they want to. The campaign and those in it have a responsibility to give people legal support.

Legal stuff can be boring and frustrating, and sometimes seems pointless, but it is an essential facet of any campaign which wants to survive and thrive. It can involve anything from finding good and sympathetic lawyers, encouraging people to act as witnesses for each other, helping each other through court cases, knowing your rights, through to suing the police.

This chapter may appear daunting and there is a lot to know. However, there are lots of groups and lawyers out there who can help your campaign. We have tried to cover things as extensively as possible, but this is not a definitive guide. At the time of writing all the information included in this section is as correct as we can get it - we've checked it with several lawyers - but the law is continually changing. Also, this chapter is based entirely on the law as it stands in England and Wales. There are differences in other parts of the UK. There are two different broad areas of law, civil and criminal. Briefly, civil law covers disputes amongst individuals who can go to the County or High Court to sort it out. Criminal law is where the State (via the police and their solicitors, the Crown Prosecution Service) can take you to the Magistrates or Crown Court, for some "wrong" against "society". There is often overlap between the two, especially when squatting.

Wildlife And Countryside Act 1981

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) makes it an offence to deliberately injure certain wildlife (e.g. bats and birds), and in certain circumstances their homes, particularly those of nesting birds. (Badgers also have their own special protection under the Badgers Act 1992). Unfortunately, there are so many exemptions incorporated into this legislation that it makes it almost toothless against developers and Government. The Act creates various supposedly protective designations for areas of land, eg. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Damage to protected areas generally do not count if planning permission has been granted, or the destruction is caused by a government body.

English Nature is supposed to enforce this legislation in England, but they are about as effective a watchdog as a kitten. Although they do have some good environmentalists amongst their ranks, they rarely put up a robust opposition to government projects, simply because they are State funded. If you see anything which is a breach of the WCA, it is worth trying to do something about it. If it is a private company you are opposing, English Nature may be more inclined to act. They are a lever worth pressurising, but never rely on them. There are separate bodies in Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland with similar functions.

European Law

There are several European Directives incorporated into British law that are supposedly designed to protect the environment, and all EU countries theoretically have to obey them. These include the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (all major schemes should have a thorough EIA), the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. These Directives require the designation of protected areas. For example, the Habitats Directive creates Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and the Birds Directive creates Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

If you believe that your government has broken a Directive, you will have to make a complaint to the EU and then follow it up. It will take months or years as the wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly. Don't expect "Europe" to come rushing to your aid - political deals and back-handers are rife. However, complaints may be worth making for the propaganda value. Get in touch with Friends of the Earth or ALARM UK for advice on complaints to the EU Environment Commission.

Public Processions And Assemblies

Public processions and assemblies are subject to legal restrictions, most notably the Public Order Act 1986 (POA), sections 11 - 16, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order 1994 (CJA), sections 70 - 71. The police can ban them, impose conditions and arrest you if you refuse to comply.

Advance notice of processions is required by law, under the POA. The notice is required in writing at the local police station, ideally at least 6 clear days before the procession, and should include routes, times, and names/addresses of organisers. The notice should be given as soon as is "reasonably practicable" - for truly spontaneous demonstrations a phone call at the last minute maybe acceptable. Failure to give notice doesn't mean the march cannot take place, but the organisers and participants could possibly face criminal charges and fines (if they can prove who the "organisers" are!). In practice, your local police might not enforce this. The police can ban a procession by applying to the local authority for an Order. Breaking this Order is a criminal offence.

If the march is permitted, the police have the power to impose conditions (e.g. numbers of stewards, no stopping etc.) and specify routes for the procession, at any time. It is an offence for organisers and participants not to comply with the conditions (max. sentence 3 months prison and / or fine for organisers, fine only for participants).

Public assemblies (static demonstrations of over 20 people in the open air) do not need an advance notice and the police have no powers to ban them, although they can impose on the spot conditions (duration, numbers, place) if serious disruption or damage to property seems likely. Criminal charges can be brought against those not complying with orders (max. sentence 3 months prison and / or Level 4 fine).

Under the CJA sections 70 - 71, the police have massive powers over "trespassory assemblies". They may apply to the local Council (or in London, to the Home Office) for a ban if they believe that a trespassory assembly is planned and may result in either serious disruption to the life of the community, or there will be significant damage to land / building / monument of historical, architectural, archaeological or scientific importance. The ban affects all trespassory assemblies, lasts up to 4 days, and applies to a radius of 5 miles from a specified centre. If you know the assembly is prohibited, it is an arrestable offence to organise, take part in or incite others to take part in it (max. sentence 3 months prison and / or fine). The police have the power to stop or direct people not to proceed in the direction of an assembly within a 5 mile radius, if they believe that they are on their way there. It is an arrestable offence to knowingly fail to comply with the order (Level 3 fine).

Squatting Land And Buildings

Most of squatting is covered by the civil law. The CJA has changed the law and made squatting more difficult, but not illegal. The new method is described separately below under CJA evictions. However, the pre-CJA procedure is still the most commonly used, so we will describe that first. Theoretically the police should not get involved - unless you cause damage, have lots of vehicles or refuse to move if an Interim Possession Order (IPO) has been obtained.

defaultWhen you squat someone's land or building, you are trespassing on their property. The usual way to get you out is for the owner to go to the civil courts to obtain a Warrant or Writ of Possession and instruct bailiffs. It is time consuming and expensive for the owner, but has existed like that for centuries to protect those who have a legitimate claim to a property from being kicked out by unscrupulous and powerful people.

A totally different set of laws apply if you are squatting somewhere that someone is already living in. You will get kicked out almost immediately. So, the old Sun-style stereotype of squatters moving in when a family goes on holiday is a load of rubbish. People usually squat a building that has been left empty for ages and is going to waste.

The usual pretext for the police getting involved with these procedures is if there has been damage done to the property, e.g. to locks, doors and windows, or burglary (ingredients being trespass and criminal damage, or theft, including that of electricity), or if violence is used to get in (Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977), or if a Breach of the Peace has occurred.

Criminal Law Act 1977 - Sections 6 and 12
You have some protection from forced eviction under the Criminal Law Act 1977 (CLA). Section 6 of this Act makes it an offence to "use or threaten violence to secure entry to any premises when it is known that there is someone present on the premises who is opposed to the entry". The penalty is up to 6 months imprisonment or a Level 5 fine (for fine levels, see below). Someone must be present at all times for Section 6 to apply. Most of the time squatters will put up a "Section 6" notice saying all of this (an example of one is in the Appendix). Putting one up does not make you immune from attack, but it will give you extra weight if you go to court about a forced eviction. You can say that you adequately warned your attackers that they were in breach of Section 6 of the CLA.

Many camps have created a physical boundary to define their area and asked that this be respected by the security guards. In a long term campaign you must follow up any illegal forced eviction or illegal entry onto your property, or the enemy will do it again. This will involve trying to persuade the police to prosecute (well, it is worth a try), or by giving information to the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) and magistrates and asking them to prosecute.

Section 12 of the CLA gives definitions of the terms used in the Act, including Section 6. This is especially relevant for squatting land. The DoT in Britain have disputed the fact that Section 6 applies to camps saying that the definition of "premises" given in Section 12 does not cover camps. If you read Section 12 it clearly says that premises means "any land ancillary to a building" and "any ancillary land thereto". It also defines buildings as "any structure other than a movable one, and any movable structure designed or adapted for use for residential purposes". Make sure that police, bailiffs and security know you will collect evidence of any breaches of Section 6, and will be prepared to argue this out in court.

Eviction proceedings and fighting it in court
You may choose to fight the eviction through the courts. This may be as you have a genuine case, or it may be that you just want to delay the eviction and cost them more money. If you can delay them getting an Order in the courts you can sometimes really mess up their plans and schedules.

When you squat a piece of land or building you may wish to notify the owners by post or fax to remind them of Section 6 of the CLA, so they can instruct their agents and security guards to stay away. This has pros and cons. Give them the minimum info to avoid helping them draft their eviction papers. This will give you more evidence in court to prove you have been illegally evicted, and it may worry them into carrying things out correctly.

You will often know when they are making moves to evict you. They will probably come round to your camp (or squat) and serve you with a Notice to Quit. This will usually give you 48 hours to leave. After this time, they will come back and formally ask you to leave. They will probably film all this as proof. They will then apply to the courts to get you evicted. You will next receive a Summons to court. If they do not have any of your names the Summons will be against "Persons Unknown". It has to be served properly, in a sealed transparent wallet and affixed to your door or attached to posts hammered into the ground. See Appendix for an example of an eviction Summons.

You will have to decide if you then want to put any effort into contesting the eviction in court. At least one person will have to give them a name (real or false) to do so. This will, at the very least, make them work for their eviction. You can, if you put some thought and effort in, delay them for months. This was achieved in the case of Stanworth Valley along the route of the M65 in 1995. It took them several months to get their Possession Order, and valuable time was bought to build even more tree houses and make sure that those woods saw another Spring.

If you can get a lawyer to help you, then all the better. You may even be able to get Legal Aid and have them represent you, although this is rare and a lawyer will be limited in what (s)he can say. If you don't get representation, you will have to go and defend yourself in court. You may be able to get an adjournment. Grounds for an adjournment might be: need more time to prepare complicated case, court case to be held nearer to (poor) defendants, or technical irregularities in the proceedings. Defences could include: pending case in the European Courts, challenging their ownership of the land, if you had permission to be there, or you have been squatting there for more than 12 years. If the judge does not accept your defence, they will probably grant a Possession Order "forthwith" (at once). The Order can last for 12 years, if not used.

An appeal can buy you even more time. During anti-road protests, the DoT have never evicted whilst an appeal is pending. It really would not look good for them if, when the appeal came to court, they had to admit that they had already cleared the area. In the High Court, you can appeal to a Judge against the decision of a Master. You must do it within 5 working days of the decision. There is a fee of £20 (if you have evidence of being on the dole they should waive you the fee). There is also a lot of paperwork to be typed and submitted. You will get a fresh hearing. Contact squatter groups (see Chapter xx) or a lawyer for advice.

In the County Court, you can appeal to a Judge about the decision of a District Judge, but not against the decision of a Recorder or an Assistant Recorder. You must do it within 14 days of the decision and there is, again, the £20 fee. The Judge will review the decision, but you will not necessarily get a fresh hearing. You can go further and appeal to the Court of Appeal, but this has risks: huge court costs and making bad law.

If you lose, you will almost certainly have costs awarded against you. A lawyer would advise you against taking legal action because of this risk. In the past, however, they have never attempted to get costs back as they know we can't and won't pay.

The Eviction
The Possession Order enables a Warrant or Writ of Possession to be issued, instructing bailiffs or Sheriff's Officers. This usually takes at least a few days. If you are a named defendant, you can request in writing any documents in the court files relating to the enforcement of the Possession Order. Regularly doing this could give you a tip off about the timing of the eviction. If the court officials refuse to allow you to inspect the file, you should point out to them Order 63 Rule 4 in the High Court, and Order 50 Rule 10 in the County Court. For more on this under-used technique, see Basic Law for Road Protesters (Chapter xx).

You may be "privileged" enough for the Sheriff's deputy, the Undersheriff, to turn up at the eviction or it may be just their certified, sworn-in bailiffs. It will be their duty to ensure that the Writ or Warrant for Possession is enforced. They should have the Writ or Warrant when they come to do the eviction. Ask to see it (if you are not locked onto the roof or up the trees!) The Bailiffs are allowed to use reasonable force to remove you, and resisting them or the Sheriff is a criminal offence (see below).

Returning to land
If a piece of land or property has a Writ or Warrant of Possession on it and you return to it, you may get immediately evicted as they last for a year. They just have to obtain a Warrant of Restitution from the courts (without notifying you) and then come and evict you without warning. So if you intend to re-squat a piece of land be prepared for this and get out of reach!

CJA Evictions
Under the CJA (sections 75 - 76), a new, faster eviction process has been created, which only applies to buildings. It is very similar to the process described above except the owner can apply for an Interim Possession Order (IPO) before a full eviction hearing. If an IPO is granted, you commit a criminal offence if you remain there, or return, after 24 hours has elapsed. This new law is particularly unjust, as even if you have a good case for the actual hearing, you may be already out of your squat (and possibly arrested). They have to serve you with the Summons for the IPO hearing within 28 days of them knowing you are in occupation, not from when you moved in. You will be summonsed to court, often with very short notice. The Summons will have a blank affidavit attached which you must complete and return to be able to attend court. At the hearing, you are not allowed to speak unless the judge invites you to, or asks you a question. However they usually do. If the judge grants the order, the IPO can be served, usually within 48 hours. If you are still there within 24 hours, the police will do the eviction without bailiffs and can arrest you.

Also, under sections 61 - 62 of the CJA (the "travellers" sections), a senior policeman can instruct trespassers to leave if they have already been asked to leave by the owner of the land or their agent, and either the trespassers have "caused damage" to the land, or "used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour" towards the owner or agent. They can also make you leave if you have six or more vehicles on the land. The trespassers can be arrested if they refuse to leave and vehicles can be impounded.

This is only a very brief summary of laws surrounding squatting. If you plan to squat either land or buildings, get in touch with some of the excellent squatting organisations around (see Chapter 16).

Some Relevant Police Powers

The police often exceed their legal powers, relying on your ignorance of the law and their ability to intimidate. Their powers are set out in a series of Acts, most of it being in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (known as PACE). The following is a summary of some of their actual powers and is not exhaustive.

The police have extensive powers to stop and search people, vehicles and property, before arrest, in a public or private place and seize possessions. Generally speaking, the police may stop and search people and vehicles where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that they maybe carrying firearms; drugs; stolen goods; articles for use in thefts, breaking into vehicles, burglaries etc. and offensive weapons, including sharply pointed articles. "Reasonable suspicion" must be based on fact, rather than stereotyping such as ethnic origin, dress, hairstyle etc. The police have guidelines advising them to "ensure that the powers are used responsibly and sparingly" (!).

Some of these search powers (e.g. for offensive weapons and stolen articles) can only be exercised in a public place. Others (e.g. for drugs) can be exercised anywhere. The police can detain you, without arresting you, long enough to carry out these searches. They are not allowed to make you undress further than your outer coat, jacket or gloves if the search is in public. If the police find something which they have reasonable grounds for believing is, for example, stolen, it can be seized.


There are supposed to be some safeguards before and after searches - e.g. the officer must, where practicable, give their name, police station and reason for search. The officer must also prepare a record of the search and you are entitled to a copy if you ask for it within 12 months of the search, though not necessarily there and then.

Quite separately, the police have powers to set up road blocks and / or stop pedestrians. If the police fear that violence is likely to take place in a certain area, they can make an order that anyone within a given distance of that area can be stopped and searched for offensive weapons, without any suspicion. If they have banned trespassory assemblies in a given area, they can turn back people en route to the assembly. The police can also set up road blocks, not only to check for terrorist devices, but also to look out for witnesses to, suspected of, or about to commit other serious offences.

The police can search properties, short of arrest, if they have obtained a search warrant from a Magistrates Court. The police can enter property, without a warrant, to arrest someone suspected of an arrestable offence, to save life or limb, or prevent serious damage to property. They can also enter property with the consent of the owner, or to prevent a Breach of the Peace (see below).

When they arrest someone, the police have much wider powers. For example, they can carry out strip searches and retain possessions found on you. They have additional powers to enter, search and seize possessions from property occupied or controlled by the person who has been arrested, to obtain evidence relating to the offence or some other connected arrestable offence.

The police have extra powers when it comes to road traffic. For example, they have the power to stop vehicles without suspicion. They can require the production (either there and then, or within a given amount of time) of licences, insurance documents etc. If you have any vehicles on the campaign you may get a lot of hassle. This was a tactic much used by the police during the Newbury campaign. Therefore, it is worth making sure that your vehicle is totally legal if it is going to be used in connection with the campaign.

It is an offence for a driver not to give their name, address and date of birth. It is also an offence (under Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988) for passengers not to tell police what they know about the identity of the driver of a vehicle, if certain serious driving offences under the same Act (eg. drunken, careless or dangerous driving) are alleged. These are important exceptions to the "right to silence". Otherwise, passengers are not obliged to give their names and addresses.

Legally, "driving" includes activities such as stopping to buy fuel, and locking the car before leaving. Once you have left the car, you do not have to give your name and address to the police, unless they believe that you have been involved in an accident, or have committed a driving offence.

It is worth remembering that if the police are not exercising any of these powers, you have no obligation to talk to them, give them your name or address, assist them, remain with them, volunteer to be searched, allow them onto your property, or give them anything which belongs to you. Having said this, you could be charged with the general offence of obstructing the police in the execution of their duty (see below) if you actually mislead or hinder them in any way. There are also specific offences for failing to comply with certain police powers. The police can use "reasonable force" to exercise their powers.

Arrestable Offences

The official name of the offence is written first with its common name afterwards in brackets.

Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ("Aggravated Trespass")- To have committed this you will have trespassed on land (not highways, footpaths or water), in the open air (i.e. not inside a building), and actually, or with a specific intention of, disrupting or obstructing or intimidating someone from going about their lawful activity. This, in practice, means breaking through, or attempting to break through, a security cordon to stop "lawful" tree felling, locking onto a machine, hunt sabotage, basically direct action in general! It does not need a warning. Max. sentence 3 months and / or a Level 4 fine (see below).

Section 69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 ("Section 69") - is the offence you commit when you refuse to obey the instruction of a cop to leave land which they believe you will commit aggravated trespass on. They must give you a warning for this and you will have to have ignored it, or returned within 3 months. Max. sentence 3 months and / or a Level 4 fine.

Criminal Trespass - Generally, if you are trespassing without disrupting anything, you are not committing a criminal offence. You are committing a civil wrong against the owner of the land and you cannot be arrested. However, there are a few instances when it becomes criminal, for instance, if you trespass on railway lines and restricted areas in docks and ports.

Section 10 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 ("Section 10 - Obstructing the Sheriff") - During evictions, this is the most likely offence you will be arrested for. You will have to have knowingly resisted or intentionally obstructed any person who is an officer of the court (i.e. sheriffs, bailiffs, professional climbers) engaged in executing or enforcing a Writ. Max. sentence 6 months and / or a Level 5 fine.

Breach of the Peace or Behaviour Likely to Cause a Breach of the Peace - This is not even a criminal offence, but a "civil wrong". It occurs when an act is done, or threatened to be done, which either actually harms, or is likely to harm, or puts someone in fear that it may harm, that other person or, in their presence, their property. It must be characterised by violence or the threat of violence. The violence can come from either the person committing the act, or the reaction of the other person to the behaviour of that person. However, in reality the police will arrest you for this if they don't like the look of you, or want to find out who you are. They may also detain you without arresting you to prevent a Breach of the Peace - for example, by physically restraining you, or shutting you in a van.

The power of arrest comes from the Breach of the Peace Act 1361(!). It has been retained as it is so useful to police and magistrates. It is just a "complaint" that the police make to magistrates about you, and ask them to uphold. So you don't even get a criminal record - you may just have a "complaint upheld" against you. They can arrest you for this immediately, and hold you in custody until they can take you to the magistrates. Because it is not a criminal offence, the PACE regulations do not apply, and they cannot impose bail conditions.

When they take you before the magistrates, they may try and do a "trial" there and then. Because it is not a criminal charge, they do not have to prove your guilt "beyond reasonable doubt", only on a "balance of probabilities". You must say that you want an opportunity to prepare for a proper "trial". They should grant you this and adjourn for another date. Again, they cannot set bail conditions. If the complaint is upheld, the only penalty the magistrates can give you is a bind-over (see below).

Section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 ("Criminal Damage") - This is an arrestable offence if you, without lawful excuse, destroy or damage (including minimal and temporary impairment of value or usefulness) any property belonging to another, intending to destroy it. For criminal damage costing less than £2000, the case must be tried in a Magistrates Court, where the max. sentence is 3 months and/or a fine. If the cost of damage is above £2000, it can be tried either by magistrates (max. sentence 6 months and/or fine), or in Crown Court (max. sentence 10 years and/or fine).

Section 241 of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidated) Act 1992 ("Section 241") - This law was brought in by Thatcher against the unions, and usually refers to various forms of secondary picketing, but it is occasionally applied to road protesters. You commit the offence by doing certain things, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing something they have a legal right to do: use violence or intimidate someone and their family; or follow someone; or hide or deprive and hinder the use of tools, clothes and other property; or watch and beset the person; or follow the person with others through the streets in a disorderly manner. Max. sentence 6 months and / or a Level 5 fine.

Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 ("Obstructing the Highway") - To be guilty of this you must "wilfully and without lawful excuse" obstruct a highway. The highway is any public road, and can include a footpath. Lawfully you can only use a highway to get from A to B, and the police decide if is a "reasonable" obstruction. Max. sentence Level 3 fine.

Section 51 (sub section 3) of the Police Act 1964 ("obstructing the police") - this is usually a non-arrestable offence, but may become arrestable if a Breach of the Peace has occurred. If arrested for this, consider suing the police (contact the solicitors in Chapter xx). You commit the offence if you resist or wilfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his duty. This could mean ignoring the instructions of a policeman, deliberately misleading them, or stopping them from doing something - for example, de-arresting other protesters, giving false details or running away when arrested. Max. sentence 1 month prison and / or Level 3 fine.

Public Order Act 1986 lists a variety of offences which get progressively more serious. The CJA has changed and amended this Act slightly:

Section 5 ("disorderly conduct") - is the least serious and most regularly used. The ingredients are that you use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour; or disorderly behaviour; or display in writing, sign, or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm and distress. This is a catch-all charge which is quite difficult to defend against, as the police do not have to produce any witness who was upset. They just have to claim that your behaviour could have done so. Max. sentence Level 3 fine.

Section 4a ("disorderly words and conduct with intent") - is virtually the same as Section 5, except the police have to prove that you intended to cause someone harassment, alarm or distress. Max. sentence 6 months and / or Level 5 fine.

Section 4 ("causing the fear of or provoking violence") - This makes it an offence to use towards another person threatening, abusive words or behaviour; or distribute or display any writing, sign, or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used. Max. sentence 6 months and / or Level 5 fine.

Section 3 ("affray") - This is committed if a person uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another, and their conduct is such as would cause a person of "reasonable firmness"(!) present at the scene to fear for their personal safety. It can be tried at Magistrates Court (max. sentence 6 months and / or fine) or Crown Court (max. sentence 3 years and / or fine).

Section 2 ("violent disorder") - This is committed where 3 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence, and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of "reasonable firmness" present at the scene to fear for their personal safety. Max. sentence at Magistrates Court 6 months and / or fine; in Crown Court, max. sentence 5 years and / or fine.

Section 1 ("riot") - an offence where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose, and their conduct (taken together) is such as would cause a person of "reasonable firmness" present at the scene to fear for their personal safety. This charge is very rarely used and needs the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Max. sentence 10 years and / or fine.

There are various assault related offences, depending on who you assault and what injury you cause:

Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 ("common assault and battery") - is the least serious. Assault is any deliberate or reckless act which causes a person to fear immediate unlawful violence (i.e. no actual contact needed). Battery involves simply touching someone without their consent or other lawful authority. Max. sentence 6 months and / or Level 3 fine for both.

Section 51 (sub section 1) of the Police Act 1964 ("assault police") - committed if you assault a police officer or anyone assisting officer in execution of his duty. Max. sentence 6 months and / or Level 5 fine.

Section 38 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861("assault with intent to resist apprehension") - committed if you assault a cop when being arrested. Max. sentence 2 years.

Section 47 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 ("ABH") - assault occasioning actual bodily harm involves assault causing medically verified injuries. Max. sentence 5 years.

Sections 20 and 18 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 ("GBH") - two types, either simple grievous bodily harm (known as "unlawful wounding"). The skin needs to have been broken. Max. sentence 5 years. Or "GBH with intent" to cause serious harm. Max. sentence is life.

Bear in mind other offences such as theft and burglary (especially on offices actions) and going to equipped to commit criminal damage or to steal. Also, be aware of (a) conspiracy, (b) incitement, (c) aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring an offence and the principles of "joint enterprise" - all of which can make organisers, leaflet distributors and other people criminally responsible for the actions of others.

Levels of fines (as at 1996) are:
Level 1 - max. £200
Level 2 - max. £500
Level 3 - max. £1000
Level 4 - max. £2500
Level 5 - max. £5000

Bear in mind that these amounts are legal maximum figures, and you are likely to actually be fined much less.

Getting Arrest ed

You'll be in very good company if you do get arrested, and will be joining a long line of people who have been arrested for their beliefs! However, getting arrested is not compulsory in a direct action campaign and in fact, often it can be quite advantageous to not get nicked as it can take you out of action and be draining. The experience of getting arrested can be different for everyone. It can be a really good laugh, extremely scary, empowering or isolating.

You can make it a whole lot better by knowing what to expect. In practice often the police give warnings before they arrest because they prefer to get you out of the way rather than go to the trouble of arresting you and taking you to the police station. However, with most offences it makes no legal difference if they do not warn you (exceptions Section 69 of the CJA, and Section 5 of the Public Order Act - see above). They can always say in their notebooks, and in court, that they warned you, even if they didn't.

If you are arrested, you should hear the words "I am arresting you for ... [they should say an actual offence here]. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence." It may come out as "You're nicked!" however. They do not have to say all of the full caution if the circumstances make it impracticable. You should be told what you have been arrested for (PACE, section 28, subsection 3). Call out to people to alert them to your arrest (you'll need witnesses) and ask them to give their names to Action Observers or to the campaign office. Ask the cop what you are being arrested for in front of witnesses.

You'll then be taken to a police van. You may have to wait a long while before being taken to the station as they try and fill up the van with others, or you may be whisked straight off. They will try and ask you loads of questions and may even get you to fill out forms. Tell them as little as possible - see below.

At The Police Station

When you arrive at the station you'll be led in, possibly in handcuffs, and taken to a desk where the custody/desk sergeant will "book you in". They will ask you loads of questions. Remember, you do not have to give them any information - in the sense that it is not an offence. However, it is advisable to give them your name and address as refusal will make getting bail more difficult later on. They will often get details off you from your possessions when you are searched. Usually people just give their name and address. The address that you give should be verifiable or they won't let you out. They may phone or call around at the address you give to check it. You could demand that they recognise your protest camp / treehouse as a proper and legitimate address.

They will try and get all sorts of other info from you, especially your date of birth. The police national computer lists everyone by date of birth, so if they have yours, you'll be very easy for them to trace. You will have to decide whether you want to give them it or not. You could just politely state that you are not legally required to give it, but this could result in a slightly longer detention.

After this you will be "read your rights". You are entitled to see a solicitor, have someone informed of your arrest and consult a copy of the PACE Codes of Practice. If you don't decide to do any of these things immediately you can change your mind later. However, you may have trouble getting the police's attention later on, as the buzzers in the cells are often ignored.

Tell the police (and have it recorded on your custody record) that you give them full permission to disclose any information about your arrest to anyone who rings up from the campaign, enquiring about you. The police have been very unco-operative in the past and have refused to let people outside know what is happening to arrested people, using the excuse that they are protecting the prisoner's "privacy".

Searches and possessions
The custody sergeant decides what possessions you can keep and what should be taken from you. The sergeant can authorise a search, including a strip search if deemed necessary. So, do not carry things on actions that could get you into trouble, ie. drugs or knives or sabotage tools. They can also search you for anything which could cause injury, damage property, interfere with evidence or assist in escape - e.g. shoelaces, belts, lighters and matches. It is only on these grounds, or on the grounds that they might constitute evidence, that the custody sergeant can retain clothes or personal effects. Anything taken off you should be meticulously listed and put into a sealed bag in your presence. You will then be asked to sign the list to say it is correct. Check it and sign immediately under the last item so they cannot add anything. Don't sign at all if anything on the list is incriminating.

Any search (except by a doctor) must be carried out by someone of your sex. More intimate searches (of body orifices) can only be carried out where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that you have a Class A drug or have something concealed which might cause injury.

What happens next
They will then put you in a cell. This is the boring bit. You will just have to sit it out until they decide what to do with you. You can catch up on sleep, read, do some stretching / meditation, or ask to have a shower. Be aware that you may be overheard in the cell. You could create your own entertainment! When large numbers have been arrested, it has been quite a laugh with people singing and making music in the cells.

You can ask for a solicitor at any point during your custody. The police must take reasonable steps to get them there as soon as possible or at least get them on the telephone. You should be able to speak to them in private. If you are unsure of anything, get to speak to a solicitor. All legal advice in the police station is free whatever your financial position. You'll also be allowed to let someone know that you have been arrested. Hopefully you'll get to do it yourself, but you may just have to nominate someone and the police will do it for you.

They should only hold you while they obtain evidence, and work out if they have enough to charge you. Much depends on how serious or complicated the allegations are. In straightforward cases, this could take just a couple of hours, but if they have to take statements and do interviews it could take longer... In practice, they usually hold you far longer than necessary (see below for how to sue).

If they hold you for a long time, they should hold reviews of your detention (called custody reviews) as set out in PACE. These should happen 6 hours after your original arrest and then every 9 hours after that. You should be present at the review - or at the very least your solicitor should be. Make sure that they know that you want to be present.

They may decide to interview you in an attempt to get more evidence. If this happens, have your solicitor present. Remember that you are NOT obliged to say anything and that you DO still have the right to silence. The only change since the CJA in 1994 is that if you do not mention a fact, that you later rely on at trial, in your interview the court can draw "adverse inferences" from this. Decide what is best for you to do, after talking to your solicitor and co-arrestees, if possible. Be very careful that you do not drop other people in it by what you say. Our advice is that it is nearly always best to do a "no comment" interview. The interview is designed to help the police and not you.

When you go into the interview room, you'll sit at a desk with one or more cops, your solicitor and it'll all be taped. At the beginning of the interview, it may be a good idea to say on tape something like "I am not prepared to speak now under police interrogation, but I am prepared to defend myself in a court of law". Some people have suggested invalidating the interview procedure by saying "Okay! OKAY! I'll say anything, just don't hit me anymore"!

Fingerprints, photographs and DNA samples
They may also decide to fingerprint, photograph, and take DNA samples from you. They are only empowered to do this before you have been charged if you have committed a serious offence. You can refuse to give your consent to fingerprints, but they may use "minimum reasonable force" to get them. Once they have your prints, they can always tell who you are if they arrest you again and it is difficult to get away with giving a false name. Although it takes a few weeks for the prints to get to their central computer, it can tell who you are very quickly if your prints are on it already.

They may try to photograph you. You do not have to give your consent and they are not allowed to use "minimum reasonable force" to get this. They may ask you to sit in a chair and hold a blackboard below your face with your name on it (like in the films!). If you refuse, they may try and take it sneakily.

The CJA has introduced significant new police powers to accumulate and use DNA intelligence. The police now have express powers to set up a DNA database and to seize DNA from suspects. DNA can come from a number of sources. Firstly there are "intimate samples" such as blood, semen, tissue fluid, urine, pubic hair, and swabs from orifices. Secondly, there are "non-intimate samples" such as hair samples (other than pubic hair), scrapings from under a nail, swabs taken from parts of the body other than orifices, foot or hand impressions, and saliva.

The rules on the police's powers depends on which type of sample they are dealing with, whether a suspect has been charged, and how serious the charge is. With protesters on minor charges, this is unusual, and if they do it, they'll either pluck hair, or take saliva swabs from inside the mouth, after charge. They can do this, using reasonable force, for "recordable" offences, i.e. most of them.

Injuries and Doctors
If you are physically injured in any way immediately before or during arrest, or whilst in custody (handcuff and pressure point injuries etc.) you can ask to see a doctor. Every police station has one and they should ask if you want to see them when they book you in. Their doctors have often been (unsurprisingly) unsympathetic or uncooperative. They will record what they diagnosed and how they treated it. If policemen have caused your injuries, they will have access to the doctor's notes, and will be able to fit their story to account for the injuries. Therefore, it may be wiser to go to a hospital or independent doctor instead, immediately after release for a proper report (especially if you plan to sue).

"Antecedents" form
This is a bizarre form that the police may try and get you to fill in at the police station. They will say that this is just for the benefit of the court to help them assess you and your position - don't believe a word of it! Since when have the courts needed to know whether you have any tattoos? They will pressure you into filling it out or may just ask you verbally. This form will have all sorts of questions on it, including your schooling, employment history, parents, health, body markings, eye colour etc. You do not have to answer any of the questions, so don't! Anything you do say will go straight onto the police national computer.

Arrested people under 17 are classed as "juvenile", and there are slightly different procedures. The main one is that the person responsible for them should be informed about what is happening, and that nothing should happen to them at the police station in the absence of an "appropriate adult" (parent, guardian, social worker).

There are several things that the police can finally decide to do with you. They may release you without charge and that'll be the end of the case against you. They often arrest, detain and release without charge to clear demos or they may not have enough evidence. Get in touch with a good lawyer to sue (see below).

Cautions may be offered by the police for minor offences to people who have a minimal criminal record. The police do this to avoid the hassle, expense and paperwork of going to court. Accepting the caution means admitting the offence, and getting it finished there and then. It is not a criminal conviction but will stay on your record for three years, and may be taken into account if you get arrested again. It may be pragmatic to accept one, but it is a convenient way for the police to settle their dubious arrests and may make it harder to sue them later on. Think carefully and talk to a solicitor before accepting.

If the police want to take the matter further they may release you on some sort of bail. Bail is when you are released with an obligation to return to the police station or to a court. Failure to return is a criminal offence under the Bail Act. It would be harder to get bail for the original charge and you would have a record of failing to answer bail. This may prejudice bail applications in future.

If they need more evidence, they might release you on bail to re-appear at the police station at a later date, where they may discontinue proceedings or decide to charge you. Being charged means that you are formally accused of the offence. A policeman will read out the charge against you and ask for your reply. You do not have to say anything. Once charged you will either be bailed to appear at the Magistrates Court, or will be held until the next sitting of the Magistrates Court and taken before them. If the magistrates are not convinced you'll turn up at court, or believe you'll commit further offences on bail, or will interfere with witnesses, they can remand you in prison until your next court case. You are less likely to get bail if the charge is very serious.

Unless you're remanded, the police should return all your possessions. You should get a receipt for anything they keep as evidence. Once you are out, please phone the person you informed that you had been arrested, to let them know.

Bail conditions

The police and magistrates have the power to impose conditions on your bail. These conditions are usually to stay away from the site of the protest (e.g. a 1 km or so exclusion zone), or not to disrupt any work. Sometimes they impose a condition of residence on you - you are forced to stay at a designated address - and they may even make you sign at a police station daily or weekly to prove you are staying at an address. Unless successfully challenged at the courts, these conditions will stay until you finally go to trial, which could be several months. Bail conditions are often strategically designed to remove you from on-the-ground action.

There are several reasons why the police impose conditions. The usual ones are to stop you re- offending whilst awaiting trial, to prevent you causing further damage to property / injury to self or someone else, and to make sure that you attend court. They should not put conditions on you if their only aim is to "inconvenience" you. You will have to sign the form giving your consent to the conditions to enable you to leave the police station. If you refuse to accept conditions, you will be taken before the magistrates at the earliest available opportunity, to ask for them to set the bail conditions. This could mean an overnight stay. In court, you will be able to argue why the conditions are unfair.

If you break these bail conditions you can be arrested or summonsed to court. The police will need to have evidence of you breaking your conditions so avoid having your photo taken. The magistrates will then decide what to do with you. They may impose harder bail conditions - bailed to live several 100 miles away for example. Or they may refuse bail, and remand you in prison or a remand centre until your trial. The only advantage is that your trial may be brought forward, dealt with quickly, and so you'll be free to protest again. If you're remanded in custody and want to apply for bail, you appeal to the Crown Court and then to the High Court. It is worth remembering that it is not a criminal offence to break your bail conditions - it just makes getting bail again for that offence more difficult if you are caught. It is however a separate criminal offence (under the Bail Act) not to turn up at court to face criminal charges.

Strategy against Bail Conditions
Bail conditions are one of the police's main weapons against activists in sustained campaigns. Anyone arrested is put out of action or risks being remanded. Any campaign which seeks to last a long time will have to think before action starts about how it will deal with bail conditions, and develop a strategy.

If given bail conditions by the police, you might get them varied by going to see a different custody sergeant at the same station, or by applying to magistrates. To appeal against bail conditions imposed by magistrates, you go to the High Court. Bail conditions were challenged during the M11 protests, when a judge agreed that the conditions were draconian, and lifted them - freeing everyone to protest again. However, at Newbury in 1996, one man who appealed his conditions in the High Court walked away with harsher ones! So this option can be a bit of a gamble.

Challenging bail conditions with civil disobedience is more risky, demands a lot of thought and lots of people to take part in it, remaining determined and united. You can go all out and make it clear to the magistrates that you will break any conditions imposed on you, and will carry on protesting until they put you in prison. Make it clear that this will be what everyone does. They may realise that it is not worth their while. This worked at Twyford Down in 1993, backed up with a hunger strike. People at Newbury in 1996 refused bail conditions banning them from within 1 km of the route and went on hunger strike on remand, in prison. When it came to the Appeal in court, the conditions were slightly eased. They were allowed to continue living at the camps on route, but were barred from interfering with work.

These strategies were not completely effective as they included only a few isolated, brave individuals, not a concerted effort. If hundreds of people insisted on being taken to court over their bail conditions and then were prepared to go on remand, their prison system might start to clog up. This would need preparing and talking about before arrests start however. Another strategy would be for everyone to accept them and then persistently break them, as if they did not exist. The police would have trouble arresting everyone. The danger with this is that they may simply film you, get the evidence and then arrest you at another time, when you are isolated.

Support At The Police Station For Those Nicked

There are things that people outside can do to help arrested people, for instance, making sure that anyone who has witnessed the arrest writes a witness statement, or at the very least leaves their contact details - especially if they are a photographer or video user. They can inform the campaign solicitors who can push for their release. How much contact you have with an arrested person depends on how friendly the desk sergeant is. You should be able to get books, letters (the police will read them), food and tobacco in. If you ask really nicely, you may even be allowed a visit.

If the police have filled the cells in one station, or just want to be difficult, they may take the arrested person off to a distant police station. When the arrested person is released, the police are under no obligation to transport them back to where they were arrested. People should try and have a bit of money on them when they go into action for this very reason. However, this cannot be left to chance and the campaign should try and pick people up. This is a good, and very essential, role for people with vehicles (see "Driver Lists" in chapter 8).

If someone has been unjustly or violently arrested, or the police behaviour has become particularly bad, you may consider having demos at, or occupations of, the police station. The police hate this and usually react very forcefully. It is a very strong statement however, and can be a good way to get the issue of police brutality or non-impartiality out. If you are being held in the cells and you hear chants and drums outside, it can really lift your spirits.

Preparing For Trial

If the campaign has a supportive and organised attitude to legal matters, then preparation for trial and evidence gathering should be very easy. The names of witnesses or their statements should have been gathered at the time of the arrest and there should be a range of sympathetic solicitors for people to use. Anyone arrested will hopefully have written their own statement immediately after their arrest. In the same way that the police can refer to their notebooks when giving evidence, you and your witnesses can refer to any statement you made at the time of the incident, or as soon as practicable afterwards, as long as you haven't collaborated. This is useful, as it gives your evidence more credibility and also means that you don't forget things.

To represent yourself or not?
You may already have instructed a solicitor and signed Legal Aid forms at the police station. But don't assume that just because you got some advice from a solicitor at the station that they are now representing you, and will take care of everything. If you want them to represent you, which is especially worthwhile for more serious charges, you'll have to formally instruct them. Contact them as soon as you get out. The solicitor should apply for Legal Aid as soon as possible, if you are eligible.

You may decide to represent yourself. Increasingly more and more people are doing this, especially for political trials. There are many things that a barrister or solicitor just cannot do and say, and this can be very frustrating for a defendant. Many people won't be eligible for Legal Aid, but cannot afford to, or do not wish to, spend money on a solicitor. Also, there is a tendency for courts to refuse legal aid to political activists, so you may be forced to represent yourself, or at the very least, do a lot of the preparation of your case. For an excellent (and inspiring) guide to defending yourself read How to defend yourself in court (see Chapter xx).

Evidence and Disclosure
If you have instructed a solicitor, you should have a meeting with them to discuss your case. Your solicitor should send off for "advance disclosure" which is a dossier of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case against you (the CPS take over the case from the police). This will include all the prosecution witness statements. If the police have a video of you being arrested and want to show it in court, then you are entitled to see it. You should either be sent a copy, or go and see it at the police station. If you are representing yourself then you should do all this yourself. It is a matter of dispute if there should be "advance disclosure" for cases which can only be tried in the Magistrates Court, so you may face an obstinate CPS.

You will need to do your own evidence gathering too. If you are being represented, then your solicitor should do all this under your instruction. Make sure they do it thoroughly. Give the solicitor the addresses of any witnesses so they should contact them to interview and prepare them for the trial. Find any videos and photos which may help your case. If there were Action Observers (chapter 8) present, contact them. Tell your solicitor about anything helpful - like whether footpaths were officially closed - so they can research this. If you want to use any photographic or video evidence, see Filming on Actions in chapter 10.

Going to court
If you are bailed or summonsed to court, your first appearance is known as the "plea hearing". Here you will enter your plea - guilty or not-guilty. If you plead guilty, they may sentence you immediately. If you plead not-guilty, a date will be set for the next court hearing (the pre-trial review). If you are in any doubt, plead not-guilty as you can always change it later. It is more difficult to change a guilty plea to not-guilty. If you plead guilty you get a lesser sentence (and have to pay less prosecution costs) than if you plead not guilty and are convicted - and you get more credit the earlier you plead guilty!

There will also be an opportunity for you to challenge any bail conditions. Prepare this before you go in, and present a convincing case as to why you should not have bail conditions.

If you have never been to court before, it may be worth popping in before your trial to listen in and get a feel for what goes on. There is always a Public Gallery in Magistrates Courts (usually just a row of chairs along a wall) and you are perfectly entitled to sit in. It will make you more confident about your case.


The courts are designed to intimidate people who get sent there. The magistrates are generally well-to-do-people from the local establishment, who have probably been recruited at dinner parties. They usually have a patronising attitude that they are teaching the underclass how to behave. They have had no legal training, and will have a Clerk (usually an ex-barrister or solicitor) to advise them on the law. There are usually three magistrates. You may, however, especially for cases which contain a lot of technical legal argument, get a Stipendary Magistrate (often known as a "Stipe"). These are ex-barristers or solicitors with extensive legal knowledge. They sit by themselves with the Clerk.

Magistrates will sit up on a platform, which is designed to make you feel small. You will be in a defendant's box, and your solicitor (if you have one) sits at a bench at the front on the left, with the CPS lawyer on the right. You should ask to sit with your solicitor. Magistrates and the CPS will use weird language and talk to you as if you know everything about the legal system, to baffle and confuse you. Everyone in the court will have to stand up when the magistrates enter, or face Contempt of Court proceedings. That is all part of their "superiority". The best advice we can give is not to be intimidated by it. The whole thing is an elaborate farce, and the magistrates are just players in it.

After the plea, the next visit to the courts will be your pre-trial review. This is when you, and the CPS, go through all the evidence, from each side, discuss any disputes, and list what witnesses to call. The intention of this is to streamline the trial and save time and expense. You should not have to go to this if you are represented, but check first with your solicitor. You may want to go to it anyway.

At the magistrates court a solicitor can advocate (speak), but most cannot at a Crown Court, and have to instruct a barrister. Your solicitor may instruct a barrister for your magistrates court case especially if they are overloaded with cases. Barristers are usually more eloquent, but won't have an in-depth knowledge of your case. Ask your solicitor for a "Conference" (meeting) with your barrister before the case so you can brief them on what you want them to say. For cases in the Magistrates court, Legal Aid won't cover a conference, and you'll be lucky to get one.

Plea Bargaining
The CPS may try and do a deal with you. They may offer to drop a serious charge in return for you pleading guilty to a lesser one. This is Plea Bargaining. They usually do it just before a court case, or on the actual day of the trial. Minor charges may be dropped in return for you accepting a bind- over (this is not a criminal conviction - see below). They often do this to people worried by facing serious charges. Plea bargains may be offered if they are not confident on their chances of getting a conviction, and / or they want to avoid expensive court cases. However, it can make your life a whole lot easier, so make your own decisions.

The Trial

Formal trials are daunting, but the procedure is quite simple. Firstly, the prosecution gives a brief outline of their case, and the circumstances of your arrest. They then call their witnesses (usually the arresting officer and a few others), and examine them, by asking them questions about their evidence, under oath. After the prosecution has finished, your solicitor (or you, if you represent yourself) will get the chance to cross-examine them. This is your chance to discredit the witnesses and their evidence against you. The prosecution then get a chance to re-examine.

After this, you or your solicitor could argue that there is no case to answer, and invite the magistrates to throw the case out. If this is not accepted, you will then have the opportunity to go into the witness box and either give your case, or be examined by your solicitor. You don't have to do this, but the magistrates may draw inferences if you don't. You will be asked to make an oath on the bible (or other holy book), or make a non-religious affirmation to tell the truth. Afterwards the prosecution can cross-examine you. You can then be re-examined by your solicitor or make a further representation yourself. Keep calm and just reiterate the facts. Your witnesses are then called, one by one, to be examined by you, then cross-examined by the prosecution, and then re- examined by your side. Witnesses have to sit outside until called.

After this, your side sums up your case to the magistrates in a closing speech. Then the magistrates will probably adjourn, returning to give the verdict. If you win, you can apply for your costs (travel, witness costs, accommodation etc.).

Sentencing And Penalties

Most of the things activists get arrested for are pretty minor. You are extremely unlikely to go to prison for a first (and second and third) offence, unless you do something serious. You are most likely to get a small fine, and / or a bind-over and / or a conditional discharge and / or costs of the trial. The smaller your criminal record the lighter the penalty. With all offences, there is a maximum penalty set in place. This gives an indication of how serious the offence is, not what you are likely to get.

If you are found guilty, the magistrate will probably sentence you immediately. Have your mitigation prepared. Give a brief outline of your financial circumstances, and why the sentence should be lenient.

Absolute Discharges: This means that you still have a conviction but no separate penalty.

Bind-overs: These are usually offered to people arrested for Breach of the Peace. Magistrates also dole them out as a light punishment for other offences. A Binding-Over Order is an ancient power given to magistrates and has been left over from the Middle Ages. It is basically a promise that you make that you "will be of good behaviour and will keep the Queen's Peace". This really means that you promise not get arrested during a set time (usually 6 or 12 months). If you do, and get convicted, you will forfeit a sum of money (usually around £100), although they quite often don't notice when you break bind-overs. A bind-over stays on your record but is not itself a criminal conviction. If you refuse to accept a bind-over, magistrates have the power to send you to prison for up to 6 months! However, you can agree to accept it at any time and get out of jail.

Fines: If you are fined, expect anything from £30 to £300. Costs are usually around £30 to £100 per day in court. It varies massively around the country, and between magistrates. If you are on the dole or a low income, they may demand that you pay about £5 a week. See below for info on not paying fines.

Conditional Discharges: Magistrates are quite fond of these. If you are given one it means that if you get arrested again within a given time (usually 6 months to 2 years), and are subsequently convicted, you may be re-sentenced for the original offence.

Community Service and Custodial Sentences (Prison): If magistrates or a judge are considering a Community Service Order or a custodial sentence (sending you to prison), you should have your case adjourned for a few weeks, for probation officers to prepare a Pre-Sentence Report. They can remand you in custody during this time. You will be interviewed by the Probation Service as to how much you regret your "crime", and they will prepare the report for the judge.

Community Service means that you will be ordered to do certain tasks for the community for a set time (20 to 240 hours). You have to consent to the order, which is supervised by the Probation Service. If you don't do it, you go back to court, and will probably get more hours added, or be sent to prison. There are usually some "environmental" and outdoors jobs which you could ask to do. You may meet some interesting people whilst doing it, although it is not so good for women as the work teams are usually all men.

Going to prison is a big psychological step. There is a separate section on prison below as it is a major topic. More protesters will probably be going to prison as things get more and more repressive.

If you feel that your conviction and / or sentence are unjust, you can appeal. The only problem with appealing your sentence is that the judge hearing the appeal can actually increase it and award costs against you. You only get 21 days from the date of sentence (not conviction) to lodge your appeal, so you should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible. You have an automatic right of appeal from Magistrates Court to the Crown Court. The rules on Crown Court convictions are different. From the Magistrates Court, a re-trial will take place at the Crown Court (witnesses will be called again). If you just want to appeal a point of law, you would appeal "by way of case stated" direct to the Divisional Court.

Not Paying Fines

Many people decide that part of their protest is not to pay their fines. There are several things that can happen if you refuse. They may send the bailiffs round; they may attempt to get an Order at a higher court to deduct money from your dole money / bank account / wages; or they may send you to prison for a few days.

If you don't keep up with payments, you will eventually be summonsed back to court. There, it is up to the magistrate what they do to you, depending on what you say. If you say that you can't pay as the fine and payment rate are too high, then they may give you another chance, and set the fine again at a lower rate of payment. If, on the other hand, you say that you won't pay, then they will probably send you to prison for "wilful" non-payment. If you do not answer the summons to court, you will have a warrant issued for your arrest. When arrested, you will probably be sent to prison unless you pay the whole amount. Don't take money into court with you as they can take it off you.

The magistrates can do other things. They can hand the debt over to a firm of bailiffs, whose responsibility it is to collect the debt. You will be notified that this has happened. The court order is called a "distress warrant". You will receive threatening letters from the bailiffs, saying that they will call around at your property within the next few days, unless you contact them to arrange payment. This may be all that happens, as they hope to intimidate you into paying.

If bailiffs do call at your home, they cannot force entry. They can enter through open doors or windows, including upstairs ones via a ladder. They can push past you if you open the door, and are good at talking their way in. They may ask to just use the phone; don't let them. Once they're in, you are very compromised. They can take anything and force entry on subsequent visits. If they take property which does not belong to you, then you have to go to court and prove that it belongs to someone else. Speak to a solicitor, a Citizens Advice Bureau, or the Chesterfield Law Centre (see Chapter xx) for further information on bailiff powers.

If magistrates get an order to take money from your dole, it is taken at source (the dole office), and you cannot do anything about it. Apparently this takes a long time to sort out and they can only take a few pounds at a time. The situation is probably similar for wages or bank accounts, but we're not sure. Do not give magistrates any information about your bank account or earnings.

If you refuse to pay and they can't get any money out of you, you will go to prison. If you are prepared for prison this can often seem the best option. Currently, if your fine, plus court costs, total less than £200 you will be sentenced to 7 days. If your fine and costs total above £200 then you should get 14 days. You would only serve half of your sentence - see below.


It is likely that some people in your campaign may end up in prison. Although most of the things that protesters get arrested for carry quite small penalties, if you refuse to pay fines, or refuse to accept their patronising bind-overs and outrageous bail conditions, or break injunctions, you will probably end up in prison.

Quite often people will expect to go to prison and be prepared. However, it can occasionally be a complete surprise for some people who have accumulated lots of charges, or are falsely accused of serious things, or if they get a harsh sentence from a particularly vile magistrate. Whatever, when people go to prison they need support.

Some people cope very well in prison and learn a lot from it. Others hate the experience and take a long time to recover. This depends on individual experiences inside. Take time to prepare yourself, think about what prison will mean, and how you will psychologically cope.

Not everyone ends up in prison, but it is worth knowing something about it, as the fear of the unknown is one of its most intimidating aspects. There is a long history of civil disobedience throughout the world. In Britain at the moment the penalties are pretty minor. If you take nonviolent direct action in many places you "disappear". While we have the opportunity to take action, we should do all we can. Prison is just about the British State's hardest legal sanction; by overcoming fear of it, you can be truly free.

There is a lot of information to include in this section. We cannot go into all the detail here, but there are some excellent organisations set up to help people inside (see Chapter 16). There are many different types of prison (men's, women's, young offenders', remand centres, open, secure etc). We include just basic information which should be relevant to most prisons.

Before the court case:
If you think there is a possibility of being sent to jail, don't hope for the best and go unprepared - pack before you go, just in case. Warn people in the campaign that you might be imprisoned, so they aren't shocked and can help you prepare. Make sure at least one person comes to court with you.

Arrange to have one person (a close friend or relative, perhaps, or someone in the campaign) who can act as your central point of contact whilst you are inside. They will need to be reliable and easy to get hold of. Messages and information can be passed via them, so info doesn't go astray. One person arranging visits will avoid double-booking.

When you go down you won't get time to do anything (sometimes you can't even say good-bye - you will just be taken away) so really do have everything arranged.

Things to pack

You will probably be taken from the court and held in the court cells. Everyone destined for prison will be loaded up, usually at the end of the day, in a minibus or a crate van. These vans are a cross between a portaloo (without the loo) and a chicken battery cage. You'll then be taken, possibly via other courts, to prison. When you arrive, you may be put into a room with other "cons" and booked in one at a time. When you are booked in they may take valuables like credit cards, railcards and jewellery. If you are a convicted male prisoner, your clothes will be taken, and you'll be given a uniform. Anything taken from you should be kept safe until your release. The details of booking-in procedure varies between prisons.

In prison
Make sure they know your dietary, health and religious requirements as soon as you get in. Vegetarian food is usually available, but tell them if you are vegan (you may need a Vegan Society membership card) as they will have to prepare special food. Meals will be eaten in your cell or in a dining room.

They should give you a "Prisoners Information Book" when you get in. It contains most things you need to know about your rights and entitlements as a prisoner. You could send off for it in advance (see Chapter 17) to help prepare for prison.

You will be examined by a doctor on arrival, who will ask you (amongst other things) whether you are depressed or suicidal. They do it to everyone. In women's prisons, the doctor often encourages you to take tranquillisers. Most of the women are on medication to "cope", but consequently get screwed-up and become dependent. Some women may ask you to get some drugs off the doctor to pass on to them. You will have to make your own decision but it's best not to get involved, as it could lead to a nightmare for you both.

You will probably be sharing a cell with other people. This is the interesting part! You can learn a lot, and many prisoners will be keen to talk, although others may want to keep themselves to themselves. Be aware that asking people what they are in for, and how long they've got, may piss them off. Inmates may be quite interested in you, as "political prisoners" are quite novel. You are unlikely to find trouble unless you go looking for it. Stereotypes such as buggery in the showers for "new boys", or constant brutal bullying, are unjustified. However, be prepared to see things like mental instability, depression, pornography, drug abuse and aggression. If you have any problems, then try and get moved. Ask for a single cell and get your name on a waiting list. You may be moved around for no apparent reason whatsoever. Most cells have a flush toilet and washbasin. In older men's prisons the toilet may be replaced by a bucket; Try to ensure you only pee in these, and crap in the main toilets, or you will become unpopular with cell mate(s)!

Once a week you will get "canteen". This is when you can go down to the prison shop and buy all the things that you need - phonecards, stamps, paper, pens, tobacco, matches, shampoo, snacks, etc. You will be given a few pounds "wages" a week, and this will be the only opportunity that you get to spend it. If you get a job (eg. cleaning, cooking, serving food) you will get more to spend. There may be a limit on how much you can spend each week.

Every day you should get a chance to "exercise". This may be the only chance you get to go outside, as you can sometimes be locked in your cell for up to 24 hours a day. The exercise yard is also a good place to meet other prisoners. "Association" is when you can mix with other prisoners on your wing for a few hours and play pool, watch TV, have a shower, etc.

Visiting rules vary for civil, remand and convicted prisoners, and between prisons. You are usually allowed 3 - 4 visitors at a time. Civil and remand prisoners are entitled to a visit most days. You'll be given Visiting Orders (VOs) which are like vouchers to send off to your contact person. All visitors are searched as they go in.

Prison staff ("screws") may be quite approachable, but can be megalomaniacs, and like shouting. Be aware that they serve the State and don't give anything away to them. Being polite and friendly may make your stay easier. There are lots of rules in prison that you may not find out until you've broken them. Ask other prisoners if you are unsure. The one thing you can be pretty sure of is a camaraderie amongst "cons" against the "screws". To do lots of things, you'll have to put in an "App" (an Application Form to the Governor). People cannot send you in a radio or batteries for example, if you haven't put in an App.

Don't dwell on the fact that you're locked up and you'll do OK. Get busy! Read those books that you've been dying to read for ages, write letters, get in touch with old friends, get to know your cell mates better, and learn how to rob a bank! Take every opportunity to get out of your cell (eg. gym, library, chapel, classes). Prison can be quite interesting. Getting angry and bitter will just set you on an awful slope of depression and bottomless anger. Just forget about the doors and adapt. Save yourself, your anger and your energy for when you get back outside.

Nearly all criminal sentences are automatically halved if you have been good. Also, they don't release people at the weekend, so you will be out on Friday morning if your release date falls on a Saturday or Sunday. On release they should give you a "travel warrant" which is a free train ride to the address you gave when you arrived. If you have been in for over two weeks, you should also get a discharge grant of about £90 on release (unless you're in for not paying fines).

Prisoner Support

It is vital that a movement supports its prisoners. Prison is designed to isolate, and can be brutal, traumatic and damaging. Even if someone has an OK time inside, it is important that they are not forgotten, and that their stand is recognised.

Find out what the prisoner wants beforehand, especially regarding publicity. Prepare a list of who they want informed. Some people may prefer to be less conspicuous in prison. If you get loads of mail, and others in your cell don't get any, it may cause resentment.

If a prisoner wants lots of letters, network their address and prisoner number as soon as possible by every means available - on your information line, in newsletters, and via regular bulletins or news sheets. When inside, it is easy to feel isolated so try and counter that by maximising contact with the prisoner.

Send beautiful cards and pictures which will cheer them up. Best of all, make your own. Enclosing a book of stamps is really helpful. Ask the prison if you can send money to the prisoner. If you send something, mention it in your letter, so that the prisoner will know if it gets pinched.

Keep letters cheerful and chatty - let them know what's going on outside and what actions have been happening. Be aware, however, that the prison authorities read everything, so avoid anything compromising. Fan mail which states "I think you are so brave - I could never do what you did" may make the prisoner feel that their actions have disempowered, rather than inspired, others. Letters offering loads of useful advice are also quite annoying! Enclose photos of beautiful places - one of the hardest things is staring at blank walls. If the prisoner has pictures to look at,they can imagine they are there.


Injunctions against activists are designed to stop you from taking action. In the context of anti-road protests, injunctions are brought by the land / property owner - usually the DoT and contractors - to stop you trespassing, causing "nuisance", or interfering with goods (i.e. vehicles, equipment etc.). This will be part of an on-going suing case for damages.

If your long-term campaign is having an effect on the roadbuilders then expect an injunction. In the British anti-roads movement they have been used at Twyford Down, Jesmond Dene, the M11 and Newbury. They are also used by the Ministry of Defence against anti-military campaigners. If anyone starts injunction proceedings against you, seek good legal advice immediately.

The plaintiff (eg. DoT) will apply for an interim interlocutory (ie. temporary) injunction until a proper hearing for damages is arranged - this is usually granted. In order to gain this injunction the plaintiff must present a judge with clear evidence of you trespassing and / or causing a nuisance. They don't actually need your real name - photos and a nickname can be enough. The area from which you are injuncted should be clearly defined. For instance, the Twyford injunction did not prevent individuals from lawfully using footpaths and highways. The terms of any injunction will be defined by what the plaintiff requests and what the judge grants. The judge can refuse the application altogether.

The next step is to go on to a trial for full injunction and / or damages. The DoT have so far not got damages from anyone injuncted, and seldom take it to a full trial. Once they have got what they wanted (you banned) they usually terminate the action. However, the threat of damages and costs is used to drive a wedge between those with assets to lose, and those without. Bear in mind that costs in civil cases are greater than in criminal cases.

Injunctions against "persons unknown" have been overturned at appeal. Injunctions against membership organisations can be combated by not appearing on a demo or action as a member of that organisation.

If you fight an injunction in court it can cost the DoT more time and money. However, it will also take up your time and energy. If you're lucky, a good barrister may delay the injunction's progress through the court. However, it is quite difficult to get (and keep) Legal Aid to fight injunctions, although it is easier if they are asking for damages. If the injunction is granted it is possible that defendants will be liable for court costs. If you don't turn up to court, they will almost certainly grant the injunction in your absence ("Ex Parte").

To validate an injunction against you, it must be properly served. This generally means posting it to your address, or handing it to you in person.

If you breach an injunction, you can face a fine, a suspended prison sentence, or up to two years imprisonment for Contempt of Court. This is a civil, not criminal, offence and so the police can't arrest you for it. Instead, you will be served a summons to court for committal proceedings. If you fail to turn up to this, an arrest warrant can be issued to the police. Anti-road injunction breakers have received sentences (of which half is served) of between 1 and 3 months. Injunctions can generate a lot of bad publicity for the plaintiff, and principled resistance and defiance may attract new support.

A campaign should be able to get round an injunction if there are enough non-injuncted activists to make things happen. The M11 injunction in 1994 against 11 people had little effect, as there were so many people involved in the campaign. Those named by the injunction can step back from any legally-compromising activities.

Seeking Injunctions Against Them

Getting an injunction against the enemy is a relatively easy procedure, but involves a lot of paperwork. The likelihood of success depends on how well you put your case. Even if it fails, their behaviour may change, as they take you more seriously.

The best way for an individual to seek an injunction is to go to the County or High Court, and ask a judge for one. You will have to set out your evidence convincingly in an affidavit, and swear it in front of a solicitor. There is a small fee, which will be waived if you are on the dole.

Grounds for an injunction can include "trespass to the person" (eg. battery, assault, false imprisonment), or "trespass to goods" (ie. damage to property, or theft). You will have to convince the judge that it is urgent, a serious issue, and that failure to grant the injunction would result in further loss, injury or damage. The judge must also be persuaded that your loss if the injunction isn't granted would be greater than the defendant's loss if it is.

Another way of dealing with an injunction application is for the defendant to give an undertaking. This is a promise to the court to do / not to do something which is requested / complained of. Breaking an undertaking is contempt of court.

If you get your injunction, send it to the relevant bureaucrats, and give copies to site workers and the police. This constitutes service.

At the M11 campaign in November 1993, protesters managed to get an injunction banning the DoT from evicting a treehouse in a Chestnut Tree, until they had gone through all the proper procedures. In 1994, the M65 Campaign succeeded in getting an undertaking from a director of Group 4 Security, who had to come to court (with a dozen bodyguards!) to promise not to use violence against protesters.

You don't need a solicitor to get an injunction, but could talk to one for advice. If you want representation, you may be able to get Legal Aid.

Police Complaints

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is set up to deal with complaints against the police. The PCA is supposed to be independent, but is dominated by cops. They are not worth much effort. In fact, if you are considering suing the police (see below) or taking a private prosecution, don't go anywhere near them.

The PCA acts as a protection ring to make sure that any allegation against the police is dismissed. For example, when a woman was strangled unconscious by a cop at Twyford Down in December 1992, the PCA dismissed the complaint after a "full investigation". They found 30 police witnesses who were prepared to say that they witnessed a protester do it! As a result, when the woman went to pursue a civil claim the police had seen all her evidence and prepared their story.

If you criticise police behaviour in the media, they may defend themselves by pointing out that no official complaints have been made. So publicly criticise the PCA too, and make sure the media know if you are suing the police.

The only benefits of making a complaint are that it will get to the police officer concerned. Cops hate being investigated; it may stay on their record, hindering promotion. Complaints can also be used to create a fuss. After the Police violence against those defending the famous M11 Chestnut Tree in December 1993, 50 complaints against the officer in charge of the operation were compiled by the campaign solicitor. This exerted significant local pressure, with the MP getting involved as well.

If you want to make a complaint, write to the PCA (see Chapter xx), with a copy to the relevant Chief Constable. A senior police officer will then arrange to meet you to take a statement, probably at the police station. Alternatively you can make a complaint to the inspector at the police station at which the relevant police officer is attached. This is even less effective than the PCA, but could be used in minor cases.

Suing The Police

Recently some anti-road activists have successfully sued the police. There are also some cases pending against security guards for assaults and false imprisonment - the results of these are still to be decided. There are some excellent solicitors who specialise in suing (see Chapter xx). The benefits are obvious - you could get lots of compensation money, and perhaps even an apology, not to mention standing up to something unacceptable, and perhaps, making a repeat in the future less likely.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for people with jobs to sue the police, as you will need Legal Aid, or have to fund the action out of your own pocket. If you lose the case you will have to pay the other side's costs if you fund the action yourself. If you are on Legal Aid and lose, the police cannot normally enforce the costs order without the court's permission, and therefore rarely do.

You will need patience, as it will probably take years - there are no instant results. If the police think they will lose, they may make you an out-of-court offer to settle the case, and thus avoid court expenses. It is up to you whether you want to take this, or push it to trial and see if you can get a higher sum. Legal Aid may be removed if you fail to accept a reasonable offer.

You will need a good case. Grounds for suing include: wrongful arrest, unlawful detention, malicious prosecution, and assault. The most difficult part can be getting good evidence, so make a statement, and contact those you remember witnessing the incident, and its build-up. Get an independent doctor's report if you have been assaulted.

You usually get several years after the incident to sue the police. However, try and do it as soon as possible as finding witnesses gets no easier with time. Good luck!


This book is now out of print. You might be able to get a copy from a UK library by ordering on the inter-library loans scheme.

Road Alert!